DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! Please visit us at the shiny new home of DDD, by clicking here.

[There’s just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays.  This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I’m determined to make at least a few in my kitchen–and thought I’d share my ideas in case you’d like to partake, too.  Here’s the last post in the series.]

chocmacaroontower

Can it be possible that there are only TWO DAYS LEFT before Christmas??  The last few months seem to have flashed by–faster than the scenery outside a train window. Or  your waiter at a busy New York bistro. Or the chaps on a Chippendale dancer. Or even Taylor Hicks’s 15 seconds of fame. Where have the langorous, sunny days of summer gone? Whence the flip-flops, the frayed T-shirts, the cutoffs, the rain-stained Keds? To what secret destination have all the squirrels sequestered themselves (to the great dismay of The Girls)?  How did I miss entirely the red and gold and sepia-emblazoned maple trees of autumn? 

Instead, we’re suddenly faced with pummeling snow, jarring, backward-beeping snowplows outside our bedroom window at 5:47 AM, innumerable layers of socks, long underwear, undershirts, turtlenecks, polar fleece, scarves, hats, earmuffs (yes, those last two at the same time), mini-gloves inside bigger gloves, boots, cleats on boots–basically, about 14 extra pounds to lug around on our bodies between December and March.  (And that’s not even taking into account any of the chocolate I’ve eaten.)

Well, as promised, here’s the final Gastronomic Gift that, like the days just passed, can be completed in a flash.  These are not ornate, sugar-coated  or piped with brightly colored icing for the holidays, but nevertheless, they were so good that I felt it would be Scrooge-like to withold these gems.

I don’t know why, but macaroons spell “holiday” to me (maybe somebody should lend me a dictionary).  This recipe for amazingly chewy, chocolatey, irresistible macaroon-like cookies is taken (almost) verbatim from the brilliant Ellen Abraham’s Simple Treats, and it is a defnite winner.  At a recent pot luck supper at my place (post to come anon), all eight of the women present raved over these and the cookies were gone, well, in a flash.

Properly named Chocolate Coconut Cookies by their creator, these yummy bites came together easily and quickly with the aid of my trusty food processor (which, I’ve discovered as I transcribe the final recipes for the cookbook,  has become quite the fixture in my baking these days). Once baked and cooled, the cookies can be stored and packaged without worry, as they are fairly sturdy as well. 

Since the CFO is scheduled to arrive tomorrow, I’ll be taking a break from blogging between now and some time after Christmas (except for an already pre-scheduled post on the 25th).

Our celebration this year will be quiet and intimate, but special nonetheless.  And, for the first time, with just more than a year of blogging under my belt (and see? without even leaping on that opportunity for a fat-belt joke), I feel very lucky to be sharing this first holiday season with all of you, my readers and other bloggers I’ve “met” in the past 13 months.  I couldn’t have imagined how much I’d come to love and appreciate this amazing community back in November 2007, when I started this blog.

So thank you, all, for reading, for commenting, for offering your own blog posts, recipes, and ideas on a regular basis.  Here’s wishing you all a peaceful, restful, joyful holiday season.  I hope you are able to spend time with those you love, those you care about, and those who make you laugh.  And throw in some great food and gifts while you’re at it, too.

* * *   Happy Holidays!  * * *

Um, Mum, did we hear you correctly?  Did you just mention that Auntie CFO is coming to visit–?? All-RIGHT!  New Nylabones!”

[And don’t forget: There’s still one day left to bid on any of the fabulous prizes for Menu for Hope.  Just go to the main donation page and pick something you like, for only $10 per ticket–proceeds go to the UN World Food Programme.  My prize is a year’s subscription to Martha Stewart Living magazine, plus a one kilo (2 lb.) jar of Omega Nutrtion organic coconut oil.  Prize code: CA 05.]

Chewy Chocolate Macaroons

adapted from Simple Treats

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

chocmacaroon1

These spectacular treats are deceptively simple to make, and totally addictive. If you manage to save enough to give away, be sure to print a warning on the package.

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

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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.

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 third entry on coconut.]

Honestly, I can’t even remember the last time I had fried rice before I made this dish.  My mother used to cook a toned-down version of it when we were kids (basically white rice and a splash of soy sauce), and I most likely ordered some of the stuff at a Chinese restaurant back in the 1980s, but other than that, I hadn’t even thought about the concept in years–I mean, it’s called fried rice, right?  

Perhaps it was serendipity, or perhaps synchronicity–or both.  A few of weeks ago, I had bought some kale with the intention of making raw kale salad. But the avocados, despite having ripened on the counter for a few days, were still hard as baseballs. In the meantime, the kale had exhausted itself in the refrigerator and reclined at the back of the shelf, sprawled limply over the cauliflower.  That kale needed to be given a purpose, and fast.

I’d been catching up on my blog reading when this recipe , from Maureen and Aly’s blog, Mad About Udon, leapt out at me. True, the original called for collards rather than kale, but I’ve learned that most greens are amenable to standing in for their fellow leafys in most instances.

The simplicity of this dish belies its deliciousness. It’s quick, easy, and totally alluring. I realize it’s called fried rice, but, given the number of veggies in the mix (I enlisted some of that cauliflower in addition to the beans and greens), it might as well be called “Veggies with Coconut and Rice.” Whatever the appellation, it’s fantastic.  I made this three times in quick succession, and it’s now become the number one recipe of choice when we have kale in the house (having overtaken the previous frontrunner–raw kale salad). 

Thanks to Maureen for creating this masterpiece, in which coconut features prominently.  And I think it’s totally fitting that today’s recipe comes courtesy of another Canadian, since this weekend marks our Canadian Thanksgiving! if you’re celebrating this weekend, why not consider this dish as an alternative to those tired ole brussels sprouts?

To those of you giving thanks (or if you’ve simply got a day off), have a great long weekend!

Savory Fried Rice with Kale and Coconut

Adapted fom Mad About Udon

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW SITE, BY CLICKING HERE.

With just the perfect melding of salty, spicy, and crunchy, this hearty and flavorful side dish is almost a meal on its own.  As Maureen suggests, use Bragg’s instead of regular soy sauce to make this entirely gluten-free. Since I’ve altered the preparation slightly, I’m including my own version here.

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW SITE, BY CLICKING HERE.

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! PLEASE VISIT THE SHINY NEW HOME OF DDD 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 entry, 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 second entry on coconut.]

First:  thank you all, most sincerely, for all your kind words regarding The Girls and the Ordeal of the Raisins. Both dogs are fine (my bank account, on the other hand, will suffer for some time–but that’s my penance, I reckon).  And I’m also glad that the post seems to have provided some new information to some of you, who may not have been aware that raisins are often poisonous to the canines in our lives. 

In fact, I was so rattled the other day that I neglected to mention something really great:  I won a contest!  And this time, folks, I truly felt the love! The eloquent, clever and enormously crafty Shellyfish of Musings from the Fishbowl recently conducted a contest to win one of her handcrafted felt change purses, and my comment was (randomly) chosen to win!  Whoo-hoo!  I am utterly thrilled and cannot wait to receive my prize in the mail.  I will, of course, blog all about it when it arrives. 🙂 Thanks, Shellyfish!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled Lucky Comestible!

You know how some people are just so eccentric, so outré, so larger-than-life that they may as well be a caricature of themselves? Think Jack Palance at the Oscars.  Think Richard Simmons.  Think my mother’s old friend Ms. Gabor.

Say what? 

Ms. Gabor (a pseudonym, bien sûr) was one of my mother’s regular Mah Jong ladies who came to our house Thursday afternoons. Long before the era of elective plastic surgery, Ms. G managed to appear entirely plastic most of the time, all on her own. Likely in her 50s back then, she balanced under a towering, shellacked and elaborately braided beehive hairdo, pinned in place with a network of rhinestone-studded hair clips. She wore eyeliner too heavy, décolletage too revealing, and an attitude far too abrasive.  But what I remember most about Ms. G was how she coped with summer.  Because in the summer, our house–lacking any air conditioning–was not just hot; it was “feels-like-Vesuvius” hot; “the-smoke-detector-is-shrieking” hot; “someone-call-Denis-Leary-to-Rescue-Me” hot. 

On those blistering summer days when my mom and her friends played “Maj,” we kids would return home from school to a tableau of four women, reposing in a haze of smoke (everyone except my mom smoked cigarettes) and humidity, most of them dripping sweat and fanning themselves with handkerchiefs or napkins. And Ms. G, elbows on the table, calmly studying her tiles and wearing a black bra.  Yes, you read that correctly; it was not her black bra as seen through a sheer blouse; no, no; it was her black bra as seen on her torso because she had taken off her blouse and placed it on the back of her chair

Dahlink, vould you be so kind as to get me a glass of soda?” she’d inquire in her heavy Hungarian accent, as soon as I entered the room.  Then I’d be forced to march to the fridge, pour the club soda, and hand her the glass while pretending that I didn’t notice she was wearing nothing more than a bra!  Seeing this vision on a weekly basis may have, I suspect, traumatized me just as much as did seeing The Girls eating raisins the other day.

Well, my mother regularly made a dessert for the ladies that was her one coconut-based specialty.  She called it “Roly Poly,” and it was basically a layer of oily, dense dough rolled out to a rectangle, topped with (in this order) a thick slather of strawberry jam; sprinkles of toasted walnuts; a smattering of raisins; randomly scattered chunks of chopped Turkish Delight, and a final light shower of shredded coconut.  The entire monstrocity was rolled up jelly-roll style, sliced into pinwheels and baked.  It’s possible that the Turkish Delight, with its vaguely floral, vaguely alcoholic smell, is what pushed the roly poly over the edge from the “yucky parental dessert” category to the “makes me want to vomit” category, but I have an inkling it was more closely connected to the image of Ms. G munching mindlessly on a slice, crumbs floating gently into the cleavage on her black lace bra.

I did, eventually, get over my coconut aversion, once I met the HH and found he adored the stuff. But the inspiration for today’s recipe was neither Roly Poly nor the HH; it was two of the recipe testers for my upcoming cookbook. (By the way, have I mentioned lately that I ADORE my cookbook testers??)

Since these two women are gluten intolerant, I assumed they’d attempt the GF recipes exclusively (about 30% of the recipes will be gluten free).  What I’ve found, instead, is that these two have willingly adapted some of the original recipes to render them gluten-free!  I’ve been amazed at and inspired by their ingenuity, and decided I had to dive in and finally start creating more gluten-free goods myself. This coconut series seemed the perfect place to start out; I already had a recipe in mind that met my NAG requirements, so converting it to gluten-free was the next logical step.

Originally given to me by a friend in university, this recipe was titled, simply, “Coconut Loaf,” and called for eggs, butter, white sugar and white flour.  Using gluten-free flours and finally trying out some xanthan gum as a binder, I came up with this combination.  I’m happy to say that the resultant loaves were just as light as–if not lighter than–the original, with a tender, delicate crumb and ethereal coconut flavor. The HH pronounced this a hit as he bit into his second loaf, remarking, “The texture is so light, it reminds me of a Twinkie.”  (To the HH, this is the highest praise one can confer on a cake.)

I, too, was very pleased with the result, and would certainly make these again, gluten free or not. Even if you are able to eat gluten, you might want to try these out as an alternative to your usual cupcakes; the preponderance of legume flour (from the beans and chickpeas) makes these an abundant source of both protein and fiber, more so than most other baked goods. I’m sure the Maj ladies would approve.

I’m also contributing this post to the Living With Food Allergies blog carnival that takes place every month and is hosted by Rational Jenn.

Finally, if you’ve recently posted any coconut recipes you’d like me to share, just leave the link here in the comments or send it via email, and I’ll add it to the list below!

Gluten Free Coconut Mini Loaves or Cupcakes

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

These are light and not too sweet, with a pronounced coconut flavor.  For fancier loaves, drizzle with your favorite glaze.

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

 

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

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

Well, folks, it’s been quite the day here at the DDD household.  This post may be a tad longer than usual, so relax, don those fuzzy slippers, curl up by the firewall, and read on. . .

The day started out almost like any other, except that the HH, suffering from a bout of the flu, was at home.  Knowing he needed something substantial and nourishing–and fearing I might be felled as well–I cooked up a huge batch of stick-to-your-ribs, nutrient-dense, thick and creamy Baked Oatmeal.  So far, so good.

As is our habit, the HH and I ate our meal at the table, as The Girls waited in the wings (really just across the floor), like so:

Once we were done, as usual, we offered The Girls the leftovers.  In this case, it amounted to about 1/4 cup (60 ml.) cooked oatmeal each.  I scraped the oatmeal into their bowls, set them on the floor, and the enthusiastic slurping began. 

“Isn’t it cute how they hoover it up?” I mused absentmindedly to the HH.

“Yep, they really seem to like that apple-raisin combo,” he remarked.

“Ha, ha, yes, the–the WHAT?!!  Apple-raisin??!!!  RAISIN???!!!!”  How could I have missed them?? HOW COULD I BE SO IRRESPONSIBLE???!!!! RAISIN. Oh, no. . . . . . 

I swooped in to whisk the bowls out of reach–but alas, too late.  They’d both eaten several mouthfuls of raisin-infused oatmeal!  Now, as any of you with dogs already know, recent media reports have warned that raisins–for some unknown reason–can be highly toxic to dogs, sometimes causing nausea, renal failure–or worse.  Horrors!

In a panic, I called the vet to see what to do.  My mind was already reeling with unspeakable possibilities. “Bring them in immediately,” she commanded. 

And so, a few moments of carelessness led Ricki to spend half her morning chewing her nails in the vet’s office, waiting for The Girls to upchuck a few mouthfuls of cooked oatmeal, apples, and raisins. 

Thankfully, everyone came through just fine (though to tell the truth, I’m probably still a bit traumatized–but that might just be because of the size of the vet bill).

Well, after the Ordeal of the Raisins, I was in no mood to crack open a coconut, so we’ll forgo that demonstration today.  I do, however, have this yummy coconut-rich Cabbage T’horin for you, as the first entry in the Lucky Comestibles: Coconut series.  (And no dogs were harmed in the making of this side dish).  

*   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Coconut, like coffee, chocolate and wine, is a perfect example of culinary atavism: hailed as a boon to health in one generation, scorned in the next, then revived as a “health food” yet again decades later.

Given a bad rap in the past because of its high saturated fat content, what we think of as coconut, that white “meat” that’s most often eaten shredded and dried, is actually the nut of a fresh, green coconut fruit.  In recent years controversy has developed over whether or not coconut oil is or is not good for us.  Apparently considered a panacea in the tropical countries where it’s naturally abundant,  coconuts have been touted more recently in North America as well, to treat a variety of medical problems. 

In nutrition school, we learned that the saturated fats in coconut, unlike those in other foods with a high sat fat content (such as meat or butter), are considered “medium chain fatty acids,” which don’t increase cholesterol levels or contribute to atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular issues.  In fact, most of the studies previously done on coconut oil focused on hydrogenated varieties, and hydrogenation renders any fats unhealthy

Some researchers also believe that coconut oil is useful for a plethora of ills, including fungal infections (caprylic acid, derived from coconut, is a primary alternative treatment for candida yeast overgrowth), viruses, parasites, digestive disorders, and a wealth of other conditions, as well as helping to prevent heart disease and promote weight loss (though I’ve never been the beneficiary of this last characteristic). 

One thing that’s indisputable is its place as first choice when you’re seeking an oil to cook with on high heat.  Because of its saturated status, coconut oil is the oil least damaged by heat, which makes it great for frying (even though I know you never fry foods, right?) or baking.  And because it’s solid at room temperature (as long as your room is below 76F), coconut oil makes a great butter substitute, and can be used interchangeably with butter. At the organic market where I used to sell my baked goods, one of the vendors was known to eat it off a spoon.  I never quite achieved that lofty accomplishment, but do use it for stir-fries and baking.  

Fresh coconuts also confer health benefits, through the coconut “water” (the liquid inside the coconut fruit–not to be confused with coconut milk, which is made by boiling the meat of a coconut). I had the opportunity to drink some fresh coconut water extracted from one of these green coconuts a few years back when in nutrition school.  An incredibly healthy imbibement, the liquid from a fresh young coconut is said to have the same electolyte balance as our blood, so it’s a wonderful energy drink (which, according to Wikipedia, can actually be taken intravenously!) .  I must admit I wasn’t a fan. Apparently, coconut water is now being sold already flavored, so I may give it a try.

As to coconut milk, well. . . is there anything richer tasting than full fat coconut milk?  It’s the base for my soy-free vegan whipped cream (the recipe for which is being tweaked daily, with the goal of perfection by the time it appears in the upcoming cookbook) and many a creamy sauce.  I love it in desserts and use it in baking as well when I can, although again, you don’t want to overdo the sat fat. 

Finally, there’s the coconut itself.  Fresh coconut meat is unparalleled in flavor and texture, but practicality does take over most of the time when we’re cooking or baking, and dried is a fine substitute.  I’ve used freshly grated coconut meat on only a handful of occasions in cooking.  Generally, I prefer unsweetened, as I’d rather have control over the amount of sweetener in my foods (and shredded coconut is often sweetened with white sugar).  This way, as well, you need buy only one type, as it’s suitable for both cooking and baking.  For the recipes in the Lucky Comestibles series, I’ll try to include coconut meat, milk, and oil (and leave you to try fresh coconut water on your own).

Today’s recipe, the first one I made from my new cookbook, Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon, features shredded dried coconut.

According to the book, this dish hails from Kerala province in India, the very name of which means “Land of the Coconut Palms” and where “almost everything contains coconut.” I think this T’horin is testament to that sentiment–I mean, how often would you consider combining coconut with your cabbage?  And yet, it really works.

Try this out for a quick, easy, and incredibly tasty dish. Unlike many dishes with cabbage, this one stir-fries it without the addition of very much liquid, for a crisp yet fully cooked result.  I thoroughly enjoyed it as a side with dinner–and was sure it never came anywhere near the drooling mouths of The Girls.

“Thanks, Mum, we appreciate that. . . we’re still feeling a bit woozy from that weird breakfast you gave us.”

Cabbage T’horin

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

[Now, why would I place chopsticks in a photo of an Indian dish, you ask?  Beats me; just thought they looked nice somehow.  I did eat the T’horin with them, though.]

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

The Universe is Random

October 5, 2008

I’d planned to begin posting the next Lucky Comestible (coconut) today, but as it turned out I was completely wiped out after participating in the local (and first annual) Totally Fabulous Vegan Bakeoff yesterday.  The event, sponsored by the Toronto Vegetarian Association in honor of World Vegetarian Day, hosted 30 entrants (of which I was one) to participate by presenting baked goods in four categories.  Sorry to say I didn’t win any prizes (I entered my vegan butter tarts). My entry was well received by the audience and judges, but fell far behind in the looks and presentation department (okay, maybe not the prettiest dessert, but how could they not appreciate such patriotism??).  I was truly amazed at some of the elaborately decorated baked goods!  Still, it was great fun to participate and also sample some of the other entrants’ delicious baked goodies.

Well, since I don’t have a new food post for y’all just yet (tomorrow, I promise!), I thought I’d FINALLY catch up on memes and thanks. 

As I said, I didn’t win anything at the bakeoff, but I WAS awarded this “Kick Ass Blogger” award by Giz and Psychgrad over at Equal Opportunity Kitchen.  Thanks so much, both of you–I am honored to be a recipient (at least it was “kick” and not “big”!)

And now, the much neglected, ostensibly (but not) forgotten, fun-loving memes! Months ago (or was it longer?), I was tagged by Lisa at the lovely and delicious My Own Sweet Thyme and then Tinker from the entertaining and informative Tinker Culture for a “Six Random Things About You” tag.  (And I do apologize, ladies, for taking this long to get to it!)

Here are the rules for the meme:

Tag Rules:

  • Link to the person who tagged you.
  • Post the rules on the blog.
  • Write six random things about yourself.
  • Tag six people at the end of your post.
  • Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

I’ve done a couple of similar tags before, and I always find myself to be pathetically meme-challenged.  It’s not that there aren’t many random facts about me, but just not that many of interest to anyone but the HH or The Girls. Forgive me if certain themes are repeated. . . here goes:

Dog Theme:

1) The first dog we had when I was a kid was a boxer named Princess.  I was about four at the time, and while Princess was very sweet and loving, I realize now that she had a few dominance issues.  Apparently (according to my mom), every night, I’d go to sleep with Princess draped across my feet at the foot of the bed.  In the morning, my mom said, she’d enter the room to find Princess comfortably sprawled over the entire bed while I was asleep. . . on the floor.  (Strangely, I still love dogs–but could that have anything to do with our training The Girls to stay off the furniture?).

Fashion Theme:

2) I own lots of costume earrings. Like, lots.  My mom never left the house without earrings on, and I must have inherited that tendency; I feel naked if I’m not wearing any. I love costume jewelry because that way I can own earrings to match virtually every piece of clothing.  (Another major advantage of earrings, of course, is that they always fit you, no matter how much weight you gain). 

I’ve got plastic earring in every stripe of the rainbow; multi-colored, floppy cloth earrings; feather earrings; black with silver, black with “gold,” black with any color you can imagine; dangly, stud, hoops, and even fish-shaped earrings.  The only real gold earrings I own were given to me by the men in my life (doesn’t that just make me sound so. . . promiscuous worldly? Okay, that accounts for 2 pairs of earrings. . . but still.)

3) I still possess several items of clothing from high school.  Oh, sure, that may not seem very significant to those of you in your 20s or younger, but I’m talking decades ago.  I still have the first pair of Lee overalls I ever bought, complete with my own embroidery flowers in an oh-so-Love Child sort of pattern.  I’ve got a blue woolen mini skirt that I snagged at Value Village when I was an undergrad, and though I’ll likely never wear it again, I can’t part with it because it’s such good quality and I so love it.  I’ve got a wildly printed tunic-shirt that I still wear (!!) just because I adore the crazy flowery pattern so much.  And I’ve held on to all the hand-knit and hand-sewn stuff I made over the years, as well as a few sweaters mom knit for me, for the obvious sentimental reasons.  Why keep all these clothes, you ask?  Well, anyone whose weight has ricocheted as wildly as mine has knows you never throw away good clothes–who knows when they might fit you again?

Physical Quirks Theme:

4) I’m near-sighted in one eye and far-sighted in the other.  Apart from glasses that make one eye look slightly larger than the other, this quirk of nature allows me to grow old a little more gracefully, as I don’t require reading glasses just yet, since my near-sighted eye can actually see better these days, while the far-sighted eye allows me to continue to see everything else.

CareerTheme:

5) One summer, I worked as a telephone salesperson selling frozen sides of beef. The company was called Hunk ‘N Chunk Freezer meats, and I had to cold call (frozen call?) people and ask if they wanted to purchase a year’s worth of pre-cut cow.  The boss started me off at 5 cents commission (yes, five cents) per sale.  By the end of the week, I guess I’d exceeded his expectations, as I was raised to ten cents per sale.  I ended up quitting after 2 weeks when another job I’d applied for, secretary for an insurance company, came through. My Hunky boss (in fact, he actually was hunky) did subsequently invite me to his family’s Sunday dinner, however, which turned out to be a blind date with his son (I guess I didn’t exceed his expectations–no gifts of jewelry ever came of that meeting).

6) During my first year in Toronto as a grad student at the University of Toronto, I was lucky enough to nab a position as don in the girls’ residence (after the interview, the Dean told me she just “had to meet someone who worked at a place called Hunk N Chunk Freezer Meats” because that meant I “must have had a good sense of humor.”)  In exchange for being a sort of elder cousin on the residence floor, I was afforded the privilege of free room and board–in downtown Toronto (approximate monetary value in today’s dollars: $572,683.47 per month).  I loved the gals with whom I shared the floor that year, and always felt as if I got the best end of the deal.  I could walk to classes simply by strolling through the appropriately majestic Queen’s Park and came to know the city first-hand by living right in the midst of it.  It also gave me the unique experience of living in centuries-old historical structure (if you don’t count the haunted house my friends and I camped out in that one summer in high school).

I know the meme rules suggest that I pass this along to others, but rather than choose specific people, I’m going to leave an open invitation to anyone who wishes to participate.  We bloggers love to learn a little more about each other beyond the food–so go ahead and pick your own six things! 🙂

Tomorrow:  Coconut!

Odd. . . my Google Reader seemed to be filling up at an alarming rate, sort of like the rising waterline in The Poseidon Adventure.  Then I remembered:  Not only is October the official World Vegetarian Month, it’s also the Vegan MOFO (Month of Food)!  This is the 31-day period in which vegan food bloggers worldwide pledge to blog at least 20 days of the month about, well, vegan food.  And blog they have!

Given my vida loca schedule these days (and The Girls do make me put my clothes on and go walking in the rain), as well as the imminent festival of the harvest here in Canada, I accepted that I simply couldn’t commit to that esteemed blog event, for fear of ending up committed myself as a result.   Instead, I thought I’d bring to you some highlights of recipes I’ve tried and enjoyed from other vegan and vegetarian bloggers in the past while. 

Every now and again, I scroll through my photos and realize there are dozens of dishes I’ve cooked and photographed, but never blogged about.  It may be that they were less than stellar in their final form, or that my woeful skill as a photographer resulted in a photo that, ahem, didn’t quite do the dish justice.  More often than not, however, it’s just that I ran out of time and went on to blog about something else–and then, weeks (or, in some cases, months) later, I stumble upon the photos and rack my brains to remember what the heck it was.  And so, here’s but a brief sampling of some of the things we’ve been sampling here in the DDD household.

Happy Vegan MoFo, everyone!

Caramelized Tofu (101 Cookbooks)

As Heidi mentions in her post about this, this deceptively simple dish is incredibly addictive.  I made it once to try it out, then repeated the venture three days in a row.  Stupendous.  (And this is one of those aforementioned cases in which the photographer is not up to par with the quality of the recipe!).

Crumb-Topped Brownies, sans topping (My Sweet Vegan): 

Hannah’s Crumb-Topped Brownies are everything you’ve heard they are, and more.  As I mentioned a while back, I recently found myself with some soy yogurt in the house, so I finally had the means to try these out.  They were superb–soft, gooey, and with a moist, almost custard-like texture that literally melted in the mouth.  Even without the white sugar or flour, these were fabulous, and irresistibly decadent.

Curried Tofu Scramble (Moosewood New Classics):

My favorite scrambled tofu recipe. With just a touch of curry paste, a hit of jalapeno, the requisite turmeric–this dish provides a spicy, juicy, eggy and convenient scramble.  I could eat this every day (and I do, for about 3 days after I make it, since the HH will no longer indulge with me).

Broccoli and Rice Salad (Jean Lemlin’s Quick, Simple and Main Course Vegetarian Pleasures):

Got broccoli?  Got rice? With the addition of a tangy dressing and chopped almonds, Lemlin elevates the basic rice and veggies to a step beyond the quotidien.  And gluten-free! 

Nori Condiment-Baked Potatoes (Nourish Me):

As Lucy mentioned in her original post about this condiment, it may be just a tad too pungent for some tastes on its own; but these taste buds thoroughly enjoyed it roasted with russett potatoes. Yes, it does sound quirky, and yes, it does resemble the habitat of plankton, but it is, nevertheless, uniquely appealing!

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies (Destiny’s Vegan Kitchen):

Rich. Chewy. Chocolatey. Totally indulgent.  All that, even though I made my usual substitutions of Sucanat for sugar, spelt for regular flour, coconut oil for margarine, etc.  The HH almost scalded his tongue eating four of these babies straight out of the oven.  What are you waiting for?  Go bake some, pronto!

And coming up. . . .got any coconut of your own?

I deliberately ended this list with these coconut cookies as a segue into my next post, which will introduce a new Lucky Comestible series–on coconut!  I’d love to include any recipes you may have made featuring this ingredient as well.  While I’m not quite ready for my own blog event, I will happily provide links to your posts at the end of each Lucky Comestible recipe in the series. 

So feel free to send along those URLs for your coconut-based recipes (and I’m already planning to feature at least 2 of your recipes in the batch. . . but you’ll have to wait to see which ones!).

Oh, Mum, talk about MoFo!  You’re so cruel to keep us all waiting. . .especially when you’re cooking all those yummy coconut dishes just a few feet away. . . *sigh*. . . “

“Chaser, don’t you use such language!  And don’t worry, when she’s done, we’ll get to polish off the extra coconut milk.” 

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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

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

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

[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this third entry, I’m focusing on Avocados. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. ] 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tropical Lemon-Coconut Muffins

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

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

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

Polish Lemon Cake*

May 2, 2008

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*Okay, so it’s not really Polish.  But the topping reminded me of a German Chocolate Cake topping, and since (half) my ancestry is Polish, I thought I’d just use the same concept for this cake’s name. 

 

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.”]  

Did you hear the one about the (half) Polish woman who wanted to bake a cake? 

Just kidding.

All right now! ‘Nuff of those wacky raw dishes we’ve been seeing the last couple of days!! Time for some CAKE.

One of the greatest challenges of living in a long-term, committed relationship is dealing with those areas in which you and your partner don’t necessarily mesh.  In order to coexist harmoniously and still retain one’s sanity, it’s sometimes necessary to make accommodations.  (Okay, fine; not only “sometimes,” but pretty much every day.  Okay, fine; several times a day.).

Since this union is the second go-round for both the HH and me, we no longer bristle at the petty, quotidien issues that drive some newlyweds crazy (does the toilet paper roll from the top or the bottom?  Do you re-fold the newspaper in its original configuration after reading, or leave it in separate, blowzy sections once you’re done with it? Is it okay to exchange sotto voce commentary while watching Atonement in the movie theater, or not?). Nevertheless, we do make our own concessions.  The HH prefers to play music ultra loud (beyond 11, even), whereas I prefer it as a soothing backdrop to other activities.  He takes a laissez-faire attitude toward housework and disciplining The Girls; I prefer a schedule, and rules. (“And we definitely prefer Dad’s approach. . . sorry, Mum.”)

One major difference that forces the issue pretty much daily is our respective dietary habits:  as I may have mentioned (perhaps, on occasion, in passing?) the HH loves to eat meat; I do not.

So when it comes to food, we’ve both learned to adapt. Over the past 11 years, the HH has eaten more tofu, collards, rice noodles and quinoa than he ever knew existed in the world. He’s also sacrificed some of his own cherished favorites, as when I had to cut out all alcohol (plus sugar, and fermented products, and fruits. . . don’t ask) from my diet for 2 years. He cheerfully complied and went without at home, with not a peep of protest.

So, as I browsed through my bookmarked recipes this week for something to bake, I was pleased to land on a recipe for Lemon-Coconut Bundt Cake from Deb’s great blog, Altered Plates. The HH adores coconut (whereas I’m fairly indifferent to it); coconut cream pie tops his list, but he’ll embrace cookies, muffins, bars, or any other coconut confections as well. I thought this would be the perfect cake to show my appreciation for his tolerating my (fairly) unconventional dietary habits over the years.

When I discovered that the Coconut-Lemon Cake recipe originated with Veganomicon, I wasn’t at all surprised. Seems you can’t read any food blog–vegan or not–these days without stumbling on a reference to that revered tome. I’ve tried many recipes from my own copy of the book, but none of the baked goods. In general,  Moskowitz and Romero (I like using their surnames–it’s actually the correct format when referencing other authors; and besides, it makes them sound like a comedy duo that way: “Romero & Moskowitz’s Laugh-In,” or maybe a law firm: “Moskowitz and Romero, LLP” ) often make use of baking ingredients far removed from my own kitchen cabinets:  white sugar, wheat flour, margarine, and the like. And while it’s not difficult to adapt those kinds of recipes to my own requirements, I already had plenty of other recipes lined up. 

I was definitely drawn to the concept of lemon and coconut coexisting in harmony (sort of like the HH and me!). But an entire Bundt cake seemed massive (I mean, how many extra baked goods can one bring to the office?). I decided to halve the recipe and bake it in a round cake pan.

In addition, M & R recommend serving the cake unfrosted.  Now, maybe a naked Bundt (like the Venus de Milo or Miley Cyrus’s shoulder) is sufficiently alluring on its own; but an unadorned, plain-Jane round layer, sans frosting or filling? Well, that just wouldn’t do.  Instead, I omitted the coconut from the cake itself, then added it to a a lemony, gooey topping, reminiscent of the frosting on a German Chocolate Cake, for a little more flair.

I’m happy to report that the HH was very pleased with the final result.  The cake itself revealed a cheery yellow, moist and light interior; the slightly more brash lemony topping, lush and loaded with coconut, provided a great contrast in texture and sweetness.  In fact, the HH seemed so pleased with his treat that I felt perfectly justified asking him to turn down that deafening volume on the stereo.

Since I was inspired by Deb’s adapted version, I’m submitting this entry to Ruth’s weekly Bookmarked Recipes event, over at Ruth’s Kitchen Experiments.

Polish Lemon Cake (adapted from Veganomicon)

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

This cake is very moist with a gooey, rich and intensely lemon topping.  Perfect for a dessert or an afternoon snack, it keeps well in the fridge (and is even better the second day). 

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.”]  

 

True confession (of the culinary kind): 

Even though I stopped baking with refined sugar almost a decade ago and never keep it in the house, there are times when I cave.  On occasion I’ll purchase a sugar-laden product, either because (a) it’s something new and fabulous and I feel I MUST try it, or (b) it’s something not normally available to vegan eaters and I want to taste-test, to see if I can conjure up a healthier version of my own.  Sometimes, it’s both.

That was the case when I bought my first–and only–can of Soyatoo a couple of months ago.  My friend PR Queen and I attended a health food fair where they were hawking selling the product tax-free (which–as those of you who’ve ever shopped in Canada will know–is, like, 85% off).  I couldn’t resist.

And so, feeling oddly like Sethi in the movie The Ten Commandments (though not at all regal, of course), I broke my own vow, and uttered the name of. . . Roses!  Soyatoo-based roses, to be precise.  And rosettes.  And swirls. And squiggles.

I had visions of light, fluffy peaks of the white stuff adorning cream pies and tarts; high, shimmering towers of it piped over fresh berries; or amorphous, cloudlike mounds of it perched atop steaming mugs of hot chocolate.  All these images whirled in my head as I forked over the cash and embraced my can of white, wondrous whipped “cream.”

The second I got home, I pulled some frozen raspberries from the freezer and hastily spooned them into a bowl so I could test out my cache. I followed the directions on the can–exactly–and pressed the button.  There was a hissing sound, a slight whoosh, and then–ah, sweet mystery of compressed edible oil product!–out came a rosette.  One. 

And then, all was silent. 

I shook the can.  I pressed again.  I shook again.  I placed my mouth over the nozzle as if performing some grotesque, otherworldly mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and sucked out the excess topping before trying again.

Nothing. Nada. Not even the slightest sibilance. 

And so, there went my can of Soyatoo–straight in to the garbage.*

Well, there was one favorable outcome from that failed experiment: I decided then and there to create my own, much healthier,  non-dairy whipped cream.  I fully realize that there are other similar creams already posted on the Internet (thanks, Hannah, for this recipe), but my needs were very specific.  I wanted mine to (1) be soy-free; (2) avoid the waste of using only part of the can of coconut milk;  (3) contain no sugar, and (4) be simple enough that it could work without a candy thermometer or any other special equipment.

Well, I came up fairly quickly with what I considered to be a servicable product, and one that was soy-free, to boot.  I even piped it onto Nava‘s Butterscotch Mousse Pie that I wrote about a while back, and the HH and I enjoyed that batch immensely.  Here’s what it looked like:

Before posting my recipe, however, I knew I’d need to test it out numerous times to ensure it was sound and that the results were consistent. I even enlisted two others (thanks, Sally and Alice) to help out as recipe testers.

Well, sorry to say, the results weren’t stellar. While the testers’ feedback was very positive regarding taste,  they both said the cream was a bit too soft and not fluffy enough.  I found my own results to be frustratingly inconsistent, even though I thought I was following the exact recipe each time.

And then, it hit me:  I was using coconut milk, but not the identical coconut milk for each and every trial!  Once I discovered which brand worked best, I tried again–and again, and again–with (qualified)  success. It wasn’t perfect, but the outcome was similar each time.  And so, I’ve decided to post the recipe as it now stands despite the imperfections, in the hopes that some of you might try it out and report your own findings.

The cream is rich-tasting, light, and can stand in very effectively for dairy cream atop desserts (I have no idea how it would work, say, folded into a chocolate mousse, however). 

Here are some important notes before you begin: :

  1. The recipe uses agar, an ingredient I’ve found to be tricky in the past.  Moreover, since I couldn’t find agar powder here in Toronto, I bought flakes and then ground them up myself in a coffee grinder.  So I can’t vouch for results if you use regular agar powder or agar flakes. 
  2. After trying several brands of organic coconut milk and finally moving to conventional coconut milk, I found the only brand that seemed to work consistently was Rooster Gold Label brand (I know it’s available at all Loblaws stores, but have no idea about stores outside of Canada).  I checked labels, and the brand I used contains a whopping 22% total fat content.  I’d think that if you use a milk with a similar fat content, it should work just as well.
  3. This is a very fussy recipe.  You need to cook the mixture, blend it, cool it a bit, blend again, cool some more, then whip with electric beaters–not for the faint of heart.  That said, once it’s whipped, it will retain its shape for several days.
  4. If it doesn’t work out perfectly as a whipped topping, it is sensational to eat on its own–rich, smooth, not too sweet, and very creamy.

I’d love to hear from those of you brave (foolhardy?) enough to try it out, and see if we can’t refine and perfect the recipe!

Coconut Whipped Cream

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

This is a great topping for fancy desserts.  To make the cream, you will need a hand (immersion) blender (a regular blender won’t work for this) and electric beaters.

 

 

And here’s a slightly firmer version:

 

Despite the fussiness of the recipe, I’d definitely make this again for special occasions (it was great on Nava’s Butterscotch Mousse Pie, as well as the Coffee “Cheesecake” Tart, above–recipe from Laura Mathias’s Extraveganza). 

Though perhaps not for a while. . . after more than 15 trials, the HH and I are maxed out on cream for now!

Don’t worry, Mum, we’d be willing to help you out with any extra cream. . . 

For those of you who celebrate, Happy Passover!  (I think this cream would be allowed. . . ).  And happy weekend to all!

*Addendum:  I’ve since learned from other bloggers that Soyatoo is unreliable for them, too.  Thanks to Chocolate Covered Vegan for the suggestion to open and try out each can in the store–if it doesn’t work, they should want to return it to the manufacturer, anyway; and if it does work, you’re buying it, so what would they care?

[UPDATE, December 2008:  I’ve been tinkering with the recipe and have finally come up with a much less fussy and much more reliable recipe!  The revised version will appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog.  For more information, check the “Cookbook” button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]

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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.”]