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[Unretouched photo of unidentified, disk-like objects, hovering in the air over my kitchen table]

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.”]  

Before I metthe HH, I’d read exactly one science fiction novel (Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, when I was about twelve) and seen only the standard TV shows or movies, such as Star Trek (in all its incarnations–though Deep Space really was an inferior specimen, don’t you think?) or Planet of the Apes.  It’s not that I’m uninterested in what might be happening on other planets or other universes; it’s just that, frankly, I have a hard enough time dealing with just this one–I mean, who needs more stress? 

Still, as a huge fan of all types of film (except anything with violence–which, I suppose, eliminates just about everything on screen these days, even down to Shrek the Third or Get Smart ), I was perfectly agreeable when the HH offered to introduce some of his favorite SF films to me, shortly after we first got together (of course, I was still trying to impress him back in those days, so I was pretty much agreeable to almost anything he suggested*). 

From La Jetée (the inspiration for Twelve Monkeys, aka The Only Film in which Pretty Boy Brad Pitt was Actually Any Good) to the original The Day the Earth Stood Still to Blade Runner, I have to admit I’ve enjoyed them all.  And these days, we’re both hooked on Battlestar Gallactica,  that terrific Canadian-U.S. co-production that’s not only well written and well performed, but a fascinating allegory for today’s political and religious climates (oh, and hunky Jamie Bamber in the role of Lee Adama doesn’t hurt, either). 

It seemed fitting, then, that I’d spy a recipe the other day for something with the oh-so-clever name of Cosmic Cookies (ie, they’re “out of this world”–get it?) at the new Planet Organic store that opened recently not too far from us. This was a monumental ouverture, as it was the first Big Organic Market north of the city (Toronto does have Whole Foods, but that’s way downtown in the tony Hazelton Lanes/Yorkville area, a far way to go for those of us orbiting out here in the ‘burbs).

cosmiccookiebite.jpg Well, I couldn’t wait to amble through the aisles and explore this newfound “planet.”  The atmosphere seemed amenable: I spent about 45 minutes inspecting the inventory, from prepared foods (salads, veggies, patties, croquettes, loaves, etc.)  to vegan baked goods (the orange-cranberry muffin I bought was, unfortunately, disappointing) to pastas, produce and packaged goods. 

Pleased overall, I ended up purchasing “just a few things” (at the checkout, once I regained the ability to breathe, I calculated that my little spree worked out to approximately $1.00 per minute. Clearly, this is no impoverished planet).

Here’s my haul:

1) Veggie patties.  Fittingly alien-looking with nubby edges and a deep carmine color, these little creatures were a mélange of carrots, beets, almonds, and an array of spices.  A bit too sweet for my taste; nevertheless, good lunch food.

2) Teriyaki tofu “steaks.”  Basically the first tofu recipe I ever cooked for myself: slabs of tofu marinated in the ubiquitous mix of soy sauce, ginger, something sweet and garlic. These were fine, if less than inspired.

3) A slice of bison meatloaf for the HH.  He loved it.  Enough said.

4) The pièce de resistance, the holy grail, the UFO (Unidentified Flour Object) I’d been seeking for weeks: a bag of coconut flour. I’d read about this elusive ingredient many times (it’s a mainstay in Deb’srecipes) but had never been able to find it before.  The coconut flour will provide me with hours of kitchen fun, playing with recipes for yet more cakes, cookies, bars, muffins, or pies free of wheat, eggs or dairy–and now, perhaps, free of gluten, too (it’s a GF flour).

In the meantime, I whipped up a batch of the store’s own Cosmic Cookies, a signature sweet made primarily of oats, seeds, raisins, chocolate chips and coconut.  I was so fixated on my coconut flour that I forgot to add the shredded coconut to the mix; they still came out fine. Since the store published the recipe in their own flyer, I assumed they wouldn’t mind my sharing it here as well.  

And though I enjoyed my visit to the store, I think I’ll restrict any future inter-planetary shopping to just the coconut flour. As much as I enjoyed the visit, it seems more like a special-occasion, rather than a regular, destination. Just like every other planet.

*No, nothing like that, you perverts!

Planet Organic’s Cosmic Cookies (verbatim from their flyer)

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

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I modified this recipe ever so slightly. These are not too sweet and very filling, yet somehow, strangely addictive.  Could it be the extra-terrestrial influence?

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

Wishes for a Wonderful Day

December 25, 2007

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Whether you’ve just woken up to find the Big Guy has already arrived, or whether you’re spending your day in some other way, here’s wishing you a day filled with fun, happiness, and the love of friends and family.

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope it’s wonderful. 

If not, enjoy the nearly empty movie theatres today.

Last Minute Christmas Cookie

December 24, 2007

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.”]  

* * *

Talk about under the wire.  Here it is, the LAST DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS, and I’m still experimenting with baking cookies (and still posting to Holidailies).  And guess what?  I think I’ve hit on something.

I’ve been wanting to do a Christmas sugar cookie for years.  Ever since I had to alter my diet and cut out wheat and refined sugars, it’s been a bit difficult to bake traditional treats (though there are so many great cookbooks out there, not to mention a whole lot of blogs using all-natural ingredients, which makes it easier and easier). 

agavecookietray.jpg After baking with agave nectar for the past few years, I felt pretty good about that.  But a sugar cookie?  Wouldn’t it be kind of heretical to take the sugar out of it?  (And what would I call it, anyway–“agave cookie cutouts”?). 

But recently, I also started baking chia seeds (yes, those selfsame seeds that used to grow into little animals in pottery shapes for kids), only edible.  One could say that “chia is the new flax,” since it contains the same healthful Omega 3 fatty acids, only more so than flax.  Further, chia is lighter in color and texture–perfect for a creamy white, snowy “sugar” cookie.

Sugar cookies are also, traditionally, rolled and cut.  When baking with agave, however, the cookie dough is more often soft and most suitable for scooping or smoothing into pans, to be cut later into bars (since agave is a liquid sweetener, after all).  So what to do?  I decided that the combination of coconut butter instead of butter (since it’s also solid at room temperature), and chia as an egg substitute would work best, since the chia would absorb some of the excess moisture in the agave. That way, I would be able to use almost the same ratio of flour to sweetener in a “regular” sugar cookie.

I’m happy to report that the dough came out beautiful!  It was a teeny bit softer than expected when first mixed, so I split it in two parts, and scooped the first half (at room temperature).  These cookies came out just barely golden on the bottoms, uniform in shape, with a beautiful, tender crumb and delicate flavor.  Truly, they were delicious–a great plain all-occasion cookie that’s not too sweet. 

I put the second half of the dough into the fridge to sit for an hour or two and firm up.  I’m going to roll it out later, cut it into shapes (should be interesting, as we haven’t yet unpacked all my baking supplies, and I’ve got neither a rolling pin nor my cookie cutters), and bake it that way; I’ll post those photos as soon as they’re ready.

[Edit, December 2008:   The dough was perfect once chilled–firm and easy to roll.  Here’s what the cookies look like rolled out, and cut with cookie cutters:]

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In the meantime, I’ll share this recipe for those of you who may want to play around for next Christmas!

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Ricki’s Sugar Agave Cookies

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.

Every year, when my sisters and I were kids, for our birthdays we each got a made-from-scratch, personally decorated birthday cake for our party.  One year it was Little Bo Peep, another it was Barbie, still others it was a pretty array of colorful frosting flowers splashed across a chocolate rectangle.  Cake, always cake; but never can I recall having cupcakes for my birthday.

Well, times have changed. In just a few years, cupcakes have become all the rage.  Little cupcake-only shops have sprouted in every major city; and my friend Angie tells me that, in Dallas, they’ve reached a peak of price and exculsivity. One might even say that cupcakes are poised to take over the world!

And so, this season, though I’ve been asked to bake for several children’s parties and an at-home Christmas celebration, in every case I’ve been asked to bake up a batch of cupcakes. 

As a vegan baker who uses neither refined sugar nor margarine, I can sometimes find it incredibly difficult to come up with substitutions that will approximate the same look and taste as conventional recipes (even though I own, and have carefully persued, every page of Isa and Terry’s phenomenal book, and send major kudos their way–especially for the agave-based vanilla cupcakes).  I find it fairly easy to substitute organic coconut butter for margarine, but sugar really is one of a kind, especially when you’re talking buttercream.

So, while I continue to experiment with an agave-based buttercream frosting (and to post to Holidailies), I am left with my old standby, agave fudgy frosting, for cupcakes.  Though delicious and thoroughly chocolatey, it’s not airy in the least, and not as easy to pipe into ruffles or scallops or drop flowers. It tends to sport a high-gloss finish, and can be a bit stiff, sometimes firming up so much that it won’t agree to be piped at all.  When the vanilla version is colored for decorations, it resembles the type of gel-like icings you buy in little tubes in the grocery store–not much fine detail to work with, there. 

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[cupcakes with a scoop of frosting, waiting to be transformed. . .

So, when I received an order for some last-minute cupcakes decorated with a holiday theme, I wasn’t sure what to do.  Without any formal training in cake decorating (which, I’m fairly sure, wouldn’t be much help with this type of frosting, anyway), I had to improvise.  So I thought about simple line drawings of bells or bows that I could pipe onto the cupcakes, or how I might fill in an outline with colored frosting, which would then be smoothed flat, with something like a stained glass effect.

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[The blank canvas waiting for inspiration] 

Well, in the end, I would say the experiment was a semi-success.  You can tell what I was trying to achieve, but the icing just wouldn’t smooth out, so my holly leaves have little bumpy ridges on them.  Still, they tasted great (what? I couldn’t very well give them away without sampling to ensure quality, now, could I?), and I know that the kids who’ll be eating them will be thrilled. 

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[chocolate and agave holiday cheer] 

With precious little time left before the holiday and so many people on the lookout for Christmas recipes, I’ll contribute one more festive cookie.  These are a dense, chewy round that combines a peanut butter base with chocolate chips and cranberries.  If you bake them the full suggested time, they’ll be crispy on the edges and soft but dry inside.  Bake a little less, and they’ll cool to a moist and chewy goodness.  These are actually better the second day, as the PB flavor intensifies.

Hmm.  Peanut butter, chocolate and cranberries. . . I may just have to bake some of these myself. In the meantime, I’ll keep working on that sugarless vegan buttercream.

Holiday Cranberry Chippers

 

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

Leftover Pizza for Breakfast

November 30, 2007

pizzaslice.jpg I must be on a “dinner-for-breakfast” kick.  This morning, I scarfed up the last 2 pieces of pizza from last night’s cooking class.  Normally, the class participants take all the leftovers home with them, but due to intermittent snow squalls throughout the GTA, two people cancelled at the last minute and left me with–yum!–breakfast.

I am feeling a bit downcast this morning, as last night’s was the final class, not just of 2007, but likely forever.  After four years of offering alternative cooking classes in my home and finally reaching some sort of critical mass on the website, I decided with this recent move to stop teaching in the house. 

First of all, my H.H. hated it (since he was relegated to the upstairs TV room for the entire evening), and even though The Girls loved it (“Yes, Mum, all those new people to sniff and free food dropping from the air all evening!”), I find this new place isn’t as well suited to having three cooking stations in the kitchen.  Besides, it’s a new home; time for a fresh start.  I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed with other projects and commitments lately that it was beginning to seem onerous every time I had to prep a class (a full-day venture, plus cleaning up until midnight most nights).

What I will miss is meeting an ongoing array of amazing women (sorry, Garry, you were the only man to register in the entire four years!) who have opened my mind to new experiences and taught me more about life than I could ever have taught them about cooking.

Believe me, as one who formerly suffered from anxiety attacks, I was the last person you’d expect to invite total strangers into  my home.  But after a giddy year as a nutrition student at CSNN, my desire to share what I’d learned and cook with the amazing selection of new and healthy foods I’d discovered overcame any doubts I may have had.  (Besides, we all know that the last thing those health-foodie, crunchy granola types would ever do is steal or pillage).

So:  to Giovanna, who burst onto the scene post-radiation with her smile still beaming, it was such a pleasure to meet you and observe as you entered this world of alternative medicine and organic eating.  Your courage and determination have inspired me.  And so cool to know that there are such incredibly gorgeous wigs out there (though I must say I prefer the natural grey on you).

To Sandra, with your naturally effervescent nature, thank you for winning the prize for “only student who attended all fourteen cooking classes in a single season.”  I enjoyed hearing the plethora of stories about your kids and their pranks, and I wish you continued success as you introduce healthier options into your family’s menus. 

To Barbara, with your peripatetic streak and calming smile, I so enjoyed hearing about your many travels and so many interesting customs from other countries.  Thank you for your unbridled appreciation of the food and for being so affectionate with my dogs (“yes, thanks, Barbara!”).  I know you will love your upcoming time in Cairo.

To Maria-Elena, you brought an informal approach and many guffaws to the class.  Thank you for showing me that the Coconut Cream Pie could work when made in the blender, even though that wasn’t what the recipe called for. Who needs to measure, anyway?

To Michelle, I’m so glad you took that first chance and leapt in.  I have so enjoyed our outings and discovering this new friendship. And thanks for all the great puppy pix and recipes to try out! You are a natural at it.

There are so many more, and every one has touched me in some indelible way.  Still, I know this was the right move for me, one that will allow my concentration to move to more current interests (hmm, such as this blog!). 

Yes, I will sorely miss the camaraderie and buzz in the kitchen.  What I won’t miss is having to dash frantically around the house cleaning up the night before class (oh, wait, maybe I should miss that–this may mean our house is never clean again!).  I won’t miss the last-minute forays to the corner store for overlooked okra or missing miso, or having to reprimand Chaser when the guests arrive because her exuberance overtakes her and she jumps up on people even though she’s been trained not to (“But Mum!  They might have food!”).

Last evening’s theme was “Light and Easy Suppers,” healthy dishes that are mostly kid-friendly and can be cooked up in a fairly short span. 

Here’s the final menu (this suddenly feels like a tribute to the Titanic, or something!):

  • Sesame Sweet Potato Wedges with Thai Dipping Sauce
  • Spelt Thin-Crust Pizza with Artichokes, Caramelized Onion, and Chard (photo above)
  • Tofu Masala Curry with Brown Basmati
  • Moroccan Spiced Tomato Soup
  • Napa Cabbage Salad
  • Gluten-Free Pumpkinseed Shortbread Cookies.

I will post recipes for all of these over the next while. Now that there will BE no more cooking classes, this is my best place to share, though I don’t have all the photos yet (of course, given my shaky photography “skills,” that may not be a bad thing).

In the meantime, why not indulge in pizza for breakfast?