[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.”]  

almondpancakes1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uncle S:  No Fun!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grain-Free Lemony Almond Pancakes (and ACD variation)

almondpancakecut

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

 

 

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

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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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, thank you for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new home of Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

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

* * *

 

[I’ve decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly, or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required.  Here’s today’s “Flash in the Pan.”]

I was seduced by Mark Bittman last week.

Now, hold on a minute–before you go and call the authorities, I should clarify: I’ve never even met the man. I was speaking in the Platonic sense; it was more the ideal of Mark Bittman that seduced me. 

Truth be told, I was already harboring a little crush. You see, a while back when Bittman’s new tome, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian first hit the cookbook scene, the entire blogosphere (and pretty much any place else people consume food) was abuzz about it.  That book was the latest, greatest thing to hit our kitchens!  I had previously whiled away about an hour leafing through Bittman’s earlier oeuvreHow to Cook Everything, during one of my Sunday-morning bookstore browses with the HH.  That day, I lingered between “Cookbooks: General” and “Cookbooks: Heart Healthy” for ages, slowly caressing the pages and batting my eyelashes longingly at every enchanting chapter. I really couldn’t take my eyes off it. 

In the end, I gave myself over to the enticing reviews and alluring recommendations, dove right in and ordered the darn thing straightaway, sight unseen, from amazon.ca.  I mean, how could I not be seduced?

As I discovered during our first meeting (once the book arrived in the mail), it is a very attractive volume (well, more like the entire encyclopedia, actually, at 996 pages long).  The fresh lollipop-lime cover conveys a light, whimsical feel, while the choice to forgo photos (there are detailed line drawings) and expanses of text lend more a of a Joy of Cooking vibe. As many reviewers have remarked, it is a terrific, all-encompassing introduction to the basics of vegetarian cooking: with lengthy lists and detailed instructions, it covers a huge array of basic ingredients, basic methods and basic recipes. But would this be sufficient to sustain a relationship?  Would the recipes have enduring appeal?  And were they recipes I would actually use and enjoy over the long term?

Well, almost immediately, I started having mixed feelings. Because I’m already familiar with vegetarian basics and techniques, I wasn’t much interested in the generic versions of dishes (leek and potato soup, caramelized onions, refried beans, or scrambled tofu.)  However, it was the seemingly endless variaitions on each theme ( eleven rubs and 17 sauces for grilled tofu; or 15 toppings for baked potatoes), as well as some of the more unusual or ingenious combinations, that intrigued me.  Recipes such as Green Tea Broth with Udon Noodles, Nori Chips, Beets with Pistachio Butter, Quinoa and Parsnip Rösti or Chickpea Fondue each scored sticky-note bookmarks, denoting plans for a future kitchen rendezvous

One major beef (if I may use the term) I had about the book, however,  was its treatment of desserts: there isn’t a single vegan baked good in all 996 pages. The more indulgent, original dessert recipes (such as Chewy Almond Cherry Cookies, Caramel Walnut Bars, or Boozy Apple Cake) all contain eggs, cream or butter; the vegan desserts, on the other hand, are entirely uninspired offerings like No-Bake Granola Bars (hmm, bet they’re crunchy, too); jellies, or rice pudding. Maybe I’ll need to hold out for How to Cook Everything Vegan for those treats.

The first tête-à-tête with my new beau was a heated encounter in which I cooked Millet Mash, a combination of millet simmered with cauliflower florets, then puréed with roasted garlic to mimic mashed potatoes. Unfortunately, the resultant side dish, while fairly tasty, was a wee bit watery, slightly bland, and almost airy (you can see what it looked like as a side dish to a recent BBQ tempeh I made, at left–tempeh recipe to follow in the near future).  It wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong; but sparks didn’t fly.   

When this first date didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I decided to seek my own satisfaction in the kitchen (hey, I’m an independent feminist) and created an original version of mock mashed potatoes.  As I was still following the Grain Drain (grain-free detox diet) at the time, I opted for a slightly different blend of ingredients.

I suspected that boiling the cauliflower with the millet had produced those waterlogged florets, so I roasted them this time.  I also discovered one forlorn parsnip in the crisper and roasted it as well, along with 2 cloves of garlic.  Finally, I puréed the resultant mash with some cooked white beans, and ended up with a mixture that was thick, creamy, and richer both in color and flavor than the original combo. Topped with a sprinkling of gomashio, this was truly an irresistible dish. 

Call me fickle, but I fell in love with that cauliflower-parsnip mash on the spot. I scooped up two servings the first night, then returned for more mash passion the next.  And then I cooked it up once more three days after that. 

Another reason to love this dish: it’s actually good for you. Cauliflower is a little-known source of vitamin C (one cup provides 91.5% of the daily requirement!) and parsnips kick in the remainder.  In addition, the white beans I used (Great Northern Beans) are an excellent source of calcium, a mineral I’m seeking these days.  All in all, this was a fabulous dish–and incredibly easy.

As for Bittman, I haven’t broken it off entirely, though I’ll admit the infatuation for my acid-green beau may have abated just a little.  Our short-lived fling wasn’t quite as disappointing as the one with Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants), but for me, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian was a bit of a tease in the recipe department; it just didn’t provide enough exciting, novel, or foolproof recipes to snag my eternal devotion. 

Despite our rocky beginning, I’m sure we’ll remain good friends. This is still the kind of book I can rely on as a solid kitchen companion, full of serious instructions, reliable tips and honest information. At the same time, I’m keeping one eye open for the next recipe-filled rake that will really take my breath away.  

Oh, and speaking of true loves. . . Happy Father’s Day to all the loving dads out there (“Yes, we second that, Dad!“)

Cauliflower, Parsnip and Bean Mash with Gomashio

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

This recipe is easy to throw together and produces a smooth, comforting and delicious side dish.  While it does need take time to roast, you can use the extra half hour to attend to other matters, like reading some of the 996 pages in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLESE 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.” 

Well, as we round the final corner of this Total Health course I’m taking (only two weeks left–where have the past seven weeks gone?), the class has been asked to embark on a “cleanse” (detoxifying diet) as our final piece of homework.

Our teacher, the very embodiment of “tranquility,” has asked each participant to eliminate something from her/his diet that would ultimately lead to a cleaner, less toxic and healthier body. Each one of us, she suggested, should begin exactly where s/he is right now; for the instructor herself, this might mean embarking on a water fast (something she’s done for up to 10 days at a time in the past).  For one particular participant, this would mean cutting out red meat for the week (and retaining the rest of the animals on his plate). And for me?  Hmmn.  Hard to say.

I’m reminded of a lecture I once attended at the University of Toronto many years ago.  As I recall, the gist of the talk was “how we interpret past customs in the present day” or something to that effect. What I do remember is one speaker in particular, a very liberal rabbi in his thirties (tall and lanky, he wore a black leather jacket and Levis–clearly, not your typical rabbi)  who happened to be a vegetarian.  He related a story about a somewhat obscure religious ritual that he likened to Lent, in which Jews are asked to give up all meat for a period of time (sorry, I don’t remember how long–though I’m pretty sure it was less than 40 days). 

As a vegetarian, he figured he might substitute another food to create a similar spiritual impact (since he felt the intent of the observance was to experience self-denial in the name of penitence).  He met with a more conservative, elderly rabbi, an expert in this area, to ask what else he could give up instead. 

“I already don’t eat meat,” he told the senior cleric, “So maybe I could choose something else, to observe the intention behind the rule. How about tofu? Or what if I give up beans?” 

The rabbi appeared pensive, stroked his beard a few times, then replied: “No.  The tradition decrees that you must give up meat.  Give up meat.”

“But I already gave up meat,” the younger guy persisted. “Isn’t the point to sacrifice something? Aren’t you supposed to miss it just a little, so you can appreciate it more?”

The older man became a bit annoyed at this point.  “Give up meat,” he repeated.  “That’s what the custom says. Give up meat.”

“But isn’t there a substitute I could use?”

“No.  Meat.”

“But–”

“MEAT.”

Well, much like our young rabbi friend, I’ve already given up many of the foods that would represent a great sacrifice to the other members of the course (meat, eggs, dairy, sugar, wheat, etc.). The problem is, I haven’t given them up permanently, nor even consistently (what springs to mind is chocolate–a substance which, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard somewhere, contains sugar).

Attempting to decide on the specifics of my cleanse got me thinking back to the first year I learned about the NAG diet. Like a bride on her honeymoon, in those early days I hung on my teachers’ every word. Each time we learned about a new diet, from Ayurveda to macrobiotic to raw to vegan, I immediately went home and tried it out. I loved incorporating more greens into my diet, loved the increased flavor intensity I discovered in organics, loved trying new and ancient grains, loved the array of natural sweeteners–loved them all. If I were still consuming a similarly (exclusively) healthful diet, I’d be in for a water fast at this point, too.

In the past couple of years, however, the purity of my diet has been sullied considerably; even though I continue to consume all the healthy stuff, I am still occasionally drawn back to the unhealthy side of the spectrum as well, and that’s what gets me into trouble: cookies, cakes, chocolate, candy–all can be highly toxic (even the vegan, spelt-and-maple syrup kind, if eaten in excess). 

And so, I determined (with a little pang): I must cut out grains in all their forms for the week.  I had considered simply giving up “flour” (which would effectively eliminate any baking during the cleanse), but all grains made more sense.  Since I’m the type who might overdo something as healthy as a Quinoa and Buckwheat Salad or Millet and Pepper Pilaf when the cravings hit, to avoid any carbohydrate temptation, no grains it will be.  For one entire week.

Unfortunately, this ban will also affect other dishes that harbor grains-in-hiding, such as my tofu omelette or fritatta, or even a delectable nut roast (which contains some breadcrumbs and flour).  What the heck will I eat for the next week?  Well, I’m guessing I’ll return to some previously enjoyed raw dishes, since almost none of those feature grains (and where they do make an appearance, it’s sprouted). Since the weather will supposedly (and finally!) be hot and sunny this weekend, there should be a good variety of fruits and vegetables available to me at the local market.  I’ll also feast on beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.  Why, it’s a veritable cornucopia! And if I feel desperate for sweets, there are always raw desserts like fruit sorbet, carob-cashew pudding, or LaRAW bars.  Gee, there’s just SO much choice, I might even have TOO much to eat! 

(Repeat to self as required: “I am happy and satisfied eating my veggies and fruits.” “I feel comfortably full and content with my measely nuts and seeds.”  “No, there is no sense of deprivation whatsoever without oatmeal for breakfast, or pasta, or muffins, especially when the HH doesn’t need a cleanse and gets to eat whatever he wants, at every meal.” “Of course not, I totally don’t feel those insistent, gnawing cravings that eat away at me like rats in a prison cell that wear me down like stones at the seaside that force me to leave my home at 11:00 PM and drive to the convenience store practically in the middle of the night just to satisfy the aching desire, the ineluctable urge, the desperate NEED for chocolate. . . . Oh, my.  This may prove to be a little more difficult than I anticipated. (Help).

During this week, I’ll still post recipes that I find tasty and worth eating, though I’ll do my best to avoid anything too “out there” (but since I’ve already posted about cultured vegetables, what worse could I throw at you–except, perhaps spirulina bars?)

(“Mum, please don’t get stressed about this cleanse; we will be happy to eat your portion of the grains this week.  Oh, and remember that patting your dogs will help lower your blood pressure.” )