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“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’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.”]

[Thanks to everyone who hazarded guesses about what type of peppers I’ve got flourishing in my backyard. . . I think we all agree they’re not jalapenos, but as to what they actually are, we may never be sure. They’re definitely spicy, yummy, and abundant–all I need to know, I guess!]

Another plant that grew beyond any sense of propriety in my back yard this past summer is mint.  In my eternal quest to find as many uses as possible for the wayward herb, I began to drink this refreshing, ridiculously simple-to-prepare iced tea almost daily.  I’d mix a huge batch of the beverage, pour it into a pitcher in the fridge, and just add ice whenever I felt parched, tired, or even a bit peckish.  It always worked to perk up my spirits and leave me reinvigorated.

And no wonder: mint has long been used to help soothe digestive problems, and the oils may also aid in preventing bacterial or fungal infections (perfect for someone like me, who’s been rather slack with her ACD lately).  Ginger is renowned as an anti-nausea remedy (which is why real ginger ale is so great for pregnant women). It’s also an effective anti-inflammatory and has been shown to help prevent various types of cancers while boosting the immune system. 

With all these benefits in a delicious and easy drink, there’s just no reason not to sip some every day.

Fresh Ginger Mint Iced Tea

about 2 cups (480 ml.) unpacked fresh mint leaves

2 2-inch (2.5 cm) pieces of ginger, peeled and sliced into think disks

8 cups (2 liters) boiling water

agave nectar, to taste

splash of lemon juice, if desired

Either coarsely chop the mint, or place In the bottom of a large glass or other non-reactive bowl (big enough to hold 8 cups or 2 liters) and then muddle with the end of a wooden spoon or muddler (but really, who actually owns a muddler??).  Add the ginger disks.

Pour boiling water into the bowl and stir gently to submerge all the leaves.  Cover if possible while allowing to steep (I used the lid from my wok, which was large enough to cover the entire bowl). Allow to steep 5-10 minutes, or longer if you prefer a stronger brew.  Add agave and lemon juice, if desired.  The tea can be used immediately if poured over lots of ice (the ice will cool it sufficiently).  Refrigerate any leftover tea and use as needed.  Will keep up to a week in the fridge.

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

 

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minted Peach and Corn Salad

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

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

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

Mint Smoothie

June 3, 2008

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DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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“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.” 

The home I grew up in could very well have been the original inspiration for the mantra, “Reuse, Repair, Recycle.” My dad, the quintessential progeny of The Great Depression, still saves everything from empty jam jars, to twine from UPS boxes, to old socks, to almost-moldy tomatoes, and puts them to use again in some other context (pre-Nalgene vessel to transport iced tea on a road trip; means to repair broken screen door latch; protection for hands while emptying garbage; and lunch, respectively). Seems I’ve earned my title as Femme Frugal honestly.

Besides, I’ve always considered myself pretty eco-friendly, being the bag-saver, container-reuser, water-conserver and late-night clothes washer that I am.  With all the talk of eco-consciousness, carbon footprints, 3 R’s and whatnot these days, I fully expected I’d eventually go “green”; I just never imagined it would be quite in this way. 

You see, our lives have been overtaken by green. Each time I glance out the window at the side of my house, leave via the front door, or stroll round toward the back yard, I’m confronted with GREEN. Mint green, that is. Yes, the DDD household has been invaded by rogue gangs of wandering mint, all vying for supremacy in the ‘hood.

Mint abounds. . . .Mint surrounds. Mint embraces us with its color and scent, tickles us as we tiptoe through the grass, envelops us at every turn.  We are circumscribed by mint.  Yes, dear readers, you were all so right (or, as the HH often translates it from the French, “You have reason”) about that gypsy mint! My days are now lived from within an undulating, leafy, lush sea of green.  Inhaling the verdant aroma from the garden, my mind reels with a heady intoxication (almost as intoxicated, I imagine, as Obama’s fans were last evening after that rousing, pre-victory speech).

Oh, and you know what else?  We’ve got no shortage of mint around here.

So, what to do when you’re inundated with a tasty but not overly utilized herb?  You improvise, that’s what.

Sunday morning, with the weather finally warming up, I thought I’d prepare a refreshing, cooling and nourishing drink for the HH, who was still fairly wilting from the effects of his cold (and, come to think of it, a looking a little green himself).  Fresh fruit is a great option for anyone suffering from weakened immunity, as it digests fairly easily and quickly, without taxing the system too much.  I had just the idea.

Around here, our freezer tends to house a variety of frozen fruits at any given time.  As I’ve mentioned before, even though we choose the smallest organic produce box for delivery each week, often there’s still too much fruit for two of us to consume in a mere seven days.  As a result, I end up chopping and then freezing chunks of overripe mango, pear, banana, grapes, or even (as I did a couple of weeks ago), watermelon for later use.  These frozen cubes generally work beautifully in smoothies or when I want to whip up some nearly-instant sorbet.  Sunday, I opted for a smoothie.

I had been thinking about Mojitos ever since Russ mentioned them in a comment last week, but since I have no interest in drinking alone (I know–how un-writerly of me), and since the HH wasn’t up for alcohol (unless I was going to rub it into his congested chest), I took the general concept of citrus + mint and ran with it.  Rummaging through the various containers of frozen fruit, I uncovered both pear and watermelon, which I imagined would offer a refreshing sweetness without an overpowering flavor (as banana, for instance, might).

Don’t let the intense grassy color deter you–the taste is just right, not too sweet, with a lovely minty flair. It’s refreshing and fairly light, so if you’re thinking “breakfast,” this is the type of smoothie that works as a beverage alongside  your main meal rather than as a beverage instead of your main meal. It would also make a lovely postprandial sip (and maybe even better with a splash of rum–I’ll have to save that version for when the HH is feeling better). 

And, of course, with all this mint (plus the other great fresh fruits) that it contains, how could I not submit this to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by Maninas at Food Matters?

Mint Smoothie

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

 

This is a cooling, refreshing drink that would be great for a hot summer’s evening, or served in a big bowl at a Bar B Q.  (And iwhat a fun challenge to convince your friends to drink something this green!)

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.” 

In my imagination, I’d love to live on a farm. I say “in my imagination” because, in my reality, I’m actually the farthest thing from a farm type of gal (“What the-?  What do you mean, 5:15 is the normal time for the rooster to crow?!!”  OR, “What do you mean, it’s almost 2 hours to the closest Barnes and Noble?” OR, “What do you mean, ‘that’s just what manure smells like, so get used to it’???!!!”).  Um, nope, I don’t think so. 

Still, in my fantasy, I’m a latter day Lisa Douglas. Mid-afternoon, I turn to my HH Wendell Douglas and casually remark, “Oh, dahlink, what shall we have for dinner tonight?  I think I vill go out back to our vegetable patch and pick something fresh.” And then I cook it and we eat it and it’s delicious, of course.

Well, now that it’s finally beginning to look a lot like Christmas hockey season reruns springtime here in Toronto, all the gardeners are out on our street.  Our neighbours across the way have been scattering a wheelbarrow full of rich, black composted soil over their front lawn.  Everywhere I look, I see women on their knees yanking weeds out of the flower garden, others pulling up dried-out webs of branches and roots.  

And I?  Not so much.  On the other hand, the previous tenants in our house were quite the gardeners. When we first viewed the place last August, the back yard was lush with flowers and all manner of greenery, and it seemed everything was in bloom. (Bizarrely, when we finally moved in in November, we discovered that they had literally uprooted every plant, bush or tree they’d planted in the back yard, and taken everything with them to their new home. Remember that huge, gaping crater out of which emerged the creepy farmer-cum-alien in Men in Black? Well, that’s what our yard looked like, times twenty.)

As far as I could tell until yesterday, what remained in our garden was one puffy green bush near the tree in the front yard, some teeny purple flowers (or were they weeds?) and a few long, sharp green plants that look like miniature palm trees.  What they are called, or what they will sprout, I’m afraid I have no idea. My one and only previous gardening experience involves a single jalapeno seedling (I chose a jalapeno because I guessed it would require no maintenance, would self-repel bugs and raccoons, and would yield a small enough harvest that I could use it all up before it began to rot).  I was correct on most counts, though the plant, remarkably, flourished and the HH and I ended up eating jalapenos in every imaginable food, from scrambled eggs to pesto to muffins to plain ole roasted in a pan. But at least it proved I could grow a plant without killing it (or neglecting it to the point of killing it).

This year, I vowed, I’d venture into something a bit more exotic. My friend Gemini I (a gardener extraordinaire) has promised that herbs are fairly easy to grow, so I figured I’d plant some basil, cilantro, dill and sage. Then, yesterday, I was strolling past the side of our house on my way toward the back yard for some Frisbee-toss with The Girls and noticed something odd. There, spanning the entire length of the house, was a patch of earth the previous tenants had evidently forgotten–completely covered in small, green, leafy, plants in full bloom. They were a dazzling, almost translucent shade of green, lighter than grass but deeper than lime. . . the color reminded me of something, but what?  It was sort of like. . . the color of. . . the color of mint.  Yes, mint!  And I’ll be darned, when I bent over and pinched one of those verdant babies between my fingers, that’s exactly what they smelled like.

“Oh, that’s mint,” my next-door neighbour said as she sauntered over to me and The Patch.  Wow.  And so, without even a modicum of effort, I now am the proud owner of a fully formed, instant mint garden.  But what to do with it?

“Want some?”  I asked her.

I am still planning to plant the cilantro and basil, as I can never get enough of either.  But I have to admit that, much as I enjoy mint as a flavoring, I’ve never really been forced to make use of this much of it before.  Something tells me I’ll be drinking my share of mint juleps over the next few months–though, even once I’ve given much away to friends and colleagues, I’ll still have more mint than could possibly be consumed even by Daisy and Tom and Jordan and Gatsby during a long, hot, humid summer.  (I see much green in my future: chocolate-mint cookies, mint smoothies, mint ice creams, mint salads and all manner of mint drinks, alcoholic and otherwise. . . ).

There was one high point to the discovery, however. Just around dinnertime, I glanced at the swath of green running across the side of my house and said, to no one in particular,  “Why, I think I’ll step over here to my herb patch and pick some fresh herbs for dinner tonight.”  And I cooked something, and we ate it, and it was delicious. (“Mum, why are you talking with a Hungarian accent?  And, come to think of it, why are you talking to yourself?”)

We had planned to have a favorite Indian-spiced potato dish called Aloo Masala, but the recipe didn’t call for any mint.  No matter; I threw some in anyway. Along with the complement of other spices, it made for a delightful, slightly sweet and slightly peppery bowl of spuds.  The HH had these with an organic chicken breast (on which he piled even more mint), while I was happy with a simple bowl on its own.  

Well, that took care of about 1/85th of our mint.  Any suggestions for tomorrow?

Aloo Masala (Potato Masala Curry)

adapted from Complete Indian Cookbook, edited by Meera Budhwar

These potatoes come together very quickly and offer a spicy, smooth and comforting side dish to pretty much any main.

3 or 4 medium potatoes, cubed

1 large onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) turmeric

salt, to taste

2 green chilies, chopped (or 1/2-1 jalapeno)

2 tsp. (10 ml.) garam masala

2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) shredded or dessicated coconut, unsweetened

1-inch (2.5 cm.) piece ginger, peeled and finely grated

2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) olive oil

1 tsp. (5 ml.) glack mustard seeds

4-6 mint leaves, finely shredded

leaves from 2 sprigs cilantro, finely shredded

Cook the potatoes in just enough water to cover with half the onion, the turmeric and the chilies until about half cooked, about 8 minutes  [note: next time I do these, I will omit the onion here and simply fry it all together at the end–I think the potatoes would have a better flavor that way, infused with the caramelized onion].

Meanwhile, blend the garam masala, coconut and ginger in a coffee grinder or miniature food processor. Add to the potato and continue to cook for a further 8 minutes, until tender but not soft, and most of the water has evaporated.

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the mustard seeds.  Let them sizzle for a few seconds until they have popped, then add the onion and fry until deep golden brown. Stir this into the curry in the pot.

Add salt to taste and sprinkle with the mint and cilantro.  Makes 4 servings.