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.”]  

mapleflaxcookies

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Coombs Family Farms, an organic farm in Vermont that specializes in “all things maple,” to see if I’d like to sample some of their syrup.  Since maple syrup is a well-loved staple in my kitchen and many of my baked goods feature it as a key sweetener,  I was delighted to accept their offer and eagerly awaited the package.

A few days later, I received this:

coombssyrup

A bottle of their certified organic syrup, along with a maple-leaf shaped piece of maple candy!

Anyone who’s ever consumed real maple syrup can attest to its unique flavor–sweet, slightly smoky, with an appealing, earthy aroma.  Made from the sap of maple trees, it’s naturally rich in minerals (per volume, higher in calcium than dairy milk!). The syrup is available for purchase in three grades of A (light, medium and dark) and one of  B–each darker and more intensely flavored than the last. I was sent a bottle of grade B, an intense, soulful auburn that was so thick and deep it was nearly opaque.  As soon as I removed the cap, the maple perfume escaped to envelop the room with that distinctive scent. 

Now, I’ve enjoyed maple syrup for many years.  Like pretty much everyone raised in Quebec–the heart of Canada’s maple country–I consider myself a maple aficionado, if not an expert.  Maple syrup is ubiquitous in La Belle Province: you can find it on every checkered tablecloth in every greasy-spoon breakfast diner, cheerily lining the shelves in corner grocery stores, awaiting the call in every kitchen cupboard.  When I was in grade school, each spring our class would make an annual trek up north for “sugaring off” parties, where freshly tapped, warmed maple syrup was poured over vast expanses of pristine snow to create a kind of maple taffy that we kids scrambled to scoop up with plastic spoons.  I might even classify myself as a bit of a maple syrup snob, in fact, one who’d never even consider trying the artificially flavored stuff from that iconic slender-waisted bottle.

Still, despite my fine maple sensibilities, I’ve never really thought it essential to buy organic maple syrup.  For one thing, the price is usually, shall we say, immoderate.  In addition, I’ve always recalled a conversation I had with a student once in a sociology of food course I was teaching.  She mentioned that her family owned a local maple tree farm.  There was really no difference between organic and non-organic syrup, she explained, since most maple trees aren’t sprayed with pesticides anyway (unless infected by some vermin or another). I filed away that bit of information and continued to purchase my regular (non-organic) variety.

Well, let me tell you, that student got it wrong (luckily, she wasn’t writing a test at the time). Now that I’ve tasted the Coomb’s organic version, I’m not sure I can go back to my generic brand.  Their syrup is outstanding, with a rich, deep amber color and more intense maple flavor than I’ve ever tasted.  It’s perfectly sweet and subtly smoky, with a heightened maple essence that lingers gently on the palate, enduring like an unexpected compliment. 

Seriously, I may not be able to tolerate my old brand any more.  To heck with the price–I’ll just have to be more judicious in my use of it, I reckon.  Or else use a bit less and savor every drop more.  Or simply ignore the cost entirely (I suspect that a pawn shop may come into play at some point).  Seriously, it’s that good.

My first taste of the syrup was straight, poured onto the Lemony Almond Pancakes I wrote about a few days ago (I wanted to sample the delicacy in its pure, unadulterated state before combining it with other ingredients).  The flavors melded beautifully, the maple’s presence strong enough to match the zesty lemon while counterbalancing the slight sourness of it.  The HH practically asked to drink the stuff straight out of the bottle (but I wouldn’t let him, of course, as I was saving it for my subsequent kitchen experiments). He did manage to polish off the maple candy in one sitting, however–I got barely a nibble!

With such a winning flavor, I opted to design a cookie that would really showcase the unique taste that is “maple.”  I concocted these Maple Flax cookies (sorry, the two of you who are also on the ACD; these are NOT ACD-friendly–I created this recipe a couple of weeks ago).  They are naturally gluten free (and even flour-free, in fact).  In this case, the light, chewy texture was a natural outgrowth of my desire to minimize other ingredients  in order to allow the natural maple to shine through.  And you will most definitely taste it, with every chewy, sticky, sweet and maple-y bite.

Thanks again to everyone at Coombs Family Farms for allowing me to sample this extraordinary product.  Now my only lament is that I can’t find any more of it here in Toronto!

They’re not quite Irish, but since they contain oats, I can claim a Celtic connection, anyway. . . Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!

P.S.  It’s time for another Sweet Freedom giveaway. . . stay tuned for details next post! 🙂

Maple Flax Cookies

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

 mapleflaxcookieinside

Looking somewhat like oatmeal cookies, with a crunchy exterior and chewy center, these intesely maple-flavored treats will please everyone.  Whole flax seeds add bulk, while the oatmeal and flax meal both contribute heart-healthy soluble fiber.

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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

Last Year at This Time:   Katie’s Creamy Aspara-Dip

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[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 second entry, I’m focusing on Quinoa. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. ]

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.” 

You guys are too funny!

I would never have guessed that my silly little comment about quotation marks at the end of yesterday’s post could spark so many witty comebacks.  Well, quotation marks be damned! Now that I’m officially *back,* I’ll just have to reach waaaay %back % into my punctuation quiver and pick out a few other sharp marks and symbols.  And so, right ++BACK++ at ya! 

For now, though, I must hold myself >bAcK< and will no longer tap my spinal woes as a source of humor (though the original Spinal Tap, on the other hand, provides its own endless source of punny laughs).  And now, let’s get back  to today’s Lucky Comestible!

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’re likely already familiar with my penchant for breakfast foods.  The morning repast is, unequivocally, my favorite meal of the day.  So how could I go through five different recipes featuring quinoa and NOT include at least one targeted breafast dish? 

I’ve already covered a baked good with the Almond-Quinoa Muffins; today, I’ve repurposed Lisa’s amazing Quinoa and Oatmeal Croquettes recipe for a breakfasty-sweet usage rather than the delectable savory meal (smothered in a rich mushroom sauce) that she originally wrote about. Luckily, the recipe is super-easy and employs ingredients I already had on hand, so I was able to whip these up without having to head to the supermarket, which would have undoubtedly strained my finances patience relationship  (Oh, just SAY IT:)  BACK .

I’ve always thought of croquettes as somewhat pear-shaped orbs that sit under a thick slathering of creamy sauce.  As a kid, my mom sometimes made chicken croquettes, which involved grinding, mixing, and shaping the mounds of seasoned chicken before rolling them in breadcrumbs and baking them, after which they were doused with à la King sauce (ie, canned cream of mushroom soup) that had a handful of frozen peas thrown in. Representative of the times, but hardly worth the effort, I always thought.

When I saw Lisa’s recipe, I was a little surprised at the form of these croquettes. Like that iconic fast-food hamburger, they were square rather than round; and like the proverbial bank heist-without-a-hitch, they were almost too easy: simply cook up, spread in pan, then cut into shape.  I suppose I could have used a cookie cutter to approximate a rounded shape, but why bother? Who said croquettes have to be round, anyway?

What I like about these little darlings is that the quinoa is very evident–not a co-star, but the main attraction.  The oats, while present, don’t really determine much of the overall flavor; rather, they seem to bind the croquettes together instead. The mixture reminded me very much of a polenta in texture and preparation; but the taste was, to my mind, very well suited to breakfast.

 And so, still limited by the few ingredients I actually had in the house after the GBR, I pulled out some homemade cranberry preserves as a topper and set about heating these in the griddle for breakfast.  I was very well rewarded with a nubby-textured, moist and chewy croquette highlighted by the occasional crunch, courtesy of sesame seeds sprinkled over top.  The slightly sweet, slightly tart jam was the perfect accompaniment.  These would also be divine with maple syrup, I think.  Oh, and mushroom sauce (as Lisa suggests) too, of course.  

 

Quinoa-Oatmeal Croquettes

from Lisa’s Vegetarian Kitchen

 

Quick, hearty, and substantial, these are the perfect breakfast bites.  If you’re in a hurry, you can even wrap them up and take them along.  And, as Lisa suggests, they make a great base for a savory sauce, too.

1 cup dry quinoa

1 cup rolled or steel-cut oats (I used rolled oats)

3 cups water

1/4 tsp. sea salt

sesame seeds, as needed

olive oil, as needed

If desired, rinse the quinoa to remove the bitter outer resin (I didn’t bother, as I assume most quinoa these days is pre-rinsed; but if you want to be safe, go ahead). Place in a glass casserole or pan along with the 3 cups water, cover, and soak overnight in the fridge.

The next day, grease a 9 x 9 inch square pan with olive oil or nonstick spray.  Pour the mixture into a medium-sized pot and stir in the sea salt.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until it has the consistency of a thick porridge, about 25-30 minutes.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Refrigerate at least 20 minutes, to let the mixture cool and firm up (I left it for about 4 hours).  Cut the mixture in to cubes of desired size (I cut the contents of the pan into 20 small cubes).

Lightly oil a frying pan with the olive oil, and fry the cubes on both sides until golden brown and crispy on the outside.  Transfer to a plate and serve with fruit preserves of your choice.  Makes 4-5 servings.  Will keep for 4 days, covered, in the fridge.

Other Posts in this Series:

Lucky Comestible II (1): Quinoa Salad with Buckwheat and Cranberries

Lucky Comestible II (2): Almond-Quinoa Muffins

Lucky Comestible II (3): Tagine of Quinoa with Chickpeas, Olives and Prunes

Lucky Comestible II (5): Apple-Quinoa Cake

Other Quinoa Recipes:

(Got a quinoa recipe?  Send me the link during this Lucky Comestible week, and I’ll add it to the list!)

 

 

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.”]  

orangeoatmuffin2.jpg 

After a rollicking time last evening (it was my Human Honey’s birthday, so we splurged ridiculously at one of our very favorite restaurants), I woke up, late, this morning and decided that it was time to return to the pleasures of baking.  After all, I haven’t baked anything in seven whole days!  Can it be only seven days since we left the old place??

 The first challenge to address was “what to bake?”  Then it hit me that I’m scheduled to teach a cooking class on Tuesday, and desperately needed to re-test one of the recipes I’d dashed off so cavalierly before the move.  With the class looming, I figured it best to try out the recipe before sending it in print to the cooking class coordinator.  Besides, I had all the ingredients on hand, I was sure I could locate all the necessary equipment, and–most important of all–I was really hungry for something real, something freshly baked, something–well, something not chocolate.

The perfect recipe?  My old standard, Orange-Oatmeal Muffins. 

This recipe is one of the very first I ever created with alternative-to-wheat flours, and it remains one of our favorites here in the house.  (“Yes, we love it, too, Mum!”) I’ve given it out to scores of friends, acquaintances, and cooking class participants, and everyone has been amazed at how simple the recipe is to prepare, how moist and dense the texture, and how generally yummy the result.

When I was first told not to eat wheat, I didn’t really know what to do with myself.  I’ve since learned that spelt (especially light spelt) flour is more or less a one-for-one replacement for wheat, and we have come to prefer its subtle, slightly nutty, slightly sweeter taste.  (Once, when I was baking “regular” vegan muffins–ie, choc full o’ sugar, white flour, and margarine–for a vegetarian restaurant, my H.H. and I felt the need to taste-test them to ensure they’d come out right before I dropped them off at the restaurant.  But by then, we’d been eating spelt- and kamut-based baked goods for three or four years already.  We took one bite of the pallid, unremarkable little quick bread and immediatley spat it out.  “It has no flavor!” we cried, and “this tastes like styrofoam!” we exclaimed. (Though how we’d recognize the taste of styrofoam, I have no idea.) We’d become so accustomed to eating food that has real depth, real substance, real nutritional value,  that the old, conventional baked goods tasted sickly and bland to us.) Nowadays, I think of spelt as a fraternal twin, rather than a distant cousin, of wheat.

When experimenting with muffin recipes back then, I wanted to create something with only natural sweeteners, preferably fruit-based, both for the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant properties, as well as for the fiber and stabilizing effect on blood sugar levels compared to refined sweeteners. I opted for a bit of maple syrup (for its intense sweetness) paired with blackstrap molasses (for the incredible nutritional punch, the calcium, iron, and other trace minerals). Back then, flush with my newfound natural-nutritionist zeal, I was determined to include as many whole grains as possible in each recipe, so threw in three.

 While considering which fruits to include, I was struck by a childhood memory of a strange habit my mother had had.  On afternoons when she wasn’t working, after setting up whatever dishes she’d be preparing for dinner, she’d retire to her bedroom (where the only TV in our house was located), tote along a fresh orange, and sit watching her soap opera while she munched on it.  What made her practice unusual (besides sitting on the edge of a bed to watch TV at 2:00 PM) was the way she consumed the fruit:  she’d wash the orange, then bite into it the way one usually tackles a fresh apple–chomping straight through it, skin and all.  The juice would squirt, the flesh would fly a little, and she’d chew with a slightly squishy, slightly crunchy sound as she slurped, munched, and spat out the seeds onto a paper towel (we never seemed to have paper napkins in our house). 

I thought about my mother’s odd approach to oranges as I set about creating this recipe.  Why couldn’t I include the whole orange here, too, skin and all?  After all, much of the best nutritional value in the orange actually resides in the skin and pith, the slightly bitter white lining just under the orange peel. Antioxidants, bioflavonoids, cholesterol-lowering properties–I could include all of these.  I decided to give it a try, guessing that the combination of sweeteners and slight bitterness from the full orange would complement each other beautifully.  I was right!

Similarly, the combination of spelt and kamut allows a mix of hard and soft flours for a solid, but not too heavy, texture, and the oats provide a bit of chewiness and dimension. 

These are definitely not conventional muffins.  They’re low in fat, full in flavor, dense, and very moist.  You’ll find little flecks of orange peel and date scattered throughout. I love these muffins for breakfast, warm with a little almond butter.  You’ll need a food processor for this recipe.

orangeoatmuffin1.jpg

Wheat-Free Orange Oatmeal Muffins

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

orangeoat3.jpg

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

Baked Oats

November 5, 2007

 

I’ve been craving my favorite baked oats ever since writing about them the other day on this blog.

bakedoats.jpg

The recipe is actually from the Moosewood Classics cookbook, but I’ve made it so many times and adjusted the amounts and ingredients to my own liking so much over the years that I’m not sure how closely it resembles the original anymore. 

In any case, this recipe provides the creamiest, richest-tasting, most delicious bowl of stickin-to-your-ribs-for-the-entire-morning oatmeal that you will ever eat.  It reminds me of an old-fashioned rice pudding, with a similar texture and creaminess, but made without refined sugar, and with lots of fibre from the apples and raisins (not to mention a whole whack of minerals!).  And oats are a terrific source of phytoestrogens and soluble fibre. . . great for those mid-lifers like moi.  

Another fabulous plus to this breakfast is that it’s wonderfully convenient.  What I usually do is whip up the oat-milk mixture first thing and pop it in the oven, then go shower and get ready for work.  By the time my hair is done, so is the oatmeal, and I can happily spoon it up as I read the paper.

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