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Now, I realize I promised a light and not-too-filling recipe today, but before we get to that, I must share something very rich and decadent and–because I ate most of it in one sitting–rather filling: the Peppermint Ritter Sport bar I won (a while ago, now) in Amey’s contest!

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I received the bar in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and was thrilled to rip open the envelope and find that it reached me in perfect condition–all the way from California! While a couple of the squares had broken apart, the smooth, white, minty filling remained enclosed in the chocolate and every piece was perfectly edible.  And believe me, eat it I did (well, I shared–just a wee bit–with the HH). 

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I also loved that the entire wrapper was in German!  Here in Toronto, anyway, the Ritter Sports we get have multiple languages on the wrappers, including French and English.  It made Amey’s seem much more authentic.  Thanks so much, Amey!  It’s always so exciting to get something fun in the mail, and that bar is a definite new favorite.  (Wow, I think I’m a little overwhelmed with all the goodies I’ve received in the mail from other bloggers these past few months!  Have I mentioned lately that you guys are THE BEST??!)

And after dessert. . . . breakfast!

A couple of weeks ago, I went out for brunch with my friend PR Queen to celebrate both our birthdays, which are a month apart. (Yes, this really was the birthday that refused to surrender!)

In any case, we went to an upscale vegan resto called Fressen, where the food is stellar (and the prices are equally astronomical). I relished my fresh beet, apple and carrot juice; salad of baby greens and balsamic-dijon dressing; and stuffed tofu omelet.  But I just couldn’t see myself going there on a regular basis, mostly because (a) it’s right in the heart of the Queen West area of Toronto, just a minim too trendy, too grungy and too crowded for my taste; (b) Queen West is right in the heart of the general downtown in Toronto, a 35-minute drive away at the best of times, but more like an hour-plus when there’s traffic; (c) the prices there are, as I mentioned, bordering on the stratosphere; and (d) if I kept eating brunch there on a regular basis, I’d be denying myself the challenge of re-creating the same brunch at home.  Which, because I’m just wacky that way, I endeavored to do the very next weekend.

First, I suppose I should pause here to admit that, for most of my life, I have been severely Ovule-Challenged.  Whether soft boiled, sunny-side up, over easy, or any other way, I never did master egg cooking skills.  And omelets add yet another layer of difficulty: the perfect (egg) omelet is meant to be uniformly puffy and light, all in one piece, possessing a slightly gooey interior that I’ve always found rather gag-inducing. Even when the HH and I were first together and I attempted omelets on a regular basis, my egg oeuvres (or would that be oeufres?) would invariably crack and split and wilt like leaves on my sorely neglected ficus plant every time I tried to flip them, resulting in breakage and a pan housing three or four large, ragged-edge slabs of egg, sprawled at odd angles. I’d end up stirring the mixture furiously, ultimately transforming it into a semi-scramble and calling it frittata.  It wasn’t long before the HH took over omelet duty.  He’s never had a problem whipping one up (literally); and, to this day, he cooks an omelet for himself almost every Sunday. 

I assumed I’d have more success re-creating that tofu-based Fressen beauty (even though my first attempt at a tofu omelet also lacked that airy, pillowy texture, despite its wonderful flavor). What I loved about the Fressen version was how it seemed both moist and fluffy at the same time; while clearly cooked and browned on the outside, the inside remained soft, creamy, and light as custard. Stuffed with a succulent, rich filling of pesto, caramelized leek and mushrooms, it was a vision to behold: golden and crisp on the outside; vibrant green, tan and walnut-brown on the inside.  And the flavor!  The perfect edible mixture of woodsy, grassy, and airy. I wanted more!  

Given its ultra-light texture, I surmised that the omelet included silken tofu along with the firm. I’d already mastered pesto during the summer when my experimental home-grown basil flourished so remarkably; and while we didn’t have leeks in the fridge, we did have an abundance of onions, which served as a servicable replacement.

I created the omelet base by adapting the generic recipe in Joni Marie Newman’s  Cozy Inside, with several adjustments and additions.  I used home-made pesto, but you could just as well use store-bought.  The rest of it comes together in a flash. 

While the result wasn’t quite as fluffy as I’d hoped it would be, this did render a reasonable facsimile of the original.  Great for a brunch at home after a holiday feast, and an especially tasty way to economize and avoid those sky-high restaurant bills 🙂 .

Given the cilantro-based pesto filling, I thought this would be a good submission to Weekend Herb Blogging, the event run by Haalo over at Cook (Almost) Anything Once, and this week hosted by Scott over at Real Epicurean.

Tofu Omelet with Pesto, Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

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

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You can use any tofu-based omelet recipe you choose for this recipe.  While this one tastes great and the flavors are beautifully complemented by the filling, it is very fragile and breaks easily.  A more sturdy recipe is this one; or use a version of your own.

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

 

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This past weekend, I took the train to Montreal to visit with the CFO (unfortunately, the HH stayed at home on dog duty, as our regular doggie daycare was closed and it was too late to find an alternative).  Just before I left, though, I was delighted to learn that I’d been awarded the “E for Excellence” award by Misty over at Mischief blog!  Misty is also the owner of 2 adorable dogs (check out their Halloween duds!) who often appear on her blog (plus lots of yummy food, of course).  Sorry it’s taken me so long to acknowledge this, Misty, as I ran off on Friday and just returned yesterday evening.  It’s much appreciated and I’m so glad you think my blog is excellent!  Thanks so much. 🙂

 

While lovely nonetheless, the visit was over in a flash, filled with a cocktail party, brunch with the family, a birthday lunch with friends, and a stroll through the area known as the Plateau (fascinating, isn’t it, how 90% of social activities revolve around food?  Sorry, what’s that you say? What do you mean, it’s just me–??).  Since my birthday (sort of) coincided with the CFO’s annual cocktail party, we combined celebrations. As the HH remarked before I left, this year I seem to be enjoying The Birthday That Wouldn’t End.  But who am I to argue?

Let me tell you, that CFO sure knows how to throw a party! The menu featured several vegan options, as well as a few gluten-free choices (though, if I remember correctly, the two never overlapped in a single hors d’oeuvre). Still, there was plenty for me to eat and drink, such as tapenade-topped mini-toasts; an apple-pecan butter-cracker combo; crudités and spinach dip; thai rice salad with peppers, cilantro and mango; spanakopita; plus a few others I’ve forgotten (and don’t even get me started on the desserts).  Saturday afternoon was reserved for a leisurely lunch with my old buddies Phil, Linda and Babe, and on Sunday morning, my family brunched at a restaurant I’d not heard of before, called Orange, where they offer the most astonishingly boundless bowls of steaming, perfectly creamy yet nubby oatmeal, capped with your choice of imaginative toppings, from fresh berries to cinnamon-apple pie filling to walnuts and coconut doused in maple syrup.  

Still, it was good to be home. That final stretch of the journey always seems to elicit in me a certain psychic restlessness, the desire to stretch, stand up and stroll the length of car as the train approaches Toronto. No matter how many times I leave and return, I still experience that familiar ripple of excitement and anticipation, the tingle in the chest, when I first catch a glimpse of city life twinkling in the distance beyond the blanket of black outside the window.  Slowly, the number of flickering lamps or silhouettes in apartment windows multiplies, then the glaring neon billboards make their appearance above highway overpasses, and cars’ flashing headlights join the symphony of movement and glitter. Before I know it we’re within reach of the CN tower and the station beneath the Royal York Hotel, the buzz of the downtown humming up through the rails.  Toronto, with its denizens crowding the streets at 11:00 PM, knots of taxis and buses jammed in front of the station, the clang of the train and roar of the subway and yips emanating from staggering groups of twenty-somethings as they exit the bars after midnight. . . yep, it’s good to be home.

As it turned out, we didn’t “do” Halloween this year.  Due to both my absence and The Girls’ xenophobic reaction to strangers at the door (read: frenzied barking and growling, at a volume of around 120 decibels), the HH chose to forgo the treats.  Still, like many of you, we do have a surfeit of pumpkin and pumpkin seeds left in the house.  I remembered this recipe and thought it would be a perfect way to use the pepitas.

I call this mixture “pesto,” but it can also be used on its own as a spread for crackers or bread.  In fact, the inspiration came shortly after I sampled roasted garlic for the first time and was immediately transported. As I recall, the HH and I were served an entire head of garlic once at a restaurant, the top sliced clean across and the pudgy exposed cloves baked to a rich, earthy mahogany, glistening with a sheen of olive oil.  We squeezed the garlic from the papery casing like toothpaste from the tube, spreading the softened, caramelized pulp on fresh slices of bagette.  It was heavenly, and we polished off the entire thing in minutes.

Garlic smell?  Yes, heavenly. When baked, its scent is subdued, sweet, and alluring. It’s one of my favorite foods, and I use it as often as I can.  In this pesto, the garlic adds richness and a smooth base for the grainy pumpkinseeds, contrasted perfectly with the cilantro and citrus tang of the lemon zest and juice.  You can use this spread directly on crackers, as I like to do, or toss it with pasta (save about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to thin it out a bit and create a slight creaminess to the mix). Or, hey–I bet it would even be great as a snack while you mull over some election results!

Since this recipe uses both garlic and cilantro, I thought it would be perfect for Weekend Herb Blogging, newly managed by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once).  This week’s host is Wiffy of Noob Cook.

Roasted Garlic and Pumpkinseed Pesto

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

This dish is great for your heart, and also terrific for flu season: both garlic and pumpkin seeds are high in antioxidants, and the pumpkinseeds contain zinc, essential for fighting viruses and bacteria.  

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.

 * The HH loved this so much, he thought it needed a more jazzy name.  So he came up with “Pesto Fiesta Pizza.” Olé!

One of the things I decided to do this summer was grow a garden, for the very first time.  Maybe it was the influence of the previous tenants, who had one of the most beautiful back yard gardens I’ve ever seen (shame they uprooted everything and took it with them to their new abode when they left!).  Maybe it was the billowing mint going forth and multiplying (seemingly by the hour) at the side of our house; maybe it was the current food prices, rising rapidly and steadily like water round a sinking ship.  Whatever the reason, I felt inspired to grow my own produce this year. 

During one of my weekly shopping trips to the local organic market last May, I bought–ta da!–TWO seedlings: one tomato, and one jalapeno pepper.  I felt a little frisson of pride as I hugged the green plastic pots and carried then back to the car.  I couldn’t help but smile as I dug little holes in the clay that is our back yard, popped in the root balls I’d loosened from the pots, and propped up the little sprouts of life with even more dirt.  And then, I waited.

Miraculously, nature (most notably the superabunance of rain we had this season) took over.  It was like one of those segments on National Geographic TV filmed with time-lapse photography: in what seemed like hours, the plants slithered and twisted and grew like crazy, overtaking the small boxed-in area in which they’d been planted. The formerly wee tomato plant with its half dozen yellow blossoms expanded in all directions and ended up yielding something like 41 fruits.  The jalapeno plant, too, proliferated, creeping both sideways and skyward and sweeping the earth below it, little white flowers dotting the branches before they sprouted miniature green peppers.  The peppers themselves, however, continued to stretch lengthwise and formed long, apple-green veggies that resembled nothing like the jalapenos I’ve ever seen.  And THEN, they turned a brilliant, stop-sign red.  Are these actually jalapenos?  Perhaps the orignal seedling was mislabeled.  Anyone out there have any idea what I actually grew?  Here’s a photo:

Anyway, the first time I tried to cook with these mysterious darlings, I plucked a couple of green ones and chopped ’em up the way I would regular jalapenos.  WHOOOO–Big mistake.  WHOAH, AGGHHH, WHOOSH, PANT, PANT, DROOL, TINGLE. . . SWEAT BREAKING OUT ON MY BROW—Whoah, Mama, those babies were HOT.  And, as someone who loves spicy foods (I generally can eat raw slices of jalapeno without a problem), let me tell you, these are no ordinary peppers.  Yowsah!!

And so, I am now cooking with these fiery rascals, using them much as I would jalapenos (though adjusting for the extreme heat). I actively sought out any and all recipes that call for hot peppers, as the count is up to about four dozen of the little monsters, and more are clearly on the way.  I’ve been cooking everything I can think of, from curries to chocolate cookies to candied varieties (thanks, Diann!), and now–pesto.

This pizza was enormously successful and beyond delicious.  It left a pleasant, buzzing tingle on the tongue without chafing.  It’s also bursting with protein (beware: not a low-fat meal!) and is probably satisfying for that very reason; the HH remarked, “This doesn’t even NEED cheese.”  In tossing the pesto together, I took my cue from Nava Atlas’s Very Green Veggie Pesto mixture, then ad-libbed elements of 2 other jalapeno pesto recipes I found on the web, to create this final version.  In the end, it seems, the sum is much greater than its peppers. 

It may appear as if there’s too much pesto for a single (12 inch) pizza; this is as it should be.  I used the entire mixture on one pizza, creating a soft, cushy mattress of green on which I lay the additional accoutrements (in the way of sundried tomato, fresh tomato–from my garden!!, broccoli, red onion, and chopped garlic). If you prefer a thinner base and heavier toppings, then use about 2/3 of the pesto and save the rest to toss over pasta or even steamed cauliflower, as I did.  The HH and I decided, in fact, that this pizza would still be superb with nothing other than the pesto and a few stray shards of sliced sundried tomato.  I used my standby thin-crust spelt recipe, but use whatever crust you fancy.

Mum, you know we can’t eat jalapenos, but how about some of those crust edges?  After all, we need more food if we’re going to proliferate, too.”

And since this pizza contained not one, but two vegetables from my very own garden, I’m submitting it to Maninas’s blog event, Eating with the Seasons.

Pesto Fiesta Pizza (Jalapeno Pesto Pizza)

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

A perfect combination of smooth, spice, and protein-rich seeds and beans.  A great way to incorporate some extra minerals and protein in your pizza topping!

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.”]  

 

Even though this morning was the first day of my chocolate detox, that didn’t stop me from having a whale of a time at our (slightly postponed) Valentine’s Day Dinner last evening.  With the weather being as inclement as ever, the HH and I began prepping our meal around 3:30 PM, and just kept at it till the whole darn thing was ready and we could devour it.  I thought I’d provide a quick recap of my last evening of dining decadence for  a while.   (Thanks Sally, Jamie, Theresa and Johanna for your great suggestions!)

champersvday08.jpgTo commence the festivities, the HH poured each of us a glass of our favorite cut-rate bubbly, a Spanish cava that I think rivals true champagne.  Here’s the bottle next to one of our special-occasion glasses (purchased just before the turn of the century, in fact!).

Instead of my original appetizer idea for “neat” balls in a sweet and sour sauce, I decided to try Johanna’s Nutroast from Green Gourmet Giraffe. I had planned to make it into balls, but when freshly blended, the mixture seemed too soft, and I was afraid it would fall apart simmering in a sauce. So I just baked it in a square pan, and we then cut it into appetizer-sized squares.  I made only minor adjustments to the recipe (miso for yeast extract, spelt breadcrumbs for regular), but otherwise followed Johanna’s excellent recipe exactly.

The planned sauce was one from my childhood, something my Boston cousin used to whip up all the time, in the spirit of “1980s suburban mom must have dinner for 5 on the table in 25 minutes.” The dish was called “Chili and Grape Meatballs.”  Now, before you politely excuse yourself and dash from the room, I know it sounds rather, well, purple. Yet there was something very tempting about the combination of sweet, sour and spicy, with a modicum of “barbecue” thrown in. 

In an attempt to channel that tangy, sugary spirit (and also to use up a bottle of chili sauce in our panty–from whence I have no idea, it’s that old), I created two dipping sauces for the nutroast.  Each contained an equal portion of the sauce (which, as far as I could tell from the ingredients, is basically just a spicy ketchup), and either marmalade or apple butter.  The apple butter-chili version was, hands down, the preferred one. 

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But the nutroast?  All I can say is, “I love nutroast! Nutroast is King! LONG LIVE NUTROAST!!”  The HH was very fond of it, too.  In fact, I would have been satisfied with an entire dinner of just the nutroast, salad (Veganomicon’s Caesar, yet again) and that marvelous soup. (But then, insisted the HH, it wouldn’t have been a “real” meal.)  So we ended up having the pasta, too, but without the smoked tofu, as I just didn’t think I could bear something else heavy at that point (and I knew pie was coming later). I also took Jamie’s suggestion for chocolate-dipped fruit (strawberries), as I really couldn’t have an entire meal sans chocolate the very night before banning it from my diet entirely!

And so, without further ado, here’s the rest of our feast from the evening:

Cream of Olive Soup: 

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This was simply spectacular (and yes, it was that grey-green color you see here).  As I mentioned in a previous post, this is a soup I recall eating in my twenties, and the creamy, silky memory has lingered this long.  I was determined to reproduce it. 

I began with a recipe that’s everywhere on the internet and adapted it to our tastes; I used half green and half black olives and held back about one quarter of these when I pureed the rest (and chopped those very fine, to then be returned to the soup).  Even substituting soymilk for the cream, the result was a smooth, salty, overflowing-with-olive sensation.  If you like olives, you will love this soup.

Pesto Pasta and Caesar Salad

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The pasta does, I admit, appear very green here.  By omitting the tofu, we were left with just pesto pasta and sundried tomatoes, so we added edamame at the last minute.  While the combination was, indeed, pretty tasty, I think the pesto could have used more basil.

Next up, dessert!  By this point, we were so stuffed that we decided to take a break and tidy up a bit.  To say that we are “messy” cooks would not only be an understatement, it would actually be a compliment. You may, indeed, wonder how two fairly well educated, calm and rational people could create such a welter of utensils, pots, pans, spilled sauce, squirts of oil, miscellaneous soiled tea towels and other mayhem when cooking together (why, shame on you!  Of course all we were doing was cooking together!).  Me, too. But, hey, I’m not too proud to share it all–so here’s a pic of the post-apocalyptic kitchen:

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Dessert: Banoffee Pie

My attempt at vegan Banoffee Pie was sincere, but less than successful, I’d say. While not a total failure, it didn’t quite hit the mark I’d intended.  First, I whipped up my “cream,” which did manage to hold together well:

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After baking the pie crust and letting it cool, I sliced bananas and scattered them evenly over the bottom, then poured the caramel over top:

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This base was then topped with the aforementioned cream:

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 So far, so good, right?  Even though the caramel was rather thick and usually cools down to a solid state, some weird alchemy went on under that whipped cream.  By the time we finally cut into the pie several hours later, some of the caramel had dissolved, transforming it into caramel sauce that oozed out in dilatory rivulets from under each slice.  What to do? In the end, I used the “sauce” as a drizzle over the top of the pie, and we still enjoyed it immensely.  (I’ll still need to do a bit of refining before I’m ready to serve the pie to guests, I think).

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This morning, after waking up still stuffed from the meal, I was definitely ready to embark on the Week of Chocolate Asceticism (WOCA), which I’ll discuss more next time.  On the other hand, the HH wasn’t quite as fulfilled by yesterday’s all-vegan Valentine’s Day dinner. As he prepared his morning coffee, he casually remarked, “You know, that dinner was really good yesterday. But by nine o’clock, I was already hungry enough for another one.”  

Well, my beloved HH, I guess you’ll just have to wait until next year.