I had intended a lovely post today, in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving long weekend to the south of us.  But time constraints (read: massive, unwieldly pile of essays and assignments to mark) have prevented me from following through. So I’ll just have to wait till the next batch of holidays in December to post about some new, frost-and-snow inspired, treats.

Instead, I thought I’d pull together a few recipes from previous posts that are suitably festive for a holiday table, or the breakfast table the following day (I’ve also got a few detox recipes on the blog–I’ll let you seek those out yourselves, as required).  Most of these are fairly quick to make as well, as long as you’ve got the ingredients on hand.

Hope everyone enjoys some togetherness with friends and family, great food, and a bit of time to relax and play.

See you after the holiday!

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Mum, will Elsie be able to play again after the holiday?  I mean, it’s just so boring with her out of commission. . .

Main Meal Dishes:

Side Dishes:

Desserts:

Breakfast Dishes:

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Chocolate Pecan Pie

November 12, 2008

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A few of you keen-eyed readers guessed that yesterday’s final “teaser” photo was of pecan pie.  But since I’m not particularly a “pie person” to begin with (I’ve posted about only one other pie in over a year on this blog–and it wasn’t even my own recipe!), and since I most definitely AM a chocolate person, I decided that my pecan pie had to include chocolate.  

Besides, La Martha’s mini-mag, Everyday Food, featured in its latest issue a recipe for chocolate pecan pie, and I’d been yearning for it ever since I saw the recipe. It looked gooey, yummy, decadent, festive, and very, very chocolatey.  Staring at the photo simply made me drool.  It was one heck of a perfectly baked, perfectly decorated, perfectly chocolatey Perfect Pecan Pie.

So I set about creating my own (sugar-free, wheat-free, vegan) version of this masterpiece.  The magazine’s photo was soooo enticing: meticulously arranged pecan halves baked into a slightly bubbly, sticky, engulfing ebony base of glossy chocolatey deliciousness.  I had to have that pie!

The only other pecan pie I’ve ever made was another vegan rendition, from my friend Caroline Dupont’s cookbook, Enlightened Eating.  I began with her suggestion to combine maple syrup and barley malt syrup, then played with the other elements to come up with what I thought a good approximation of Martha’s confection.  I fluted the pie crust, poured in the filling, popped it in the oven, and waited.

Remember those old sitcoms where the inept housewife (choose your favorite:  Lucy, Edith, Peggy, Marge) attempts to do the laundry for the first time, and ends up using about 4,576 times too much detergent?  And then the machine starts to rumble and wobble, and a stream of soap suds bubbles up over the washer’s lid and glides along the front of the machine and down to the floor, eventually making its way across the room in one massive, seething wave of froth? 

Well, that’s sort of what the top of this pie looked like after 30 minutes in the oven. The chocolate mixture bubbled and heaved and puffed like the contents of a witches’ cauldron. firstpie2 The lovely fluted crust was coated in a gleam of dark, gooey, chocolatey filling, as were a few spots on the bottom of the oven.  All my perfectly placed pecan halves had been bobbing about in the foaming liquid like castaways afloat on the ocean, tossed this way and that,  messing up my beautiful, decorative arrangement entirely.  While it ended up tasting good, the pie looked horrendous.

For the second attempt, I used less filling and didn’t worry about perfectly placed pecan halves; I simply chopped them coarsely and folded them right into the filling.  Once again, there was a filling explosion that overtook crust, pie plate, and oven.  Curses!

Finally, it occurred to me:  let’s just take another look-see at Martha’s ideal recipe, why don’t we?  The pecans in her photo remained perfectly in position, nary a drop of filling even touching their sides.  On second thought, they were too perfect (sort of like Martha herself, no?): they were pristine and unscathed in their nakedness.  I re-read the recipe, and came upon this throwaway instruction:  “The pie filling puffs up dduring baking but settles as it cools.” AHA! Clearly, the photo did not represent this reality; like most food-styled pictures, this one had been assembled after the pie was baked, the raw pecan halves carefully placed atop an already-cooled pie!  Clever, Martha; very clever.

Well, if you can’t beat ’em, I say, then do them one better.  I revamped the recipe completely so that a pre-baked crust is subsequently filled with an unbaked filling.  Once the filling rests securely in the crust, then top with your perfectly formed, deliberately placed pecan halves, as decoration.  I proudly held up the finished product for the HH’s approval.  He took one look at my painstakingly positioned pecan halves and remarked, “It looks vaguely insectoid, don’t you think?”  Hmm. 

Despite the nutty carapace, this pie was heavenly.  Keep it cold for a dense, thick, toffee-like filling; or bring to room temperature for a softer, more gooey result.  Either way, it’s one perfectly baked, perfectly decorated, perfectly chocolatey Perfect Pecan Pie.

With its glossy, black, rich chocolate filling, I thought this would be the perfect submission to this month’s Sugar High Fridays, the event started by Jennifer, The Domestic Goddess, and this month hosted by Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook.  The theme this time round is “All That Glitters.” 

Chocolate Pecan Pie

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

pecanpieslice6Thick, rich, and toffee-like, this slightly non-traditional pecan pie is great for a holiday (or just your everyday) table. 

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

Such a Tease

November 11, 2008

I’ve never been what I’d call a “good” flirt.  In high school, I hung out with the nerdy crowd (hard to believe, I know!), so there wasn’t really any opportunity to flirt.  Then, when I was finally old enough to attract the opposite sex in my 20s, it seemed too late to get the hang of it. I do remember loathing, admiring and envying (all at the same time) the most popular girls in my high school.  It seemed as if their hair, or their eyelashes, or their limp wrists somehow possessed an invisible male adhesive as they giggled and nodded and caressed the guys, just so, on their forearms; or maybe it was just the pheromones they exuded. 

In any case, the flirty girls would always be surrounded by an inverse seraglio, an ever-shifting, amorphous cloud of doting males.  The boys would fawn over them, open doors for them, carry their books, offer them lifts, or request their phone numbers in a continuous stream.  Just how did the girls manage that, I wondered?  How did they get away with teasing the guys so overtly, implying lace and perfume and breathless embraces, yet, in reality, yield nothing?  These girls were whip-smart as well as beautiful, or they couldn’t have perfected their technique; yet they appeared vacuous and helpless and fragile all at the same time, thereby rendering themselves irresistible to the guys around them.

I had the opportunity to observe a consummate tease after my divorce, when I lived in the same flat as another woman who had previously been married to two of the richest men in Canada (and she was only 32 when I met her).  She was one of the smartest cookies I’ve ever known (and funny, witty, sweet and fun to be with, too) yet, the moment she came within a few feet of any attractive male, she appeared to devolve into–how shall I say this?–a helpless, needy, pouting little girl.  She’d bat her eyelashes at the nearest specimen and feign incompetence with the lock on the car trunk, the dial on the stereo or the squeaky door on the kitchen cabinet.  Then she’d throw up her hands in mock despair and emit a giggle that resonated across the room, like the clang of forks on wine glasses at a wedding, encouraging the newlyweds to kiss. 

There must have been something to it, too, because by the time I moved out, she’d snagged yet another of Canada’s wealthiest bachelors (they’ve since divorced, but let’s just say she’ll never have to work again–no, scratch that, she’ll never even have to brush her own teeth again).  

My own efforts at flirting have produced less than stellar results. True, some playful flirting resulted in four months dating Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants); as it turned out, Rocker Guy himself really enjoyed flirting, too–he enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he continued to do so throughout the time we were dating. And his definition of “flirting,” unfortunately, encompassed “sleeping with.” 

Thus ended my flirtation with flirting.

Today, however, I’m afraid I’m going to play the tease once again.  After finding out at the last minute that I’d be away at a conference all day today, I wasn’t able to photograph the dish I’d originally intended to post about. Instead, there’s a slew of goodies I’ve been working on for the cookbook, and with the holiday season almost upon us, I thought it might be a good way to get in the mood for holiday baking. (Oh, so how’s the book coming along?  Well, I’m still working on the manuscript, which should be complete in less than a month, after which the materials are shipped off to the printer.  Ultimately, I’m still aiming for a release date in early 2009–February or March.  Whoo!). 

Some of these sweets have already been published elsewhere on this blog, with recipes included. You may have also seen some on the testers’ blogs (ie, the absolute BEST TESTERS any cookbook author–or baker–could ever want). 

Following are some of my recent favorites from the book, and those that would make good holiday treats. And even if it’s not out in time for this year, you may wish to make some of these next time round.

Chocolate Covered Caramels:

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Old Fashioned Spice Cake:

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Sugar-Free Sugar Cookies (plus recipe–great for decorating):

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Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies:

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Cupcakes with Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Chocolate Buttercream:

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Chocolate Satin Tarts:

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Dalmatian “Cheesecake” Brownies:

Vegan Butter Tarts: (plus recipe):

And here’s a little preview of tomorrow’s sweet treat (recipe to follow).  I know, what a tease. . . 

chocpecanpie

Butterscotch Mousse Pie

March 12, 2008

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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.”]

 

I have to admit that I was never much of a pie person until very recently. 

“I mean, really,” I would ask pie-lovers, “What is it if not just an oddly-shaped fruit (or veggie) sandwich? Apples and cinnamon between two layers of crust. Blueberries between two layers of crust. Pumpkin between two layers of crust.”  Bah.

Oh, but that was just my cynical self, the one with pie envy, talking.  Once I learned to produce a truly great crust, all my counter-crust sentiments dissolved, like butter under your fingers. 

Traditional pastry, it seems, relies on the unique chemistry between cold fat and dry flour, cut into little bullets of butter or lard that subsequently melt and expand while baking, thereby creating pockets of air space.  If you’re not using solid fat in the mix, the crust simply doesn’t work out the same way, even if you DO refrigerate it; it just never achieves the same degree of tender flakiness.  As a result, I never had much success with pie crust. And because I don’t use margarines, the option of Earth Balance isn’t a possibility for me, either.

Every time I used to attempt a pie, I’d end up feeling a little like Jan, the “less-than” sister of the Brady Bunch: all I could do was clench my fists and wail, “Crust, Crust, Crust!!” 

Well, once I discovered vegan baking and nut-based crusts, those floury flakes lost their ability to bully this baker! Even though I don’t make them very often, I now truly enjoy a good vegan pie, and the crust is just as appealing to me as the filling (though I still favor non-fruit fillings). 

After experimenting with various combinations of ingredients, I was completely euphoric to discover that a mixture of ground nuts and oats, with a healthy sprinkling of flour added in, served as an ideal base for vegan pie crust.  With that discovery in hand, there was no stopping me!  First, I made variations on traditional fruit-filled versions; then I moved on to explore pumpkin or sweet potato fillings; finally, I graduated to the much-loved vegan chocolate mousse and other “cheesecake” fillings.  But what next? (“How about a dog-friendly pie, Mum?  You know we love your crust!”)

Well, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I am either blessed or cursed with the strange ability to remember numbers of all types–phone numbers or addresses that I’ve encountered once, weird statistics (like, did you know that 1 in 3 Americans can’t properly decode a bus schedule?), or single numerals from something I learned long ago (for instance, all I now recall from high school chemistry, a course in which I excelled at the time, is Avogadro’s Number: 6.02 x 1023 ). Similarly, I do remember that Pi is 3.14 (more or less)–though of course, I’ve never had a single occasion to make use of that fact. 

Except for now!  As it turns out, Kitchen Parade is hosting a Pie/Pi event this month: “Pi Day: Recipes for Homemade Pie.” Well, that suited me just fine, as I’m now happy to participate with both types of “pie/pi.”  And I immediately thought of the perfect filling for my entry. (“Yay! A pie for us! What a great Mum!”)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was recently fortunate enough to spend a week testing out my new cookbook, Vegan Express by Nava Atlas, and  fixed my sights on the very last recipe in the book, Butterscotch Mousse Pie.  Butterscotch is one of my favorite flavors after chocolate–and guess what?  This pie has both!  Soft and airy, the filling is a cross between a mousse and a custard, with a butterscotch flavor well represented by brown rice syrup and butterscotch extract.  It was a big hit with my HH , who is normally a cow’s dairy kind of guy. (“But Mum. . . you know we can’t have chocolate. . . Aw, Mum, crust, crust, crust!”)

Nava has kindly allowed me to reprint the recipe here, so I’m going to copy it verbatim from the book (with any adjustments I made in square brackets beside the original instructions).  I gussied it up a bit with my own version of whipped cream (the recipe for which I’ll post anon), so hope you like it!

To make the entire pie gluten-free, just use a GF pie crust; the filling and topping are both already gluten free.

Butterscotch Mousse Pie

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

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Nava notes: “As I mentioned in Butterscotch Apples, I adore this seductive extract.  If you do too, the scent of the pie as it bakes and cools will drive you mad. And I can almost guarantee that the rich flavor won’t disappoint. You can find good-quality graham-cracker crusts in natural foods stores or the natural foods section of supermarkets.” 

Buttery, Rich Oat-Nut Pie Crust

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

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This version, while unlike a traditional pastry crust, is nevertheless rich-tasting, and crumbles delicately, melting beautifully on the tongue.  

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.”]  

 

 

 vegan-express_thumbnail1.jpg As you may know, I was a startled and very delighted recipient of Nava Atlas’s latest cookbook, Vegan Express, as a result of Susan’s contest a while back on Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen.  A couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to receive the book in the mail, and set about making a whack of recipes from it.  I thought I’d write a bona fide book review so you can all get your own taste of express cooking, vegan style!

Vegan Express by Nava Atlas

Vegan Express is the most recent addition to the long line of popular publications by veteran cookbook author Nava Atlas, already well known for her previous classics such as Vegetariana or The Vegetarian Family Cookbook and website, In A Vegetarian Kitchen.  A vegan herself, in this book Atlas addresses one of the foremost hurdles for vegan eaters, both established and newly inclined: prepping veggies can take up lots of time!   

 

 

Vegan Express provides an antidote for the kitchen weary by proving the truism untrue after all: turns out you can prepare fresh, healthy, vegetable-rich dishes in less time than it takes to watch the evening newscast!  Every recipe in the book, from appetizer to dessert, takes between 30 and 45 minutes from assembling the ingredients to digging your fork into that first steaming mouthful (and many take even less time).  

 

 

In order to write an objective assessment of the book, I decided it would only be fair to test as broad a range of recipes as I could manage in a week. As a result, I prepared seven of the book’s recipes, attempting to sample dishes from many different courses (though, given my natural inclination, I did lean rather heavily on the desserts). 

 

 

The book begins with Atlas’s own story of how she converted from vegetarianism to a vegan diet. She actually found the transition fairly easy, as nowadays, substitutions for eggs, cheese, and milk abound, even outside the larger  cities.

 

 

The book also discusses vegans’ nutritional needs and how to achieve them, debunking some common myths about acquiring sufficient protein or vitamin B12. And while Atlas does include some convenience foods (this is a book about cooking shortcuts, after all!), I had no problem using the recipes even though I don’t consume products such as soy cheeses or meat alternatives (as you’ll see when I discuss the pizza, below). 

 

 

The book also contains a variety of ease-of-use features to help home cooks prepare their meals in a flash. For instance, following each recipe is a “Menu Selections” sidebar that provides possible partners for the dish or other ways to serve it. Many recipes include variations for flexibility and to accommodate different tastes. There is also a fair number of “recipe-free” quick options, as well as further suggestions for some basic ingredients (such as “Speedy Ways to Prepare Tofu”). 

 

The book’s design is aesthetically pleasing, with clean, simple lines and two-color print (and how could we miss those luscious, color-suffused photos by Susan Voisin of Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen?).  Many of her readers may not be aware that Atlas herself is an artist with several solo and group exhibitions to her credit. Her cheery line drawings adorn the pages as backdrops that highlight individual dishes and ingredients.  

 

And the recipes?  They do, indeed, deliver as promised! All the dishes I attempted were quick to prepare, with straightforward, easy directions. Atlas also includes some nifty tips with certain recipes (such as cutting your pizza into slices before adding the toppings, as it’s so much easier that way). 

 

Finally, here’s what was cooking in the DDD kitchen last week:  

 

Soup and Entrees: 

 

Nearly Instant Thai Coconut Corn Soup

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This is listed as one of Atlas’s favorite recipes, and a “must-try” for those who buy the book. As its title suggests, the soup cooks up in no time, and was truly delicious–light yet creamy, with a subtle spiciness interspersed with sweet, chewy corn kernels.  Fast, simple, easy…perfect.   

 

Singapore Noodles 

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I’ve was a huge fan of Singapore noodles in restaurants back in the day, but could never figure out how to make them. Who knew it could be so simple?  The HH and I both love spicy foods, so if I had any suggestions for this one, it would be to add more of the spice mixture (I used the maximum amount suggested and would have liked still more kick in this dish). The original recipe called for peas, but since we didn’t have any, I subbed edamame.  Still worked beautifully. 

 

Rich Peanut Sauce

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This sauce, suggested as an accompaniment to Golden Tofu Triangles, was ready in a snap.  Still in a noodle frame of mind, I poured it over some cooked kamut-soba noodles, tossed in an assortment of chopped and sliced veggies, and enjoyed a terrific cold noodle salad. Great the next day, too! 

 

Very Green Veggie Pesto Pizza

vegreenpizzalarge.jpg  This dish was by far the biggest hit of the savories–the HH ate half the pizza all by himself, and I must admit it was my own favorite as well.  My photo doesn’t do it justice, as the subtle variance in shades of green comes across here as rather monochromatic, but this combination of pesto underlying oven-roasted veggies is a perfect melding of flavors and textures.   

 

One change I made, however, was to omit the “cheese” originally called for (to be melted over the pesto, and under the veggies).  Since I avoid processed soy, I simply omitted that ingredient and vegreenpizzaslice.jpg sprinkled a little nutritional yeast over the top instead.  Both the HH and I agreed that the pizza didn’t even need the cheese, which, I think, would have actually detracted  from the disarming flavors of the pesto and veggies.  For the crust, I used my own trusty spelt pizza crust recipe, and baked it about 15 minutes at 425F before adding the remaining ingredients.    

Desserts:

While Atlas’s recipes are already healthy, I did make some minor adjustments to accommodate my own dietary restrictions. In general, I used spelt flour instead of wheat, and Sucanat for sugar.  It didn’t seem to matter—everything still came out terrific. 

 

Dense and Fruity Banana Bread

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This is a moist, not-too-sweet loaf with chopped dates and walnuts nestled in a banana-cocoa base.  As you can see from the photo, I was so anxious to try this one that I sliced it while still a bit too warm.  When I first tasted the bread, the cocoa was extremely understated. By the next day, however, the flavors had matured, yielding a lovely balance between the chocolate and fruit.  I thoroughly enjoyed this with some almond butter.  

 

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cake

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This cake reminded me of treats my mother used to make when my sisters and I were kids.  Baked in a 9” square pan and cut into squares, this is the perfect after-school snack (lucky for me, I’m still in school!).  Peanut butter whispers its presence rather than bellows in this surprisingly light and tender cake.  As you can see, I cut this one while still warm, too, when the chips were still melty. Cut your slices small, because you’ll want more than one. 

 

Butterscotch Mousse Pie

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I had really, really wanted to try out the Caramel Pudding, but since I couldn’t find vegan caramel syrup and didn’t think my homemade caramel would work, I made this pie instead.  I’m so glad I did!  Although I’m not usually a “pie person,” this was truly delicious.  In fact, I’m going to post an entire entry about this one (including the recipe!!) in the next day or two—so stay tuned.  

I had enormous fun trying out the recipes from this useful and enjoyable book, and definitely look forward to sampling more. Thanks again, Nava and Susan, for this wonderful opportunity–and for adding another treasure to my cookbook collection.