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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 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.

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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, 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

vecornsoup2.jpg

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 

vesingapore1.jpg

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

noodlespeanutsauce1.jpg 

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

 vebancake2.jpg

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

vepbcake1.jpg

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

butterpiefresh2.jpg

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.

 

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.”]  

 

pizzawhole2.jpg Those of you who live in the GTA will be familiar with Il Fornello: the hip, alt-chic series of restaurants that seem to be able to satisfy all palates.  Besides fabulous pizza baked in wood-burning ovens, this contemporary Italian resto also provides a wide variety of dishes for those of us sensitive to wheat, gluten, or dairy. In other words, it’s the perfect weekday dinner out for me and my HH:  he gets to have the Chicken Asiago (chicken breast stuffed with spinach/asiago mix), while I get to have my alternative pizza. We eat, we enjoy, we laugh about how my dinner costs $6.85 and his is $42.50 (okay, well, I laugh).

For years, my favorite pizza at Il Fornello was the “make your own”:  start with a crust of your choice (in my case, spelt, of course), then add your pick of toppings from their list.  Despite my best intentions to break free of old habits, I inevitably choose the same old, same old, consisting of roasted garlic, hot peppers, kalamata olives, tomatoes, and either spinach or roasted eggplant.  If I’m really hungry, I’ll add some sliced onion or capers to the mix.

Finally, after staring at the list of crust ingredients just about every time I ate there for a few years, at least, I thought, “why don’t I just try to do this at home?”  It seemed eminently achievable, given that (a) it was spelt, my flour of choice; (b) there was no dreaded yeast in the crust; (c) it was thin-crust, my preference; and (d) sometimes, you just want to have pizza at home.

So I took the basic list of ingredients from the restaurant menu, omitted a couple (such as the millet, which just didn’t seem necessary), changed another (subbed agave for honey), then played with the proportions.  What I came up with was the following crust, ridiculously easy, totally yummy, and great for a pizza night when you’re snowed in at home. Because I’m basically a lazy cook (I may have mentioned that before), there’s no rolling or throwing into the air required.  Oh, and it’s also great for breakfast the next day.

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

pizzaslice.jpg

Spelt Pizza with Caramelized Onion, Artichokes and Chard

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

Leftover Pizza for Breakfast

November 30, 2007

pizzaslice.jpg I must be on a “dinner-for-breakfast” kick.  This morning, I scarfed up the last 2 pieces of pizza from last night’s cooking class.  Normally, the class participants take all the leftovers home with them, but due to intermittent snow squalls throughout the GTA, two people cancelled at the last minute and left me with–yum!–breakfast.

I am feeling a bit downcast this morning, as last night’s was the final class, not just of 2007, but likely forever.  After four years of offering alternative cooking classes in my home and finally reaching some sort of critical mass on the website, I decided with this recent move to stop teaching in the house. 

First of all, my H.H. hated it (since he was relegated to the upstairs TV room for the entire evening), and even though The Girls loved it (“Yes, Mum, all those new people to sniff and free food dropping from the air all evening!”), I find this new place isn’t as well suited to having three cooking stations in the kitchen.  Besides, it’s a new home; time for a fresh start.  I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed with other projects and commitments lately that it was beginning to seem onerous every time I had to prep a class (a full-day venture, plus cleaning up until midnight most nights).

What I will miss is meeting an ongoing array of amazing women (sorry, Garry, you were the only man to register in the entire four years!) who have opened my mind to new experiences and taught me more about life than I could ever have taught them about cooking.

Believe me, as one who formerly suffered from anxiety attacks, I was the last person you’d expect to invite total strangers into  my home.  But after a giddy year as a nutrition student at CSNN, my desire to share what I’d learned and cook with the amazing selection of new and healthy foods I’d discovered overcame any doubts I may have had.  (Besides, we all know that the last thing those health-foodie, crunchy granola types would ever do is steal or pillage).

So:  to Giovanna, who burst onto the scene post-radiation with her smile still beaming, it was such a pleasure to meet you and observe as you entered this world of alternative medicine and organic eating.  Your courage and determination have inspired me.  And so cool to know that there are such incredibly gorgeous wigs out there (though I must say I prefer the natural grey on you).

To Sandra, with your naturally effervescent nature, thank you for winning the prize for “only student who attended all fourteen cooking classes in a single season.”  I enjoyed hearing the plethora of stories about your kids and their pranks, and I wish you continued success as you introduce healthier options into your family’s menus. 

To Barbara, with your peripatetic streak and calming smile, I so enjoyed hearing about your many travels and so many interesting customs from other countries.  Thank you for your unbridled appreciation of the food and for being so affectionate with my dogs (“yes, thanks, Barbara!”).  I know you will love your upcoming time in Cairo.

To Maria-Elena, you brought an informal approach and many guffaws to the class.  Thank you for showing me that the Coconut Cream Pie could work when made in the blender, even though that wasn’t what the recipe called for. Who needs to measure, anyway?

To Michelle, I’m so glad you took that first chance and leapt in.  I have so enjoyed our outings and discovering this new friendship. And thanks for all the great puppy pix and recipes to try out! You are a natural at it.

There are so many more, and every one has touched me in some indelible way.  Still, I know this was the right move for me, one that will allow my concentration to move to more current interests (hmm, such as this blog!). 

Yes, I will sorely miss the camaraderie and buzz in the kitchen.  What I won’t miss is having to dash frantically around the house cleaning up the night before class (oh, wait, maybe I should miss that–this may mean our house is never clean again!).  I won’t miss the last-minute forays to the corner store for overlooked okra or missing miso, or having to reprimand Chaser when the guests arrive because her exuberance overtakes her and she jumps up on people even though she’s been trained not to (“But Mum!  They might have food!”).

Last evening’s theme was “Light and Easy Suppers,” healthy dishes that are mostly kid-friendly and can be cooked up in a fairly short span. 

Here’s the final menu (this suddenly feels like a tribute to the Titanic, or something!):

  • Sesame Sweet Potato Wedges with Thai Dipping Sauce
  • Spelt Thin-Crust Pizza with Artichokes, Caramelized Onion, and Chard (photo above)
  • Tofu Masala Curry with Brown Basmati
  • Moroccan Spiced Tomato Soup
  • Napa Cabbage Salad
  • Gluten-Free Pumpkinseed Shortbread Cookies.

I will post recipes for all of these over the next while. Now that there will BE no more cooking classes, this is my best place to share, though I don’t have all the photos yet (of course, given my shaky photography “skills,” that may not be a bad thing).

In the meantime, why not indulge in pizza for breakfast?