DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!  Please visit us at the shiny new home of DDD, by clicking here.

alookale2

[Potato-Kale Curry]

First, and most importantly: Happy 2009, everyone!  Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments and good wishes for the new year.  I can’t even begin to express how much I appreciate them all and how much blogging has brought into my life.  But by far, the best part is you–readers and other bloggers.  Thank you for sharing 2008 with me, and I look forward to 2009!

The HH and I (sans The Girls, unfortunately, as our Elsie Girl refuses to play nice with the other five dogs who live there) spent another lovely, bucolic New Year’s Eve with my friends Gemini I and II and their broods up at Gemini I’s palatial country “cottage.”  We ate, we drank, and Gemini II’s hubby lit fireworks just before midnight, when we toasted in 2009.  The rest of the time, we chillaxed to the max, reading in front of the fireplace, watching ice fishers huddled by their hut atop the lake, taking photos of indigenous birds perched at the feeder outside the window, or working as a group on the massive, 2-page annual crossword puzzle  that’s printed in The Globe and Mail.  I didn’t even mind the snow and ice (a New Year’s Eve miracle!).

And now, back to reality. . . and back to business.

 Although I more or less threw resolutions out the window many years ago (really, don’t I already know I’ll want to lose weight after the holidays?), I do update a list I call my “Five Year Plan.”  In it, I write down goals for the following six months, the following year, two years, and five years.  I try to arrange them so that the earlier goals might naturally precede the later goals (eg., six months:  take a course in html; one year: design own web page). 

Okay, so maybe it’s just another version of resolutions after all. . .but this long-term view has worked well for me in the past: one of the most unusual “goals” that came to fruition was “work with a business coach–for free”; and so far, the best one (way back before I met the HH) was “own my own home,” something I’m adding back to the list this year, now that we’ve been renting for. . . well, far too long.

I’ve decided that this list works best when it’s kept private, as last year’s list, while not that different from the ones I wrote before it, was a total bust.  Instead of losing 50 pounds over the past 50 weeks or so, I’ve gained about four (definitely more than the “1.5 pound” holiday average. My parents always encouraged me to try to be above average, so I guess I can say I’ve accomplished that now).

Still, I believe the concept is a great one and one that most people should try at least once.  As the famous Harvard study  demonstrated, those who write down their goals (as opposed to simply thinking of them) tend to concretize them, and the goals are more apt to come true.  For whatever reason, putting something down on paper triggers a mechanism in the brain that impels you to action.  I will share the easiest goal on my list, though:  remain part of the blogging world, and keep blogging regularly.  That one, at least, I know will be pure pleasure to enact!

Before I bid 2008 adieu permanently, however, I wanted to share the amazing Indian feast we had when the CFO visited at Christmas time.  Although our meal on December 25th was relatively traditional, it was this one (the following night) that became the high point of holiday meals for us. 

peascreamysauce2

[Peas in a Creamy Curry Sauce]

I first discovered Indian cuisine about 10 years ago, after having to change my diet dramatically and seek out foods that met my dietary challenges.  At the time, being both a meat eater and a wheat eater, those challenges were plentiful.

Then I began to frequent Indian restaurants.  Most dishes were not only wheat-free, but gluten-free as well!  And the vegetarian/vegan options seemed endless.  Here in Toronto, many Indian restaurants operate as all-you-can-eat buffets.  These ostensibly boundless displays of vegetable- and legume-based dishes were dazzling and even a bit overwhelming at first, as I was determined to try every dish in my new culinary repertoire. (Eventually, I realized, many of those dishes had been sitting out under warming lights for hours, or were thrown together from leftovers of two or more of the previous day’s dishes; I began to opt for sit-down restaurants instead).

It seemed natural to attempt to re-create those spicy, saucy, succulent meals at home. I  bought a couple of Indian cookbooks and went to work.  In those days, I cooked a lot of chicken and meat dishes, some of which I’ve converted over the years.  Perhaps it was curry overload; perhaps I assumed I’d never achieve a comparable result without the meat.  For whatever reason, I hadn’t cooked a full Indian meal in some time.

Then I remembered that the CFO was also a fan of the cuisine and had an idea to whip up our own little Indian buffet as a post-Christmas dinner.  The results were stellar, and made me wonder why I’ve neglected those recipes for so long.

lentildal1

[Three-Lentil Dal]

Our meal included a fabulous multi-lentil dal based on Lisa’s recipe (my only change to the original recipe was using three types of lentil instead of lentils and moong beans); peas in a creamy sauce; curried potatoes and kale; and cheela (chickpea pancakes) along with basmati rice.  While the potato dish was pretty much a haphazard combination of leftover tomato sauce, chopped kale, and chunks of spud, I did take note of the other recipes and can share them here.

Each of these dishes on its own would make a warming, satisfying light meal; put them together, and you’ve got a memorable finale to an eventful year. 

One definite item in my next 5-Year Plan:  Cook Indian more often.

Peas in a Creamy Curry Sauce

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

peascreamysauce1

Super quick and easy, this side dish provides a lovely visual contrast to the mostly dull colors of long-simmered curries.  The vibrant green and sweet flavor of the peas is perfect as an accompaniment to the intense spice of the other dishes. From  an unidentified cookbook–sorry!

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

Cheela* (Chickpea Pancakes)

adapted from Meena Pathak’s Indian Cooking for Family and Friends

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

*From what I can tell, these are also sometimes called pudla. Whatever you call them, they were so remarkably good that we consumed them all before I realized I’d not taken a photo. But other versions abound on the net; for photos, check out the blog posts by Johanna, Lisa, Pikelet and Pie  (with zucchini) or (for an Italian twist) Kalyn.

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

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

 

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!

chaserunderbed

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:

Odd. . . my Google Reader seemed to be filling up at an alarming rate, sort of like the rising waterline in The Poseidon Adventure.  Then I remembered:  Not only is October the official World Vegetarian Month, it’s also the Vegan MOFO (Month of Food)!  This is the 31-day period in which vegan food bloggers worldwide pledge to blog at least 20 days of the month about, well, vegan food.  And blog they have!

Given my vida loca schedule these days (and The Girls do make me put my clothes on and go walking in the rain), as well as the imminent festival of the harvest here in Canada, I accepted that I simply couldn’t commit to that esteemed blog event, for fear of ending up committed myself as a result.   Instead, I thought I’d bring to you some highlights of recipes I’ve tried and enjoyed from other vegan and vegetarian bloggers in the past while. 

Every now and again, I scroll through my photos and realize there are dozens of dishes I’ve cooked and photographed, but never blogged about.  It may be that they were less than stellar in their final form, or that my woeful skill as a photographer resulted in a photo that, ahem, didn’t quite do the dish justice.  More often than not, however, it’s just that I ran out of time and went on to blog about something else–and then, weeks (or, in some cases, months) later, I stumble upon the photos and rack my brains to remember what the heck it was.  And so, here’s but a brief sampling of some of the things we’ve been sampling here in the DDD household.

Happy Vegan MoFo, everyone!

Caramelized Tofu (101 Cookbooks)

As Heidi mentions in her post about this, this deceptively simple dish is incredibly addictive.  I made it once to try it out, then repeated the venture three days in a row.  Stupendous.  (And this is one of those aforementioned cases in which the photographer is not up to par with the quality of the recipe!).

Crumb-Topped Brownies, sans topping (My Sweet Vegan): 

Hannah’s Crumb-Topped Brownies are everything you’ve heard they are, and more.  As I mentioned a while back, I recently found myself with some soy yogurt in the house, so I finally had the means to try these out.  They were superb–soft, gooey, and with a moist, almost custard-like texture that literally melted in the mouth.  Even without the white sugar or flour, these were fabulous, and irresistibly decadent.

Curried Tofu Scramble (Moosewood New Classics):

My favorite scrambled tofu recipe. With just a touch of curry paste, a hit of jalapeno, the requisite turmeric–this dish provides a spicy, juicy, eggy and convenient scramble.  I could eat this every day (and I do, for about 3 days after I make it, since the HH will no longer indulge with me).

Broccoli and Rice Salad (Jean Lemlin’s Quick, Simple and Main Course Vegetarian Pleasures):

Got broccoli?  Got rice? With the addition of a tangy dressing and chopped almonds, Lemlin elevates the basic rice and veggies to a step beyond the quotidien.  And gluten-free! 

Nori Condiment-Baked Potatoes (Nourish Me):

As Lucy mentioned in her original post about this condiment, it may be just a tad too pungent for some tastes on its own; but these taste buds thoroughly enjoyed it roasted with russett potatoes. Yes, it does sound quirky, and yes, it does resemble the habitat of plankton, but it is, nevertheless, uniquely appealing!

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies (Destiny’s Vegan Kitchen):

Rich. Chewy. Chocolatey. Totally indulgent.  All that, even though I made my usual substitutions of Sucanat for sugar, spelt for regular flour, coconut oil for margarine, etc.  The HH almost scalded his tongue eating four of these babies straight out of the oven.  What are you waiting for?  Go bake some, pronto!

And coming up. . . .got any coconut of your own?

I deliberately ended this list with these coconut cookies as a segue into my next post, which will introduce a new Lucky Comestible series–on coconut!  I’d love to include any recipes you may have made featuring this ingredient as well.  While I’m not quite ready for my own blog event, I will happily provide links to your posts at the end of each Lucky Comestible recipe in the series. 

So feel free to send along those URLs for your coconut-based recipes (and I’m already planning to feature at least 2 of your recipes in the batch. . . but you’ll have to wait to see which ones!).

Oh, Mum, talk about MoFo!  You’re so cruel to keep us all waiting. . .especially when you’re cooking all those yummy coconut dishes just a few feet away. . . *sigh*. . . “

“Chaser, don’t you use such language!  And don’t worry, when she’s done, we’ll get to polish off the extra coconut milk.” 

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.

Frugal Frittata

April 22, 2008

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.”]  

Whenever we visit my family in Montreal as we did this past weekend, I return to Toronto feeling a little discombobulated.  Since I was a callow young’un when I moved away from home (at 17), I never really got to know La Belle Ville that well before I left, so I always feel like a tourist when I return.  At the same time, these somewhat frenetic, drive-by junkets (never more than 2 days long) tend to be so micro-scheduled that our itinerary is often tighter than one of Madonna’s corsets. 

Regarding our “visits,” the HH once remarked, “I’ve been coming to Montreal with you for ten years, and all I’ve ever seen is a hotel, your dad’s house and your sister’s apartment.”  Unfortunately, too true, and this last trip was no exception.

Still, I do enjoy reuniting with family and friends, even if for a few minutes each during out revolving-door visits.  And despite my anxiety over a still-tentative back, the driving was fine.  By late Sunday, we’d arrived back in Toronto, picked up The Girls from doggie daycare (“Thank God you came back, Mum!  We thought you had abandoned us forever!“) and returned home to feed them–and us.

Striding into the empty house, setting down bags and opening windows, I felt the familiar combination of exhaustion, relief, and hunger that always occurs upon returning home after a long trip. A quick glance in the refrigerator revealed a sad inventory of the following: one carton of firm tofu; a lone zucchini (looking almost as tired as I felt); a bag of baby potatoes sorely in need of attention; a bunch of fresh tarragon (bought on a whim after I was inspired by Lucy‘s fabulous post on Leek and Flageolet Soup), and a pint of grape tomatoes, sporting an uncanny resemblance to fingertips that have lingered too long in a warm bath. (And isn’t it interesting how, even though everything here in Canada is metric and I always refer to liquids in those terms–I would never say “a quart of milk”–that I still think of those little cartons for berries or grape tomatoes as “pints”?). 

Faced with this unpromising array of tired, wizened produce, the HH responded with a characteristic reaction:  “Okay, let’s go out to eat.” 

Now, I do believe that anyone who knows me well would never describe me as “extravagant.”  In fact, I am rather moderate in my spending habits. Come to think of it, I am extremely economical as a  rule.  Well, actually, I’m even what you might call unbelievably frugal most of the time.  Parsimonious, even.  Oh, all right, fine, I admit it!  I am stingy!  I’m a tightwad!  I’m a total cheapskate

Really, I hate spending money unnecessarily. I will do my darndest never to pay a higher price for an article I KNOW costs less elsewhere. I actually find it fun to plan out a budget; I get a kick out of (literally) saving my pennies; I thoroughly enjoy scanning the grocery flyers so that I can plan out a shopping route worthy of a military operation. As a shopper, I experience a little frisson of pride every time I nab one of those funky sweaters I’ve ogled in the store window all season, now at 50% off (even if I don’t actually need a funky sweater and only manage to wear it once before stumbling upon it again years later, abandoned at the bottom of a drawer, at which time I pack it up to send to Goodwill).

As a result, there’s no greater crime in our house than spending money on a restaurant meal if it means throwing away otherwise perfectly good food.

And so, after having just spent a small fortune on travel, boarding The Girls, AND an opulent dinner last week, I was faced wtih my mission, and I chose to accept it: make use of all those leftovers in the fridge–even those shrivelled, elderly tomatoes. 

“No way,” I responded, “I can make something out of this.  No sense in wasting it.” (Yep, if ever there were a couple who embodied the phrase, “opposites attract,” the HH and I would be it).

Cooking tofu for the HH has become quite a challenge of late, as there are very few tofu-centric meals he’ll deign to eat.  And while he did adore my tofu omelette a while back, the prospect of cooking and flipping four of them just then was beyond the bounds of my remaining energy. 

I decided to try a frittata.  I love fritattas, and hadn’t had one in ages.  Besides, like George and Jerry propounding on salsa, I may like the final product, but love the sound of the word even more:  free-TA-ta.  Like some rollicking anthem a group of suffragettes might have sung as they turned on their heels and sashayed off into the sunset. 

My only real problem was the pile of slightly shrivelly tomatoes, too old to attract a suitor, yet still too fresh to start dispensing sage advice to the grandchildren.  Then I remembered a great recipe from Martha Stewart (who is, herself, still rather spry looking–even though, in fact, old enough to start dispensing sage advice to the grandchildren) for oven-roated tomatoes.  The slow heat renders them no longer really juicy, but not dry, either, dehydrated just enough to intensify the natural sweetness of the fruit. And with grape tomatoes, the oven time could be cut down considerably.

So, while the red grapes roasted, I parboiled the potatoes and zucchini, sliced into rounds.   For the base of the fritatta, I employed a variation of my original omelette mixture with a few modifications to create a more savory, firmer texture.  I added the chopped tarragon, which brought it all together with its intense grassy color, light flavor and slightly flowery aroma.

Overall, this was a perfect homecoming dinner:  simple, satisfying, evoking springtime and–much to my delight–highly economical.  And since this is so chock-full of veggies, I’ve decided to submit it to the weekly ARF/5-A-Day event, hosted by Cate at Sweetnicks.  You can check the full roundup every Tuesday!

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Tofu Frittata with Potatoes, Zucchini and Oven Roasted Grape Tomatoes

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

Hearty and colorful with healthy veggies, this dish makes a wonderful light dinner or showpiece for a brunch table.  Of course, you can vary the veggies to your taste (just keep the basic volume about the same).  If you don’t feel like roasting your tomatoes, just cut them in half and use them as-is. 

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.”]  

 

cipollines.jpg 

There are times when I glance around my chaotic home office, and I despair a little.  Then my eyes glaze over and I fall into a reverie about the good ol’ days, when I used to be organized: desktop in order, with clearly demarcated “to do” and “done” piles.  Mail returned with great alacrity, and an empty “inbox” each evening.  Shoes and boots lined up like bottles at a county fair, erect and waiting for the ball that will topple them. Laundry folded, laid neatly in drawers (never left to languish untouched on the top of the dresser for days).

Ah, yes, it’s a lovely dream. In more recent times, what with papers to mark, driveways to shovel, cooking classes to teach, orders to bake, dogs to walk, blogs to write–well, I admit that I’ve become a little slack on the home front.  But seriously, do you really need more than four square inches of desk space to pay your bills online? Do you really need bookshelves to hold all your books, when the packing boxes they were moved in will do a perfectly acceptable job? Do floors really need to be washed all that often (speaking of, if your floors aren’t up to snuff, just get a puppy.  Presto! It’s like one of those zoomba roboty things that catches every spill–leaving floors spic and span–with no effort on your part!). 

Well, weird things are starting to happen now that I’ve cut chocolate out of my life.  Suddenly, my disorderly surroundings began to feel intolerable (I mean, it’s been this way pretty much since the day we moved in here), and I went on a tidying rampage: clear the mess on the desk! Fold that laundry! Line up those shoes! Tote that barge, lift that bale. . !  And then, I felt like cooking.  Cooking onions.

cipollinesinbowl.jpg

I had always considered onions to be a mere accessory to something else: an adjunt to the roasted garlic in a spelt pizza, a great starter ingredient for soups, or a bedrock for that slab of tempeh in a Tempeh Ruben. And yet, ever since the CFO came to visit a few weeks ago, onions have been tumbling around in the back of my mind. During her visit, she convinced me to buy a copy of Cooking Light magazine, something I’d never done before despite being an avowed magazine junkie (uh oh, I detect a pattern here. . . can the Week of Magazine Asceticism be far behind?). 

Guilty of judging a magazine by its cover, I’d always assumed the recipes within would be rife with “diet” or “lite” ingredients (usually chemically-enhanced or highly processed) as a way of creating these so-called lighter versions of strandard fare (geez, didn’t I notice it was called Cooking Light and not Cooking Lite?).  Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

As soon as I flipped open the current issue, a stunning photo of cipollinis beckoned. Now, I’d never even heard of cipollini onions before that moment but, like a new word you finally look up in the dictionary that subsequently pops up everywhere thereafter, these onions had entered my consciousness and I began to notice their presence in familiar places–old cookbooks, food tv shows, other blogs. Within a week, I’d seen them mentioned three or four times.  

As much as I love onions, I’d never based an entire dish on them before.  (I’d only heard of such a travesty once, during my final PhD year. At the time, my friend Ginny’s husband was being called upon to chip in  at home for the first time in their 10-year marriage, as Ginny was overwhelmed with work and studies and often late for dinner.  One evening, after a long night’s studying at the library, Ginny returned home to find that her hubby had attempted to cook dinner on his own.  As she gravitated toward the heavenly scent of sauteed onions, her husband beamed with pride as he directed her to a huge frypan on the stove, lifted the cover, and revealed–a pan of fried onions!  That’s right: he could think of nothing to combine with them, nothing else to add, but he did know how to fry. Last I heard, they were getting a divorce.)

 
 

 

 This recipe combines buttery-soft onions with plump raisins and toasted pine nuts in an allluring, glossy glaze.  Once the dish was complete, it did look very much like the photo in the magazine.  It also tasted great, with the sweet-tart appeal of a good chutney. It was then I realized, much like Ginny’s husband, “what am I going to do with all these onions?”  As a side dish to some hunk of meat, they might seem sufficient on their own, but that wasn’t happening in my house. Don’t get me wrong–it was very, very good; just not good enough to stand on its own. cipollineraw.jpg So I decided to ladle the mixture over herb-roasted Yukon Gold potatoes and–voila–a lovely, light dinner was born.  

And, ironically, you really do need to be organized to make this dish.  Just to peel the onions, you must blanch, cool, squeeze, and pull off the skins.  This alone took me 30 minutes, before I even began to prepare the rest of the dish. 

Yes, cipollinis are lovely.  But heck, with my schedule, next time I’ll just use chunks of the good ol’ regular kind.

Because the potatoes provide the true substance of this dish, I’m submitting this as my entry for “The Potato–A Blog Event”  by Eating Leeds.

Roasted Potatoes with Sweet and Sour Cipolllini Onions

(from Cooking Light, Jan/Feb 2008 )

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This recipe offers a gussied-up version of the archetypal combination, roast potatoes and onions. We ate this as a main course, but if you prefer, you can serve these separately, as side dishes.

For the potatoes:

2 lb. (about 1 kg.) Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into quarters

2-4 Tbsp. (30-60 ml.) extra virgin olive oil

generous sprinklings of oregano, rosemary, parsley and thyme

salt to taste

For the onions:

1/4 cup (60 ml.) raisins

1/2 cup (125 ml.) hot water

2 pounds (about 1 kg.) cipollini onions

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) butter (I used olive oil)

3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) water

2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) sugar (I used agave nectar)

1/4 tsp. (1.5 ml.) sea salt

1/4 tsp. (1.5 ml.)  freshly ground pepper

2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) pine nuts

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C).  Grease a large roasting pan or rimmed cookie sheet, or line with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with olive oil.  Place in a single layer in the pan and sprinkle with the herbs.  Roast in preheated oven until done and a little crispy on the outside, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the onions:

Place raisins in a bowl and cover with the 1/2 cup hot water. Let stand 30 minutes or until plump.  Drain.

Trim top and root end of onions. Cook onions in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Drain, cool and peel. (The skins were supposed to slip off easily, but they were not not exactly cooperative).

Melt butter (or olive oil) in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions to pan, stirring well to coat. Stir in 3 Tbsp. water [I found I had to add more later on to keep the mixture from scorching], red wine vinegar, sugar (agave), salt, and black pepper. Cover, reduce heat and cook 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. [I found I needed more time than this before they began to really caramelize.]

Add raisins and pine nuts to pan. Inrease heat to medium, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes or until lightly browned and liquid almost evaporates, stirring occasionally. 

Divide potatoes into 4 servings, and ladle the cipollini mixture on top of each. 

The Best Home Fries Ever

February 10, 2008

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.”]  

 

For a simple weekend brunch, no matter what the main course, I always crave a side of home fries.  The humble potato is truly transformed into something exceptional when fried up alongside slivered onion and whatever else you may please, from the most rudimentary (salt and pepper) to something more hip and funky (green pepper, tomato and avocado).  While I’m basically a purist when it comes to home fries, I do like them flavorful. 

Over the weekend, we cooked up a batch of my favorite version of home fries.  The process is incredibly easy.  I had just started thinking about it, so asked myself three essential questions: 

1) Feel like potatoes?  Yep.

2) Feel like spice? But of course.

3) Have both in the house, and about 20 minutes to spare? Jackpot!  Okay, then–let’s party!

I came up with this combination (likely not entirely original, I’ll venture) because we always have steak spice in the house for the HH’s carnivorous forays. I love spicy food, and the aroma of that particular combination of spices and seeds really sets my nose tingling.  Well, I decided, if I won’t put the spice on steak, why not try it out on one of my favorites–home fries?  The result worked amazingly well.  Never mind the steak–just give me a plate of these, please, and I’m happy.

I’ll often do up a cheater’s version of this dish if I’m strapped for time.  Like Johanna and her roasted carrots with dukkah, or Heidi and her friend’s skillet smashed potatoes, I’ll partially cook the potatoes before adding to the frypan, as I’ve found that, unless you overdo it and cook them completely, the dish isn’t really diminished by this move.  If you begin with parboiled potatoes, you’re looking at no more than 15 minutes before you can dig into some browned, caramelized, crunchy-on-the-outside-creamy-on-the-inside potato contentment.

In fact, I love this recipe so much that I considered submitting it to “The Potato–A Blog Event” hosted by Eating Leeds, but I’ve decided I’ll just give the event a nod in this post, as I’ve got another potato-y prize in store for the event (which I’ll post later in the month).  In the meantime, enjoy this super-easy way to cook up America’s favorite vegetable.

(“Mum, those do look great, but you know we’ll have to pass because we can’t have that onion.  Sometimes you can be so heartless. . . “).

Montreal or Chicago Spiced Home Fries

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

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This is a quick and easy way to provide a great side dish to a brunch or any protein main course.  Feel free to adjust the spice to your own preferences.

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