Mint Smoothie

June 3, 2008

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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 home I grew up in could very well have been the original inspiration for the mantra, “Reuse, Repair, Recycle.” My dad, the quintessential progeny of The Great Depression, still saves everything from empty jam jars, to twine from UPS boxes, to old socks, to almost-moldy tomatoes, and puts them to use again in some other context (pre-Nalgene vessel to transport iced tea on a road trip; means to repair broken screen door latch; protection for hands while emptying garbage; and lunch, respectively). Seems I’ve earned my title as Femme Frugal honestly.

Besides, I’ve always considered myself pretty eco-friendly, being the bag-saver, container-reuser, water-conserver and late-night clothes washer that I am.  With all the talk of eco-consciousness, carbon footprints, 3 R’s and whatnot these days, I fully expected I’d eventually go “green”; I just never imagined it would be quite in this way. 

You see, our lives have been overtaken by green. Each time I glance out the window at the side of my house, leave via the front door, or stroll round toward the back yard, I’m confronted with GREEN. Mint green, that is. Yes, the DDD household has been invaded by rogue gangs of wandering mint, all vying for supremacy in the ‘hood.

Mint abounds. . . .Mint surrounds. Mint embraces us with its color and scent, tickles us as we tiptoe through the grass, envelops us at every turn.  We are circumscribed by mint.  Yes, dear readers, you were all so right (or, as the HH often translates it from the French, “You have reason”) about that gypsy mint! My days are now lived from within an undulating, leafy, lush sea of green.  Inhaling the verdant aroma from the garden, my mind reels with a heady intoxication (almost as intoxicated, I imagine, as Obama’s fans were last evening after that rousing, pre-victory speech).

Oh, and you know what else?  We’ve got no shortage of mint around here.

So, what to do when you’re inundated with a tasty but not overly utilized herb?  You improvise, that’s what.

Sunday morning, with the weather finally warming up, I thought I’d prepare a refreshing, cooling and nourishing drink for the HH, who was still fairly wilting from the effects of his cold (and, come to think of it, a looking a little green himself).  Fresh fruit is a great option for anyone suffering from weakened immunity, as it digests fairly easily and quickly, without taxing the system too much.  I had just the idea.

Around here, our freezer tends to house a variety of frozen fruits at any given time.  As I’ve mentioned before, even though we choose the smallest organic produce box for delivery each week, often there’s still too much fruit for two of us to consume in a mere seven days.  As a result, I end up chopping and then freezing chunks of overripe mango, pear, banana, grapes, or even (as I did a couple of weeks ago), watermelon for later use.  These frozen cubes generally work beautifully in smoothies or when I want to whip up some nearly-instant sorbet.  Sunday, I opted for a smoothie.

I had been thinking about Mojitos ever since Russ mentioned them in a comment last week, but since I have no interest in drinking alone (I know–how un-writerly of me), and since the HH wasn’t up for alcohol (unless I was going to rub it into his congested chest), I took the general concept of citrus + mint and ran with it.  Rummaging through the various containers of frozen fruit, I uncovered both pear and watermelon, which I imagined would offer a refreshing sweetness without an overpowering flavor (as banana, for instance, might).

Don’t let the intense grassy color deter you–the taste is just right, not too sweet, with a lovely minty flair. It’s refreshing and fairly light, so if you’re thinking “breakfast,” this is the type of smoothie that works as a beverage alongside  your main meal rather than as a beverage instead of your main meal. It would also make a lovely postprandial sip (and maybe even better with a splash of rum–I’ll have to save that version for when the HH is feeling better). 

And, of course, with all this mint (plus the other great fresh fruits) that it contains, how could I not submit this to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by Maninas at Food Matters?

Mint Smoothie

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

 

This is a cooling, refreshing drink that would be great for a hot summer’s evening, or served in a big bowl at a Bar B Q.  (And iwhat a fun challenge to convince your friends to drink something this green!)

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, thank you for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new home of Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we?  Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans on this blog than you do.”

* * *

 [Yep, another raw bar. . . and so soon!  But there’s a good reason. . . ]

Well, it’s finally happened:  after years of needless anxiety before every annual medical check-up (only to be told each time that nothing’s wrong). . . this time, something was wrong.  And I must admit, I’m shocked.

When I saw my doctor a few weeks ago, she sent me off for all the standard tests appropriate for “someone my age.”  Then yesterday at the call-back appointment, I was informed that I have osteopenia.  Sounds scary initially: osteopenia is the (potential) precursor to osteoporosis, as the word means “thinning of the bones.”  Osteoporosis means “porous bones” and is a greater danger. 

Even as she was speaking, questions caromed around in my mind:  What, exactly, does this mean?  Doesn’t everyone experience thinning of the bones as they age?  How serious is my situation?–etc. Apparently, the test, called DEXA (“Dual Energy X-Ray Absorption”) works by measuring the density of my bones and comparing it against the bones of an imaginary 25 year-old woman (the “gold standard,” as my doctor says.  But hey, shouldn’t that be the “greyish-white” standard?).  Statistically, my bones were a 1.3 per cent standard deviation from that (no idea what that means).  A 2.5 per cent deviation equals “osteoporosis.”  When I asked how I compare to other women my age, she noted that I was still a bit below average.  

Now, I simply cannot express how much this news ticks me off! I mean, isn’t being fat good for anything these days?? One of the health issues I never (I mean, never) considered as a possibility was osteoporosis; you see, being overweight is actually a preventative in that area (bones rebuild and strengthen in accordance with “weight-bearing exercise,” and I have definitely been bearing excess weight the past few years.). I do, however, have some of the other risk factors (such as being female).

Well, I’m trying not to get overly stressed about this (stress, as it turns out, is one of the factors that contributes to bone loss. Bien sûr).  Even my doctor noted that, should nothing change over the next few years, she wouldn’t give it another thought; it would only be considered a problem if I keep losing bone density.

This shocking diagnosis got me moving (in the sense of “getting hyped up,” though of course also in the sense of “walking more”–gotta increase that exercise now!).  I pulled out a bunch of my old texts from nutrition school and started reading.  Seems that the absolute amount of calcium and other essential bone-building nutrients is irrelevant, if you’re not digesting them properly.  Bad digestion=malabsorption=too few minerals in the bloodstream (at which point your opportunistic bloodstream leaches them out of your bones, teeth, and whatever else it can find–the nerve!). In other words, you can consume calcium out the yin-yang, but if your body isn’t absorbing it properly, you may as well be eating matchsticks (actually, no, don’t do that–too much sulfur isn’t good, either).

A highly acidic diet (as in, “those heinous, calcium-siphoning, bone-sucking junk foods and chocolate bars that have wooed me too many times in the past”) will also cause you to lose minerals from the bone (chocolate is a particular culprit, apparently, as it contains both caffeine AND refined sugar–both mineral-leachers).  And believe it or not, meats and most dairy products are equally bad, as they are also highly acidic (too bad I grew up in a household where we ate meat every day, usually more than once).  Oh, and let’s not forget that surreptitious bone-stealer: stress.  So, in a contest to see who possesses the most negative traits contributing to malabsorption–well, all I can say is, “Yay!  I finally won a contest!”

So now I have a real reason to eat better and exercise more:  unlike my Stone-Age ancestors, I am partial to walking upright, and would prefer to retain that ability. 

For those of you who are interested, you can prevent (and some even say reverse) osteopenia with the proper diet.  This includes ingesting sufficient calcium, of course (think green leafys, almonds, legumes, figs, blackstrap molasses and, if you’re so inclined, sardines, salmon and yogurt); sufficient Vitamin D (at least 10 minutes of sunshine per day, or 1000 IU in supplement form); lots of magnesium (green leafys and beans/legumes again), and a complement of other vitamins and minerals, such as B’s, K, and boron, in smaller quantities.  Basically, a diet high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes. Because it’s been a while since I practised nutrition directly, I’ll be heading for a trip to my naturopath next week to see what she has to say.  And this will mean a bunch of new, ultra-healthy recipes on the blog!

All this got me thinking about Susan at Food Blogga’s Beautiful Bones” event in honor of National Osteoporosis Month. I’d actually been planning to submit this very entry to Susan.  Now, however, I’m also motivated to go make another batch, just for me. (Oh, and Susan also offers a list of calcium-rich foods on her event page.)

I came up with this recipe when I first started teaching cooking classes a few years ago. Each of the classes was assigned a theme, such as “Glorious Greens,” “Tricks with Tofu” (foods, not making it disappear), or “Great and Gluten-Free.”  One class, called “Bone Builders” (which now sounds to me more like an architectural firm on The Flintstones), was the impetus for these bars.  They were a great hit with the cooking classes, and later, a popular seller at the organic market where I sold baked goods for a few years. And since they were designed specifically to improve bone health, these treats seem the perfect contribution to Susan’s event.  

In the past few years, I’ve discovered that these are terrific as a mid-day energy booster, a great portable lunch on the go, or a substitute for trail mix.  You can keep a wrapped bar in your drawer at work for an emergency nibble, or bring it along during a walk through the woods.  Once made and wrapped, the bars will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge (they have honestly never lasted that long over here). With a texture like that of a protein bar you’d buy at the store, these are much more flavorful, with tart lemon peel, dried cherries accented by sweet dried fig, and the crackly, popping crunch of fig seeds alongside ground almonds.  They’re very filling and a fabulous bar to have on hand. 

When I first created these, I ran a quick nutritional analysis to ensure that they’d provide a meaningful boost of calcium.  Courtesy of almonds (the nut with highest calcium levels), dried figs (the fruit with highest calcium levels), tahini (made from sesame seeds–yep, the seed with highest calcium levels) and sour cherries (no slouch in the calcium department), these bars are a powerhouse of bone-building minerals. The stats confirmed my expectation: each bar offers 140 mg. of calcium per bar (about 1/10 of the daily requriement) along with 6 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber (bonus!).  I’m not sure how much deviation that represents from the statistical norm, but no matter–they’re delicious all the same.

Raw Fig and Cherry Bars

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

These are deliciously chewy and not too sweet.  If you can find organic UNsweetened dried cherries (the kind that are very tart), they are really the best choice.  If you can’t find them, you may wish to reduce, or even omit, the agave nectar.

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

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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.” 

In the past, I’ve always thought of radishes as kind of a poor cousin to beets: smaller and more anemic, they obviously missed out on the family jewels.  Without well-heeled connections or an established vocation, they’re much like the street punk with the pugilistic attitude, slamming your jaw with a peppery punch every time you dare take a bite.

And besides, radishes seem to me more or less a one-hit wonder:  like the obnoxious neighbour (you know the guy: loud, grating voice; beer belly) who always gets drunk at the annual Bar B Q and tells the same joke every year, radishes were used for one thing and one thing only: salad.  And they were always raw.  And they were always sliced.  Not horrible, but not exactly inspiring, either.  Sort of like Julia Roberts: no matter what the context, no matter what else surrounds them, no matter what time of year, they’re always pretty much exactly themselves.  Even when carved into one of those fancy garnish “roses”–a radish is a radish is a radish.

Well, last week, I intended to change all that. 

I’ve been hanging on to this recipe, originally from the LCBO’s  Food and Drink Magazine from early 2004 (LCBO is “Liquor Control Board of Ontario”–that’s right, the government is the sole purveyor of alcohol in our time-warped province), since I first saw it. I’d kept it all this time simply because I loved the photo in the magazine so much (have you ever seen the production values of that mag?  No wonder the Ontario government is short on cash).  Well, I can thank my blogging habit once again for prompting me to finally make the dish and take my own shot of the colorful mix.

It must have been some weird synergy in the not-quite-summer air, but in the interim since I made this salad, I’ve noticed two other bloggers with radish recipes as well: Lisa just whipped up some fabulous looking Potato and Radish Salad, and Karen actually roasted the little roots, something I’ve never thought to do (she swears they’re pretty darned good that way).

This salad was deceptively simple–only seven ingredients–but it was the particular combination that sounded so enticing.  Radishes, sliced paper-thin (unfortunatelly, not in my case–must get that mandoline!), embraced by thick, juicy wedges of grapefruit; with thin rounds of young green onion and glossy olives tinted like black plums scattered throughout. Like a little dinner party with your most eclectic group of friends, all in one place!

It came together in no time at all, and didn’t disappoint.  The result was unusual, yes, but oddly pleasing: tart, salty, peppery, juicy–the perfect side to a light summer dinner of lentil patties (more on those anon).

Based on this salad, I’d say the lowly radish has finally broken free from the previously predictable, nondescript dishes it’s graced in the past.  I actually enjoyed experiencing the radish in a starring role in this dish.

Now, if only I could say the same for Ms. Roberts.

Radish and Grapefruit Salad

from Food and Drink, Spring 2004

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Crisp and light, this will remind you of summer, even though it can be prepared any time of year.  The singular mix of flavors and textures creates a uniquely appealing salad. The original instructions advise: “Do not add the dressing until just before serving or else the salad will give off too much liquid.”

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! 

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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.” 

 

Sometimes, you just want to eat something now.  I’ve decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly, or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required.  Here’s today’s “Flash in the Pan.”

 

(I know, “Cocoa Nibbles” sounds like a children’s breakfast cereal. . . but these are much better!)

Even though I’ve continued to bake a little during this Total Health course I’m taking, I’ve been trying to avoid consuming very much of what I do bake (my colleagues are very happy lately. . . oh, and they appear to have gained some weight).  Apart from my tumbling head first off the wagon after I baked those evil PB-Chocolate Chip Cookies, I’ve remained (more or less) on track. 

Still, even when you’re eating healthfully, sometimes (okay, all the time) you crave chocolate.  These little bites are what I whip up when I’m dying for something that’s part candy, part fudge, and part healthy.  Those of you familiar with LaraBars will recognize the ingredient list, but mine are a little smoother than the orignial, with a more intense chocolate flavor.  And so easy!

Cocoa Nibbles

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

[Get a load of that gorgeous mint garnish!]

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Cultured Vegetables

May 1, 2008

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! PLEASE VISIT THE SHINY NEW HOME OF DDD 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.”]  

Well, seems I’m on a raw kick this week–here’s a second raw recipe in a row (and also a tongue-twister using “R” words!).  As promised, I’m going to offer the recipe for “Cultured Vegetables” from my Total Health course.  Every time I utter the name of this recipe, I can’t help thinking, “As opposed to what?  Crass, uncouth vegetables?” But my mind just works that way.

If you’ve ever enjoyed a side of tangy, crisp coleslaw or the zing that some juicy sauerkraut can add to a Reuben sandwich, you’ve already sampled cultured vegetables.  The term refers to veggies that have been allowed to ferment naturally, within their own juices, to help breed the natural bacteria within them. These are good bacteria, people–the same kind you eat in healthy, immune-enhancing yogurt with live probiotics.  In fact, naturally cultured veggies may contain even more of these healthful bacteria than the yogurt does.

The practice of making our own cultured veggies has waned over the past century (why bother when you can just grab a jar from the supermarket?), but the store-bought kind can’t compare. In contrast to the assembly-line, limp and almost matte coloring of prepared brands, the homemade variety retains a lovely sheen and a springy bite with an appealing ascerbic tang.  And while the all-natural brands manufactured using traditional methods (the ones that require refrigeration even before you open them) are just fine, their cost is often exorbitant, and they don’t always offer the same probiotic benefits or equivalent array of vitamins and minerals in the all-natural types.

When you chop or grate raw, organic cabbage, the probiotic bacteria already present  (“friendly bacteria” that naturally populate our intestines and aid in myriad bodily functions, from boosting our immune systems to enhancing digestion to producing Vitamin K) begin to multiply and feed off the natural sugars in the veggies, thereby fermenting them.  The result is the slightly soft , slightly crisp, naturally pickled condiment that is most commonly known as sauerkraut. In this case, however, the food is truly raw and provides all the benefits of raw enzymes and easy digestibility from a living food.

I’ve always loved sauerkraut.  I can still remember how, throughout my childhood, my mom would crack open a jar of Mrs. Whytes  in natural brine and just eat it out of the jar as a snack (she had some weird culinary proclivities, that mom of mine). Well, as she did with my love for Jack and Carly, my mother also nurtured my taste for sauerkraut, and I’ve been eating it ever since.  When I finally learned to make it myself last week, I was surprised at how simple the process really is.

A quick Googling of “Cultured Vegetables Recipe” elicited 188,000 hits, so there’s obviously no shortage of information available for those who’d like to give it a try.  At our course, we used a combination of red cabbage, white cabbage, carrot and daikon radish.  The method is crazy-simple:  chop or grate the veggies very fine; blend a bit of them with water to create a “brine”; combine both parts in a tightly-closed jar and let it sit on your kitchen counter for a week.  Refrigerate before opening (both to stop the fermentation process and to prevent too much air escaping when you finally open it), then spear with your fork and enjoy.  My own batch ended up infused with a rosy, springlike hue throughout, courtesy of the red cabbage; on the plate, the mixture evoked a girl’s best party dress, or a sprinkling of confetti at a baby shower.

Once made, the veggies can be used alone as an accompaniment to salads, burgers, or other main courses; as a snack on their own (my mom would have loved them); or, as my instructor suggested, tossed at the last minute over some sautéed greens to warm them up a bit.

Below is the recipe we used, taken directly from Donna Gates’s Body Ecology site.  While my instructor did provide a “culture starter,” it’s entirely unnecessary to the success of this dish.  You should also feel free to experiment with the proportions of different vegetables, as long as cabbage is the the main event. And once you’ve got a batch ready, the veggies will last several months. 

Raw Cultured Vegetables

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

Don\'t those colors look yummy?

[Aren’t those colors purty?]

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As always, thanks for reading.  Hope to see 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 on this blog than you do.”

In my short stint as a raw foodist (very different from an “in-the-raw” foodist, which, for obvious reasons, I’d never do) I was determined to try out every variation of living foods imaginable.  This meant foods I’d otherwise probably never eat, such as raw fennel (basically just don’t like it); raw cashews (okay, but too bland on their own for my taste); raw cacao nibs (not bad when ground up and incorporated into some form of dessert); and raw sushi. 

What?  Sushi is already raw, you say?  Ah, but I’m not talking about fish.  Rather, I’m talking about fish-y, or fish-like, sushi, composed of raw nuts and veggies.  And waaaay better than slimy, slippery, dead tuna!

This recipe pairs almonds and sundried tomatoes for a magical synergy that results in a filling reminiscent of saltwater and salmon without actually being salmon (or John Malkovich, for that matter).  You enjoy the essence of the sea without having to eat any fish!  How cool is that?

I have to admit, however, that I might never have ventured to try this particular dish if not for my beloved, the carnivorous HH. In fact, before we met over a decade ago, nary a nibble of sushi in any form had passed my lips.  I had steadfastly refused to join all my friends when, throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, sushi reigned supreme as the Favorite Form of Yuppie Sustenance (and I suspect that, even today, it would attain runner-up status, at least).  You see, I’ve seen raw fish; my dad used to bring home a whole fish occasionally from his butcher shop, and my mom always refused to touch it.  Me? Eat raw fish?  No, thanks. 

In Toronto, you can find a sushi bar on almost every corner of the downtown core, plus most streets in the suburbs (that’s almost as many sushi restaurants as there are donut shops!). For years, whenever I planned to meet a girlfriend for drinks after work, join colleagues for a quick bite after class, or share a dinner with my book club, mine would be the lone voice demurring across a vast sea of sushi. 

And then, the HH invited me to lunch.  Well, technically, he invited me to lunch, again. One of the more pleasant aspects of my particular work schedule is that I have the freedom to run errands, do laundry, or anything else during the afternoon and work all evening instead, if I choose.  Once a week, I exercise that freedom to meet the HH for lunch.  It’s our way of keeping the romance alive getting our 5 to 10 a day escaping the “kids” checking in and staying connected with each other. 

One particular day, after much pleading and cajoling, he finally convinced me to join him at his favorite sushi restaurant.  

“They’re bound to have vegetables, right?” he theorized.  I had to agree. “And they’ve definitely got rice.” So far, so good.  “Well, I’m sure they know how to roll it in a nori sheet, so I bet they can put together some vegetarian sushi for you.”  How could I object?

I’ve been thanking him ever since. When I explained what I wanted to the shop’s petite hostess, she cocked her head, smiled and nodded, then returned a moment later proffering a  platter of nori rolls, futo maki and hand rolls filled with various combinations of carrot, cucumber, umebosi plum, buttery avocado, and daikon.  In addition to being visually impressive–each unique spiral mosaic of orange, green, and creamy white a testament to the chef’s culinary artistry–the rolls also served up that classic melding of sweet, salty and umami, which, when accompanied by pickled ginger and fiery hot wasabi, was enough to hook me for life. How, I wondered, had I ever allowed myself to miss out on such an indulgence before then? 

 I still love vegetarian sushi, and these days, the HH and I eat it exclusively at our weekly lunch date.  Still, there are times when I’m snowed under with marking, or the HH has been summoned to an unexpected conference call, and we defer until the following week.  On those occasions, I try to make this raw version instead.  Completely grain-free, it nevertheless contains a similar satisfying blend of flavors and textures to the real thing.  And the inclusion of ground nuts here actually renders this version almost as protein-packed as its fishy predecessor. Like all sea vegetables, the nori is replete with minerals, particularly iodine, necessary for proper thyroid functioning.  It also provides Vitamin K, essential for healthy blood.

And, best of all, it’s completely fish free. 

Given that these darlings are uber-healthy, I thought they’d be a perfect contribution to Cate at SweetnicksARF/5-A-Day weekly event.  You can check out the roundup every Tuesday.

Raw Nori Rolls

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

I got this recipe from a raw foods class that I took a few years ago. The rolls require a little planning in order to prepare the nuts and sundried tomatoes, but once those iare ready, the remainder of the dish comes together quickly.  These are best served soon after they’re made.

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

Mock Green Papaya Salad

April 24, 2008

 mockgreenpapayaclose.jpg

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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.”]  

As you may have noticed, I love blogging. When something prevents me from engaging in my (almost) daily trio of cooking, eating, and writing about it, I feel a bit deprived. The strangest triggers will spark a barrage of blogging ideas, and then I’m off. 

One of the greatest side effects of blogging is that it encourages you to try new recipes. After all, how can you blog about a novel, interesting dish every few days if you eat the selfsame foods day after day?

Still, there’s a certain built-in sense of loss in this pattern.  Often, I’ll find a recipe that’s simply spectacular, and the HH and I will devour it with great gusto and appreciation.  Then I’ll be struck with a sense of melancholy at the knowledge that I’ll likely never cook that dish again, because I must move on to the next one on my ever-expanding list.  It’s somewhat akin to taking a long, boring flight on a business trip and experiencing the serendipitous joy of encountering a soul-mate as a seat-mate; you chat for a while, a connection is made, you open up about your work, you drink three or six of those itty bitty booze bottles of vodka, you spill all about your most intimate relationships. . . and then, as the plane lands, you exchange contact information and bid each other goodbye, knowing full well you’ll never share time wtih that particular individual ever again. 

Well, eating this salad was sort of like that. Except minus the alcohol.

Ever since I received my March issue of Vegetarian Times in the mail, I found myself repeatedly eyeing the page with this brilliantly-colored, fresh-faced salad on it. It doesn’t hurt that Thai food is one of my favorite cuisines, and that I’ve had green papaya salad many a time (and love it).  The magazine presented a vegan version, and one that’s ready in a snap (in fact, I almost offered this as a Flash in the Pan recipe, but it’s just a hair’s breadth too complicated)–well, how could I resist?  I had to have it.  And so, my friends, I did.  And I can only say–hurray!  Spring is finally here! 

The visual mimicry of green papaya using fresh Granny Smith apples is a touch of brilliance in this salad.  And while the apples don’t really taste like papaya–a little too crisp, a little too sweet–they stand on their own as a tangy, fresh first course that’s hard to resist.  I made a half recipe (which was supposed to feed four), and the HH and I polished this off between the two of us, even before the main course. 

I’ve decided to submit this entry to the new blog event, Bookmarked Recipes, which asks that you prepare and then blog about a recipe you’ve saved from another blog, a book, or a magazine.  It’s hosted by Ruth over at Kitchen Experiments. Check for a roundup every Monday. 

Mock Green Papaya Salad

from Vegetarian Times, March 2008

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

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This salad comes together incredibly quickly, and makes a fabulous first course that would complement almost any meal.  If you prefer, just make this the meal on its own!

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.”]

Sometimes, you just want to eat something now. I’ve decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly, or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required. Here’s today’s “Flash in the Pan.” (For other FitP recipes, see “Categories” at right).
     
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Well, since my back is still a bit sore, I’m opting for a “flash in the pan” today.  Hmm: sore back. . flash. . .does that make this a “flash-back”? (Ouch.  Sorry–that one hurt even more than the back injury!). 

We ate this salad the other night along with my newfound amore, nutroast (don’t tell the HH).  This is one of my favorite salads ever, and even The Girls  love it (without the onion, of course).  Oh, and there’s no strain whatsoever on your back when you mix this together.

(“Yes, Mum, this is definitely a keeper.  But what do you mean, nutroast is your new amore?  What about US? Aren’t WE at the top of the list???”) 

My only experience with green leafy vegetables prior to my year at nutrition school was the archetypal (and, oddly, newly resurrected) iceberg lettuce.  In fact, my dad still eats a salad of torn, waterlogged iceberg, chopped woody tomato, and sliced, wizened cucumber pretty much every day for lunch.  Is there any wonder I never thought to branch out?

Then, throughout that same year, I kept hearing rumblings about these mythological creatures called “green leafy vegetables.”  Armed with mighty stems; dressed with undulating green fronds;  festooned with ruffly, bi-colored leaves, these creatures seemed like a veggie version of fabled videogame heroes.  I’d read paragraphs in our textbooks and stare, entranced, at the photos, but couldn’t remember ever having tasted any. 

But wait; I did remember coming close, as a teenager when I’d visit my best friend, Sterlin.  As nerdy adolescents, we bonded over the fact that neither of us had a boyfriend throughout high school.  We’d regularly spend weekend sleepovers at each other’s houses, blabbing and gossiping and avoiding homework (and cursing the fact that neither of us had a boyfriend), until the wee hours of the morning. 

Since my mother, my sisters and I were always baking something or other, sleepovers at my house involved chocolate chip cookies, brownies, apple cake, my mom’s famous chiffon cake or my then-favorite cookie,  Chocolate Shadows (a monstronsity of chocolate, peanut butter and mint, from the Pillsbury Bake-Off Cookbook). When we bunked at Sterlin’s house, however, our  2:00 AM munchie raids inevitably led us to her parents’ near-empty freezer, where we’d find. . .boxes of frozen spinach.  I have no idea why they were always so well stocked on spinach, but since that was all we could find, that’s what we ate.  Sterlin would pull out a box, heat it up in the microwave (hers was the first family I knew to have one), and we’d munch on soggy, unevenly heated, spinach. 

Needless to say, the highschool freezer exploits didn’t exactly increase my desire to sample kale, collards, chard, or the like. But once I did discover leafy greens, years later, I was instantly smitten.  I ended up trying every green-leafy recipe I could find, and seemed to love them all.  And I daresay, this is one of the best. 

When I mention that this salad uses raw kale, I’m often met with resistance.  “But isn’t it bitter?”  I’m invariably asked. 
Well, let’s get one thing straight: buying a lottery ticket and having the guy at the kiosk check it, tell you it’s a loser, then cash in the $5.6 million jackpot himself–that’s bitter.  Bending down to pick up your dog’s water bowl and ending up spending almost two weeks in bed with an excruciating back problem–that’s bitter. Dating narcissistic Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants) for three months, then having him dump you for his ex-girlfriend before you can break up with him–that’s really bitter (but am I bitter?  Why, no, no of course not, don’t be silly!)

But kale?  Nope.  Not bitter. 

This dish is well-known in the “living foods” community–so much so, that I’m not even sure to whom I should attribute it.  But a couple of years ago, I attended the Vegetarian Awakening conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan (what a fabulous experience!  Imagine my elation: three entire days, knowing I could eat every single thing available all weekend!), and one of the chefs there, Chad Sarno, demonstrated this salad, so I’m going to credit him.  There are multiple variations floating around on the Internet as well.

This salad is so quick and easy, you will not believe how delicious it is.  It contains only 5 major ingredients (with optional add-ins). And because it’s so green and healthy, chock full of antioxidants, minerals, Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, I’m submitting this recipe to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging event, originated by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen and this week hosted by Susan at The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Raw Kale and Avocado Salad

Kale, with its frivolous ruffles, is like a perky vegetable tutu. It’s often referred to as the “Queen of Vegetables” for its amazing nutritional profile. 

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

[“We adore this this salad, too, Mum–it’s OUR new amore! Thanks for sharing.”]

TO VIEW THE RECIPE FOR KALE AND HEARTY SALAD, PLEASE VISIT 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.”]

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.”]

What?  Can it really be that a week has gone by already?  While it does feel like a long time since I’ve been blogging (and boy, did I ever miss it), I am amazed at how quickly these seven days have whizzed by. 

So, how did I spend my week of catch-up? 

First, I resolved to eat only food that is 100% good for me.  I ate exclusively organic, healthy, completely unprocessed fruits, vegetables, brown rice and soy products.  I never once had a craving for chocolate–or anything sweet, actually–and didn’t even attempt a baked good.  The Girls were model citizens, never whining, and playing perfectly with each other (and never waking us up before 7:00 AM to go out and “do their business”).  Oh, and I lost FIFTEEN POUNDS!  FIFTEEN, can you believe it?? As luck would have it, my old boyfriend called me up just as I was feeling pretty good about myself, and we met for drinks and, oops, I drank a little too much. . . .but just as things were about to heat up, I caught the eye of a dashingly handsome (in that slightly edgy, slightly anachronistic way), very roguish guy named James T. Kirk and we were inexplicably drawn to each other. . . strange, the romance never went beyond chaste kissing, for some reason. . .  

Oh, wait a second.  That was the Mirror Image, Parallel-Universe Ricki’s week.  (I knew that black leather jacket and greased back hair on the HH seemed oddly out of place!). Sorry ’bout that.

 Okay, so here’s what MY week was like: 

  • I marked exams, marked assignments, marked exams, marked papers, answered emails, marked exams, went to meetings, marked exams, marked exams. Finally finished the pile of exams!
  • I trudged through snow and rain and sleet with The Girls.  Twice a day.  In the snow.  And sleet. Having to wear a hat wrecked my hair.  Many times.
  • It snowed.  It snowed, snowed, snowed, and then snowed some more.  We have now exceeded the all-time record for snowfall in a single season in Toronto.  Something like 280 centimeters (about 110 inches).  Of snow. Fallen on the ground.  Snow.
  • I decided that I have to move somewhere where winter  (and snow) does not exist. 
  • I taught two cooking classes for the Upstairs series at the Real Canadian Superstores.  And for once, I remembered to bring my camera!  (See recipes and photos below).
  • I returned to WOCA, with even stronger resolve.  I foresee this ending up more like MOCA or even YOCA, as I seem unable to resist the allure of that evil temptress, chocolate.  I managed to avoid the dark devil during this past week (except for minute bites–see next bullet), but in inverse proportion to eating foods like nuts or dried fruits, which help assuage cravings.  Still, nothing baked, nothing with chocolate, nothing with added sweeteners, and I can at least feel good about that.
  • (Perhaps best of all): I managed to test out out FIVE (count ’em, five) recipes from my new cookbook by Nava Atlas, Vegan Express. I will post a genuine book review this week, but for today, will share the dishes from my cooking class (not literally, of course, since this isn’t really the alternative universe, which means food can’t be passed through the computer screen. . .but if I could do it, I would).

Okay, so not so shabby, I suppose, considering I was a psychological mess at the beginning of the week.  THANK YOU all again for your very dear comments.  Man, I wish I could invite you all over for an afternoon tea and baked goodies! Instead, my sincere gratitude will have to do. 

And so. . . .the cooking class.  Easy to replicate (even more so if you live on the Enterprise).  Sure, what the heck, go ahead and do try this at home. Here’s how (explained at warp speed):

  • First, get yourself an assistant*.  Have her prep all the food for you in advance by measuring, cleaning, peeling, chopping, and setting up the mise en place.
  • Put on apron and chef’s pillbox hat (Très à la mode).
  • Lead class: stir, chat, tell anecdotes, sauté, mix, process, gab, pour, tell jokes, combine, explain nutrients, spread, bake, plate, serve, and answer questions. Fun!
  • Enjoy your own sample servings of both dishes. . . recipes, below.

And it only took four bullet points (that’s two hours in real time).  I made these two dishes because they always seem to please non-vegetarians, and you never know who’ll turn up to these classes.  Oh, and they’re both gluten-free (if you serve the sauce over GF pasta, of course).  I’m also submitting this pasta recipe to Ruth of Once Upon A Feast, who hosts the popular event, Presto Pasta Nights.

These photos were taken on store plates–disposables–so there’s no pretty porcelain under these dishes.  Apologies!

Spaghetti with Lentil-Tomato Sauce  

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

 

 

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This recipe has been a staple in my house for so long (predating the HH, even) that I don’t remember any longer where it originated.  The grated parsnip provides a subtle, meaty taste (parsnips can be quite savory and earthy), without declaring itself too glaringly, as the bits tend to dissolve in the sauce as it simmers.  It’s also a perfect dish for all you Inter-Diet couples.  My HH simply adds his own ground beef or cut up pieces of sausage to the sauce after he dishes out his own. 

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

Avocado Pesto Salad  

 

 

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

 

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The salad is my attempt to invite a touch of spring into a dreary winter.  Because pine nuts are so lovely sprinkled on a salad, I’ve left them whole, and used avocado (which lends a wonderful richness to the dressing) blended with basil to replicate the pesto base.  Dress only as much as you’ll eat at one sitting–the salad wilts fairly quickly after it’s been dressed (whereas the opposite is true of me when I encounter that seductive Negative-James T Kirk character).

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

Pudding is a Virtue

February 21, 2008

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! PLEASE VISIT THE NEW SITE BY CLICKING HERE.

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Both our dogs contain a generous sprinkling of Border Collie, a breed known for its patience. As a working breed, BCs were meant to guard sheep all day; and since sheep are not exactly what you’d call wild and crazy guys, the BCs must be willing to sit still for a very long time. Moreover, they exhibit what’s known as the “Border Collie Stare”–that steely gaze that bores right through you  and makes even the most obstreperous mutton acquiesce to their wishes.

I’ve been the object of that stare, more times than I can tell you. You see, the house we live in is an “open concept” design, so the living room opens on to the kitchen, which opens on to the rest of the house.  After many hours of sweat (mine) and a lot of practise (theirs), I’ve trained The Girls to “stay out of the kitchen” on command.  Basically, this means they are not allowed to put paws to tile (but wood or carpet–the floor coverings of the living room–are acceptable) while I’m cooking.

Chaser learned fairly quickly by emulating Elsie that, if Mum’s cooking, it’s time to “take up the position.”  Situated at the border between living room and kitchen, they are willing to lie for hours–literally–until I finally finish my culinary experiments and reward them with a morsel of whatever I’m cooking, or a treat, depending on what’s in my pot or pan (no chocolate or onions, obviously, for them).  Now, that’s what I call patience.

And what has all this talk of breeds and patience to do with food? Well, when I started my Week of Chocolate Asceticism, I knew it would take no time before I craved something sweet and soothing.  And since I’ve also vowed to avoid added sweeteners–or pretty much anything baked or sweet–my options are severely limited.  But then I remembered:  Raw Pudding!  Cashews and carob and dates–oh, my!!  And for this recipe, despite its matchless simplicity (only 3 ingredients), patience is definitely required.  The Girls, however, never mind waiting for this one. (“Oooh, Mum, is this that date and carob thing you make?? We love that thing!! Can we have some?? When will it be ready?  Now?  WHEN???”)

Even though my One True Love will always be chocolate, I am a big fan of carob as well.  And I have nothing but admiration for fellow bloggers like Deb at Altered Plates and Veggie Girl, who regularly choose to bake with carob instead of chocolate. In fact, carob even made a chance appearance this week over at another blog, Have Cake, Will Travel.  So I felt it only fitting that I grace the blog with Raw Carob Cashew Pudding.  (“Oh, it IS that carob-date thing you make!  Is it ready yet, Mum?  Can we have some?  When??”). 

I was first introduced to carob years ago when I was a Teaching Assistant, at a university English Department party.  Another one of the TAs, a quintessential Child of the ’60s,  brought along two hippy-dippy dishes, quinoa salad and brownies made with carob.  She was one of those graceful, ethereal women who seems to glide effortlessly just above the ground as she moves, skirts undulating softly behind her (quite a feat, actually, since she was wearing a miniskirt, as I recall). 

Ms. Flower Child also spoke with the lilting, velvety voice of FM radio, the kind of voice that causes you to crane your neck and focus intently on her lips so you won’t have to repeat, “Pardon?” after every sentence she utters. So when I asked about the recipe for the brownies, and what was in them, I never quite caught the entire answer.  All I knew was that they tasted good, and I liked this newfangled ingredient, and I’d be using it again.

I ate quite a bit of carob over a two-year span several years ago, when I followed an ultra-strict, sweetener and fruit-restricted diet. I discovered that carob is naturally sweet (it’s also low in fat and surprisingly high in calcium).  At a local organic grocery store, I happened upon whole, dried carob pods. Resembling brown pea pods, they conceal diamond-hard (inedible) carob seeds inside.  But if you gently warm the whole pods in the oven for about 5 minutes, they soften, become pliant and chewy, almost like fruit leather.  Delicious!

 So, back to the pudding (see, I told you you’d need patience for this recipe).  This is actually a variation on a simple cashew cream, cashewcreamspoon.jpg a vegan cream substitute that’s perfect over pies, cookies, fruit, or other sweets.  I’ve taken the concept just a step further, using raw cashews (which produce a creamier product) as well as dates for sweetness, carob, and optional vanilla.  Three main ingredients–four if you add the vanilla–and the result is so rich and creamy, you’d swear it took hours to make.  (Oh, wait.  It sort of does take hours to make–but only the soaking part).

Oh, and The Girls like it, too. (“Okay, so does that mean we can have some now?  Can we? How about now? MUM??”)

Raw Carob-Cashew Pudding or Mousse

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

The hardest part of this recipe is having enough patience to blend the mixture thoroughly, until it’s sufficiently smooth and creamy. When I’m feel that gnawing impulse for something sweet, I’m tempted to dig in early, but I’m always sorry if I do. So don’t skimp on the blender time with this recipe–you’ll be rewarded with a truly rich and celestial pudding. 

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[The Girls, finally rewarded for their patience.]

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