A Bowl Lotta Love

March 4, 2009

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.”]  

[Thanks to everyone who left such sweet comments and encouragement for the hellish week of marking!  (And I know I still owe some of you emails. . . coming soon!) Some of you who are students noted that you’d be doing as much work on the other side of the red pen. Whether students, parents, teachers or the lucky few whose only connection to academia is reading about it in the newspapers–hope you all survived the past crunch week or so of midterms, study week, or finals. Now get ready, ’cause there’s a lengthy return post ahead–on to the food!]

1stbowl51

[Base of rice and buckwheatsautéed rapini and chard with onions and garlic; tahini-miso sauce; sprinkled with hemp seeds.]

I’m sure we’ve all met her (or perhaps we are her?): that woman who’s incredibly competent at dispensing affection, comfort, nurturing or support–yet seems to ignore her own emotional needs and physical well-being.

Well, I admit it, I’m as guilty as the next gal.  Ten days away from the DDD home base had me reflecting often on this whole notion of self-love.  Actually, that was only one among a plethora of topics on which I mused during the hiatus, which included (but was not limited to) the following: 

  • how much I miss blogging when I’m away.  I was struck by a true sense of void during this time, and it astounded me. Honestly, who are “they” who post studies about the Internet and  prophecies of doom regarding how it diminishes social skills or limits interactions with other people? Seriously.  In some cases, I’m in contact with blog buddies more often than my “in-person” friends (some of whom live only five minutes away).  Don’t let anyone tell you that the society of bloggers isn’t a bona fide community of lively, vibrant, and very much interactive people–all of you!
  • how many different ways one can answer the same exam question (more than you might think, but not quite as many as the meaning of life, the universe and everything).
  • how to create a tasty, grain-free breakfast pancake. I wanted something that didn’t require refined, or even whole-grain, flour–and I found it!  (more on that anon).
  • how this &%$!!?* winter refuses to retreat, even though it’s March already and why are you still hanging around, Mr. Jack Frost, can’t you tell you’re not welcome anymore and nobody wants you here, so just go away and don’t come back, ya big bully!
  • how, with the economy as bad as it is, I’m hoping the HH and I might still save for our dream home (okay, I’d be willing to cut some of the frills and just be happy with a daydream home).  And while we’re both incredibly lucky to still be gainfully employed, on the topic of saving money and stretching a dollar, I’ve been mightily inspired by the frugal and fantastic Melody over at MeloMeals.
  • why, once again, I have been willing to risk my health, well-being and future for the evil (and truly, ephemeral) charms of that sepia seductress, chocolate.

3rdbowl4

[Oat groats and amaranth base; grilled eggplant and grilled marinated tofu; broccoli, avocado and green onion; orange-fig sauce.]

Yes, folks, it’s time to focus on the “diet” portion of this blog yet again. 

When I first began to ponder how I’d spend my break from the college, I considered traveling to a new locale, attending a retreat, picking up old hobbies like sewing or knitting–but it never occurred to me I’d get sick instead.  Then, at my annual checkup last week, I discovered that my old candida afflction has reared its yeasty head yet again, and this time, with a potency that could rival the combined superpowers of the X-Men.  

I’ve decided that in order to rid myself of this recurring problem once and for all, I’ll need to return to the anti-candida diet (ACD).  I’ll be facing a highly restrictive diet and a few detoxes or cleanses along the way (no wonder I’ve been avoiding it).  But I’ve had it with the persistent cycle of diet, dessert and destruction (you thought I was going to say “dogs,” didn’t you? heh heh!). To paraphrase that seminal queen of weight loss, Susan Powter, “the insanity must stop!” (And what the heck ever happened to her, anyway?). 

I’m going on an anti-candida diet so I can be healthy.  So I can move more easily, and feel comfortable in my own body.  So I can express a little more self-love and self-care through my diet and lifestyle. (Anyone familiar with Sally’s fabulous blog already knows what I mean by this:  treating my body, mind and spirit with the kindness, reverence, and care it deserves.)  So I can enjoy a social life without being fixated on food. Oh, and so I can lose 40 pounds by my highschool reunion this May. **

My last “true” candida cleanse occurred nine years ago, and in the interim, my eating habits have slowly reverted to those that got me in trouble in the first place (chocolate too often; sweets too often; wine too often). After reading the diet on  this site (which is slightly less ascetic than the regimen I followed before), I think it’s doable (the only recommendation with which I disagree is to use aspartame or aseulfame, so I’ll just omit those).

To those of you who’ve been reading for a while, I understand if you’re skeptical, and I apologize.  After all, I’ve tried more than a few times to cut chocolate and sugar from my life.  Well, I’ve learned it’s never a great idea to publicly declare such a complete lifestyle overhaul on the blog, because later on, if you don’t meet your lofty goal, your initial vow is indelibly there for all the internet to see. With that in mind, I’ll restrict my candida commentary to the Progress Tracker page (may as well give it a new use, as I long ago stopped recording my weight over there).

And since I’ve already done a bit of baking over the past couple of weeks, I can intersperse the spartan dishes with more interesting fare.  If I play my screens right, you folks will barely notice a difference.

2ndbowl21

[Rice and brown lentil base; spinach leaves and steamed sweet potato wedges with chopped green onions; topped with almond-curry sauce.]

The first step is to prepare the system with a week or two of clean, whole-foods eating that doesn’t worry about yeast or fermentation (yeast and fermented foods will be cleared out next).   Rice or noodle bowls are a great place to start.

4thbow3

[Barley and amaranth base; grilled red pepper strips and onions; steamed broccoli; sprinkling of cashews and sunflower seeds; topped with tahini-miso sauce.]

Meals-in-a-bowl like these have become very popular at health-food restaurants and stores around North America.  There’s a local haunt that serves an amazing bowl called, appropriately, “The Mish-Mash Bowl.” Every meal contains either brown rice or quinoa, topped with your choice of four toppings from three categories (protein, veggies, or good fats), then drizzled with your choice of one or two dressings.

My own variation on the Mish Mash is a quartet of at least one healthy grain plus a protein, healthy fat, and complex carbohydrate (ie, veggies).  I was amazed at how satisfying–and how filling–a clean, healthy bowl can be.  The marriage of fresh, colorful veggies with chewy grains and the crunch of nuts or seeds is entirely enchanting (almost as enchanting as that vixen, chocolate–though in a different way, of course).

In putting these together, what I discovered rather quickly is that “the sauce makes the bowl.” A grain bowl sans effective topping is sort of like a perfect outfit without the right shoes or accessories–it may be good quality, it may be tailored , it may even sport a designer label, but without the proper accoutrements, it’s just a length of beige, beige, beige. 

With a winning sauce, however, these bowls are stellar; they’re delectable; they evoke impatient yearning; they’re Zagat-worthy.  And, much like those lines of toddlers’ clothing that allow the kids to dress themselves by choosing one top and one pre-coordinated bottom, they’re fun to mix and match, just to see what comes up.  

The combinations here are simply starting points to get you going; play around with different grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, veggies, and sauces.  Use these sauces with any combination you please, or go with my mixes–either way, you’ll be treating yourself with love.   

**I asked this question entirely tongue in cheek–so please, no need to send me emails detailing how unhealthy a 40-pound weight loss in 8 weeks would be!  I have no intention of actually losing that much.  Besides, at the rate I’ve been going this past year, a FOUR pound loss by May would be nothing short of miraculous.

Tahini-Miso Sauce

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

4thbowl21

Almond and Curry Sauce 

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

2ndbowl1

Orange Fig Sauce

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

3rdbowl3

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

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this fourth edition, I’m focusing on Coconut. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the third entry on coconut.]

Honestly, I can’t even remember the last time I had fried rice before I made this dish.  My mother used to cook a toned-down version of it when we were kids (basically white rice and a splash of soy sauce), and I most likely ordered some of the stuff at a Chinese restaurant back in the 1980s, but other than that, I hadn’t even thought about the concept in years–I mean, it’s called fried rice, right?  

Perhaps it was serendipity, or perhaps synchronicity–or both.  A few of weeks ago, I had bought some kale with the intention of making raw kale salad. But the avocados, despite having ripened on the counter for a few days, were still hard as baseballs. In the meantime, the kale had exhausted itself in the refrigerator and reclined at the back of the shelf, sprawled limply over the cauliflower.  That kale needed to be given a purpose, and fast.

I’d been catching up on my blog reading when this recipe , from Maureen and Aly’s blog, Mad About Udon, leapt out at me. True, the original called for collards rather than kale, but I’ve learned that most greens are amenable to standing in for their fellow leafys in most instances.

The simplicity of this dish belies its deliciousness. It’s quick, easy, and totally alluring. I realize it’s called fried rice, but, given the number of veggies in the mix (I enlisted some of that cauliflower in addition to the beans and greens), it might as well be called “Veggies with Coconut and Rice.” Whatever the appellation, it’s fantastic.  I made this three times in quick succession, and it’s now become the number one recipe of choice when we have kale in the house (having overtaken the previous frontrunner–raw kale salad). 

Thanks to Maureen for creating this masterpiece, in which coconut features prominently.  And I think it’s totally fitting that today’s recipe comes courtesy of another Canadian, since this weekend marks our Canadian Thanksgiving! if you’re celebrating this weekend, why not consider this dish as an alternative to those tired ole brussels sprouts?

To those of you giving thanks (or if you’ve simply got a day off), have a great long weekend!

Savory Fried Rice with Kale and Coconut

Adapted fom Mad About Udon

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW SITE, BY CLICKING HERE.

With just the perfect melding of salty, spicy, and crunchy, this hearty and flavorful side dish is almost a meal on its own.  As Maureen suggests, use Bragg’s instead of regular soy sauce to make this entirely gluten-free. Since I’ve altered the preparation slightly, I’m including my own version here.

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW SITE, 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!  And you’ll find lots more anti-candida recipes on the new site as well. 🙂

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.”]  

* * *

These days, I can’t think of a single person I know who isn’t stressed.  I mean, with all our modern amenities, our time-saving devices, our plugged-in technology, most of us are still plagued with a constant sense “never enough” or “not up to snuff.”  And I’m not too proud to admit that I myself am probably preternaturally sensitive to stressors in my life.  In fact, it’s possible that I react just a wee bit more forcefully to stress than the average person. Truth be told, I find it downright impossible to cope some days.  Oh, all right, fine; I admit it:  I’m basically a slobbering mass of quivering kanten who’s totally incapable of coping with excess pressure.  (I mean, do you know anyone else who had to quit meditation because it was too stressful?)

It’s not as if most of us can just take off for a few weeks to our  spectacular retreat in New Zealand when we feel overwhelmed by life’s little curve balls (how lovely for you that you could, though, Shania).  Some, like the HH, play records (as opposed to CDs) to de-stress; others play with their home décor, wardrobe or hairstyle. Some play the clarinet.  And then there are those who simply play around

Me, I like to play in the kitchen.

Throughout my recent hiatus from the blog, I kept encountering interesting recipes or ideas for baked goods and my hands would itch to get back to cooking.  There’s something immensely soothing about swishing a wooden spoon over and over through a clear, fragrant broth, or chopping mindlessly as carrots are transformed into mounds of tiny, uniform cubes on the cutting board.

But what to cook? As I mentioned last time, I’ve embarked once again on an anti-candida diet for a few weeks, which means my diversions in the kitchen will have to comply with the guidelines of that eating plan. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the anti-candida diet is basically a nutritional means to reduce the candida albicans yeast that’s present in and around us all the time, but which occasionally multiplies out of control in certain people (those with compromised immune systems, those with blood sugar issues, those with hormonal imbalances, etc.)   My personal weakness is an addiction to sweets; sugar is the number one preferred vittle for those microscopic opportunists.  

In order to reduce the number of candida organisms down to a “normal” level, the anti-candida program (I’ll just call it ACD from now on) commonly recommends cutting out any foods that could potentially feed the yeast or encourage it to grow.  In its most stringent form, the diet would eliminate:

  • anything containing any kind of sugar (cane, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, etc.–plus fruits, fresh and dried);
  • simple carbohydrates, which convert to glucose very quickly (flours, pasta, bread, muffins, cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, biscuits, crackers, cornstarch and similar starches, and any other baked goods of any kind; candies, chocolate, ice cream, pudding, anything candy-like; white potatoes, white rice and any other white grains)
  • foods that contain mold or fungus or encourage it to grow (yeast is a fungus, after all): mushrooms, peanuts, cashews, melons, cheeses;
  • the most common allergens or foods that could cause allergic responses (which trigger the yeast): dairy, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy foods;
  • foods that are fermented or might encourage fermentation (on which yeast feeds): alcohol, vinegars, all condiments (no ketchup, sorry); soy sauce, etc.
  • anything artificial, processed, containing chemicals or additives, imitation or artificial seasonings and flavorings and colorings;
  • pop, fruit juice, presweetened drinks, coffee, tea.

Right about now, you may be wondering, “what the heck CAN you eat??”  Good question.  The basic list of “permitted” foods is actually shorter than those that are prohibited.  Still, there’s quite a bit left that’s both tasty and nourishing:

  • all vegetables except very high-glycemic ones (such as white potatoes, corn, etc.)
  • whole, gluten-free grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, teff, etc.)
  • beans and legumes
  • some nuts and most seeds
  • water
  • natural, cold-pressed oils (especially olive oil)
  • a bit of lemon juice
  • stevia (a natural herbal sweetener that doesn’t affect blood sugar levels)

I was leafing through the book that became my ACD Bible when I was first on the diet about 10 years ago (called The Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook), and I have to admit I began to despair a little.  Life without pancakes on Sunday mornings?  Life devoid of fresh, juicy fruits? Life sans a little tipple on occasion?  How would I cope?  What could I eat when the HH and I went out to dinner?  What would I do when my friends invited me to Starbucks to catch up?  It was starting to feel mighty stressful around here.  So I exhibited my usual reaction when I’m feeling stessed:  I got into the kitchen when I couldn’t stand the yeast. 

After consulting with a few classmates currently practising as holistic nutritionists, I was reassured that the ACD diet had been revised in recent years.  Considered unduly restrictive (you think??) it’s since been amended to better reflect current trends in the fields of nutrition and scientific research.  Apparently, some sweet foods can now be included as long as they’re low on the glycemic index or GI (which means they don’t raise blood sugar levels very quickly). A low GI denies the yeast its main source of nutrition–glucose. In other words, this time round, I can include most nontropical fruits (such as apples, some pears, berries, or peaches) in my menus, as well as minute amounts of agave nectar, a natural sweetener that’s also low-glycemic. 

Scanning the ingredients of my refrigerator for inspiration, the first thought that occurred to me was to cook up some kitchari.  This Ayurvedic cleansing stew is a flexible recipe that always features rice, mung beans, and certain spices; beyond that, anything goes. It seemed perfect for that little flock of cauliflower florets waiting patiently to make themselves useful. There was also a lone sweet potato perched on the counter (the only survivor of the Sweet Potato and Ginger salad I made the other day), so those were my veggie choices, but you can use whatever you like or have on hand. The HH thinks this dish bears an unfortunate resemblance to Klingon gach, but I love its mushy, nubby base and nourishing, comforting broth.

The stew simmers gently for almost an hour, infusing your entire home with the fragrant, soothing aromas of Indian spices as it bubbles.  It may have been intended as a cleansing stew, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of flavor.  One serving of this, and your stress will evaporate, right into the swirling plumes of steam emanating from your bowl. 

Since the mung beans feature so prominently in this dish, I’m submitting it to Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook for her second My Legume Love Affair event.

Kitchen Sink Kitchari (loosely adapted from this recipe)

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

I soaked the rice and beans overnight before cooking, but that step is optional.  If you don’t soak your beans overnight, use the quick-soak method:  cover with boiling water, bring to the boil, and let sit, covered, for an hour.  Then drain and cook as you would pre-soaked beans.

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! TO VISIT THE NEW SITE, PLEASE CLICK 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.” 

Back when I was an undergraduate at the University of Windsor, my first boyfriend and I (hiya, Mark! How’s tricks?) would regularly venture across the Ambassador bridge to the Greektown in Detroit (quite literally, a stone’s throw away).  That’s where I first tasted saganaki–kefalotyri cheese (like an aristocratic feta) doused in brandy and set aflame in the pan, right by your table, to raucous chants of “OPA!” and clapping from anyone in the vicinity.  The semi-melted cheese, crispy on the outsideand soft on the inside, was chewy, melty, oily, salty (basically any adjective ending in “-y”) and I absolutely adored it plonked on big, cushy pieces of Greek bread.

When the HH and I got together, we lived near the Greek area of Toronto and regularly indulged in our fair share of saganaki as well. Then I was diagnosed with IBS and changed my diet dramatically. Basically, I abandoned saganaki along with the rest of the restaurant’s menu–it was all Greek to me (or, at least, to my digestive system).

But there was one item in which I could still indulge, and still eat with gusto and impunity: dolmades.    

Even if you don’t recognize the name, you’re probably familiar with these bite-sized stuffed grape leaves.  Like my mother’s cabbage rolls of yore, the dolmades use smaller, softer grape leaves and roll them around a log of rice filling.  And while they are most often served with ground meat, they can be found in vegetarian versions as well, which I enjoy immensely.

I’ve always dreamt of making my own, home-made, dolmades. It’s a shame, then, that I’m just basically too lazy to do so.  Who wants to spend 3 hours of prepping and rolling just so the HH and I can devour them in 10 minutes?  And that’s where Deconstruction came in.

In university, I “studied” a literary theory called Deconstruction, which supposedly demonstrated how language has no inherent meaning, and words are just representations of our preconceived, culturally determined notions (the approach was characterized, primarily, by the generous use of parentheses, dashes and slashes in their writing.) 

Well, I hated Deconstruction. In fact, if someone had (de)constructed Deconstruction and left it to fade into oblivion in its little de/con(structed) sentence frag(me)nts, I would not have minded one bit. I recall sitting round seminar tables during my M.A. degree and squirming as I listened to the other students pontificate about Lacan, Foucault, Derrida, and a non-linear group of other the(or)ists.  I kept thinking, “What the heck are these people talking about?! This makes no sense to me.”  (Later, after years of psychological trauma believing I was a numbskulled cretin, I discovered that none of them actually knew what they were talking about, either; they were just better at tossing around all that postmodern, poststructuralist, etymological, phenomenological mumbo-jumbo). 

My favorite use of this approach was the (now famous) re-structuring of the word “therapist” as “(the)rapist,” supposedly exposing our culturally-specific, misogynistic, subtext of the word. But I think the theory reached its all-time apex of absurdity in the form of a book we were asked to study as PhD students, in which the author filled individual (separate, unbound) pages with random words, piled the pages into a box like a set of stationery, then asked the students to dump the contents of the box onto a large table, shuffle the pages, and critique the results. I don’t remember any of the “re-visioning” of the text we came up with, but I am fairly certain that many a PhD student who’d “read” that book had a good, long supply of birdcage liners for many years to follow.

And so, in an ironic return to the reviled principles of Deconstruction, I decided to focus my attention not on the hidden meanings in the structure of words, but in the hidden flavors in the structure of grape leaves. The resultant Mediterranean Rice Casserole is an unconventional, unstructured mixture of brown rice, chopped collards (which stand in for grape leaves here) and spices reminiscent of the original dish.  It both is/and is not an accurate rendition of dolmades, and your interpretation of its flavor shifts constantly, depending on the particular arrangement–never the same twice–of individual elements in each specific bite.

The flavors will remind you of a long-ago meal in a Greek restaurant.  At the same time, the structure of the dish will remind you of a child’s kaleidoscope, ever shifting as you peer into the tube. Is there any way to interpret a consistent meaning for this dish?  Is there any signficance to the particular arrangement of fragmented colors in the casserole?  Can we extract some symbolic, gender-specific and pre-existing cultural stereotype from this dish?

Naw. So let’s just forget about all that theory, get ready to eat, and heartily par(take) of this de/lec(table) meal.

OPA!

Mum, you’re really not making any sense here. . . but can we deconstruct the leftovers?” 

Mediterranean Rice Casserole

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

A great way to use up extra rice and any kind of green leafy vegetables, this dish comes together quickly and works well as both a main course or a side. 

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.”]  

 

Somewhere around the first week of December (either that or the 3rd day there’s snow on the ground, whichever comes first), I decide I’ve had enough of winter.  Bah!  Who needs lawns covered in a glistening, pristine blanket of white?  Who needs billowy undulations of snow-covered hills along the roadside?  Who needs that dainty spray of unique, lacy flakes as they gently descend from the heavens?  Not I!   

Despite all its awe-inspiring beauty, winter also brings with it a whole host of evils: treacherous patches of “black ice” concealed beneath a thin veneer of fresh white powder; knee-high snowdrifts that are agony to traverse in my ponderous, barely-warm-enough galoshes; wooly scarves pulled high over the nose (must protect my delicate proboscis from all that cold air whipping around, after all), causing impaired vision as my glasses fog up from the vapour of my heaving breath; and The Ordeal of the Walk, with its multiple layers of clothing, toque pulled low on the forehead, aforementioned scarf, earmuffs, double-layered gloves, and two wacky canines, each hauling on a leash in an attempt to leap and gambol, totally oblivious to the fact that my being upright is only a temporary state in this dreadful weather.  

Right.  For me, winter is hellish.  The only things that make it even barely tolerable are two major comforts: number one, my friend Gemini I’s country “cottage,” (a palatial residence that offers far more amenities and techno-toys than the city abode in which I normally dwell), and number two, comfort food.

Like most people, when I think “comfort foods,” what comes to mind are those dishes that populated my childhood as well as those I currently seek out when feeling blue.  These fall into two basic categories as well:  sweet, and savory.  In addition, my favored comfort foods tend to be both soft and warm.  The squishier, the better.  And if they can be cooked twice as long as the recipe suggests, well, we’ve hit the jackpot.  

Many of the savory dishes I used to eat are no longer welcome in my diet, but they are nonetheless ones that conjure fond memories (and ones my mother used to cook regularly):  salmon patties doused in ketchup; thick and hearty potato soup with corn kernels; baked beans (the canned variety), occasionally gussied up with maple syrup or hotdogs; or overcooked hamburgers alongside mashed potatoes and green beans. 

Of course, the “sweet”category still reigns during the frigid winter months:  slow cooked, (or better yet, baked) oatmeal and raisins (though I now consume the steel-cut variety instead of the instant packets we had back then); warm and gooey chocolate chip cookies; sticky, just-out-of-the-oven, tender and delicate cinnamon rolls; and the Mother of All Comfort Foods: rice pudding. 

ricepud1.jpg When my sisters and I were kids, the rice pudding my mother made most often was a baked version poured raw into a casserole dish and left in the oven for an hour.  What was supposed to end up as a homogenous mixture of custard and grains inevitably turned out as a hardened mass of uncooked rice settled below a thicker layer of eggy custard, which my sisters and I would scrape off without touching the grains. Our preferred rice pudding in those days was the canned variety, an overly sweet concoction of nearly-disintegrated rice in a suspension of various chemical compounds that approximated a pudding-like consistency.  Yum.  

These days, when I think of rice pudding, I aim for something a little more sophisticated; and I  no longer eat polished white rice in any case. So imagine my delight when I discovered a recipe for Brown Basmati Pudding, uniting brown basmati rice, fragrant spices and coconut milk, in Audrey Alsterberg and Wanda Urbanowicz’s ReBar: Modern Food Cook Book.   The perfect combination of urbanity and unpretentious comfort, this pudding seemed the ideal contribution to the Monthly Mingle hosted by Meeta at What’s for Lunch, Honey?.  The theme this month?  Comfort Foods. 

The final product was, after all, divine, and very grown-up.  With a smooth, creamy base cradling tender yet solid grains of rice, mingled with plump, juicy raisins, the pudding was warmed throughout by the subtle interweaving of cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger. Rich, sweet, soothing–warm or cold, this rice pudding is the perfect antidote to winter. In fact, it almost makes the ice and snow bearable.  

Almost.

Brown Basmati Pudding with Coconut, Cardamom and Ginger (from ReBar Modern Food Cook Book)

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Although I followed the recipe fairly closely, I did substitute ground spices for the cardamom and cinnamon, because I like my spices cooked right into my pudding.  I used 1/8-1/4 tsp. cardamom and about 2 tsp. cinnamon.

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