Here’s how I was going to start this blog entry:

I simply can’t believe it–it snowed yet again yesterday.  Will this accursed winter never end? The drifts on the driveway (oh, lord, another few hours of shoveling!) have already enveloped my car in a duvet of white, and little tempests are performing pirouettes in our back yard, propelled along by the wind. 

The newscast today said that we’ve already received 72 cm. of snow this season (that’s about 33 inches), when the average for a Toronto winter is around 20 cm.  That’s more than triple the snow we usually have–pretty much a new record!!  That’s more snow than I can remember in the last decade!  That’s more snow than any human should reasonably be asked to shovel or trudge through or brush off their coats or blink against as they stumble through the assault of bitter cold flakes!  That’s just TOO. . . MUCH.  . . . SNOW!!!!!!! 

 But since that would have sounded totally juvenile and excessively emotional over, well, snow, I decided not to start my entry that way.  And so, instead, I will start it like this:

One of the things I enjoy about blogging is the ongoing discovery of new blogs I like to read, and, of course, learning about the people behind the blogs. Comments are great for this (and I never cease to be delighted–and always a bit amazed–each time I receive a new comment on any post). Memes are also useful this way, as they provide more information about the authors as well. 

And so it was particularly rewarding (pun intended!) when I discovered that a blogger I’ve recently “met,” and one whose blog I regularly enjoy, presented me with an “Excellent Blogger” award.  Whoo-hoo! Thanks so much, Romina!  I’m very honored and extremely delighted.  What a great way to enter into the weekend. (“We are so proud of you, Mum!  Um, so is this a reward of food, Mum?“)

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Part of my responsibility as a recipient is to pass along the award to others.  I’ll take a few days to mull it over before posting about it (I take my duties very seriously!).  In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about some other weighty issues.

While driving to meet with my book club cohorts the other night, I heard an interesting interview on the radio, and one that got me thinking.

[Short pause for puerile rant:  the book we were discussing was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, even though I wasn’t entirely enamoured of the author’s own portrayal of her personality during the year she spent hedonistically chowing down, assiduously seeking spiritual nirvana, or unintentionally attaining true love.  I found her writing to be evocative and entirely engaging, frequently burning with a hard, gem-like flame of well-crafted prose, yet still highly accessible and firmly rooted in the world of the mundane.

And so, you can only imagine the depths of my dismay when, while surfing the net in preparation for our discussion, I came across this piece of information.  Can you imagine a better way to ruin a perfectly good book??  The irony is palpable. Ah, well, there goes another movie I’ll never see.  *SIGH*].

Ahem. Sorry about that.  Back to the radio interview:  the host was chatting with Rick Gallup, the man who popularized the concept of the Glycemic Index, in his book The GI Diet Now, rather than being just another diet guru, Gallup is extremely well equipped to discuss such issues as blood sugar levels, lipids and hormones, as he was the past president of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.

Surprisingly quick-witted (not to imply that doctors can’t be funny, or anything), Gallup offered a wealth of information about the diet itself, and how to lose weight by eating whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy protein sources.  Basically, he was advocating a NAG-friendly diet.  That much, I already knew.  It’s how to stick with that diet that I find inordinately difficult.

Well, the interview provided one more item in my endless search for weight loss motivation, which I thought I’d share here.  Gallup suggested to people in his diet clinic that they keep a bag, box, basket, or any other container in the bathroom alongside their scale.  Then, as they lost weight, he said, they should place an item of equal weight into the container.  In other words, if you lost a pound, put a one-pound can (or box, or bag) of something into the bag.  The following week, if you lost 3/4 pound, add something of equal weight to the bag.  Eventually, you’ll have a bag that weighs quite a bit–just as much as you’ve lost (just be sure the items are non-perishable, or you’ll end up with a compost bin in your bathroom).

This seemed a brilliant idea to me, and I’m determined to try it out.  Imagine, if you lost 10 pounds, how heavy that bag would be!  In my case, if I were to lose my desired 40 pounds, the bag would actually be too heavy for me to lift!  Quite a sobering thought, as I am obviously already carrying that much weight around with me right now.

I’d love to add this tip to my (far too short) list of “What Actually Works,” but will wait until I’ve tried it out for a while. Of course, this presupposes that one actually loses weight.  Another sigh.

Silence, Snow, and Sweets

December 16, 2007

Two suburban blocks sure can make a difference.  I swear, we moved north–two blocks north–and suddenly, we’re living in the arctic.   

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This never seemed to happen at the old house: the snow is swirling madly about my window, displaced drifts gusting in a constantly shifting veil of wayward flakes. It looks like some crazy subterranean god just sneezed, big time.  Down on the ground, the drifts by the driveway have virtually enveloped my car entirely, and the street itself is obliterated.  I can make out the ambiguous shape of a neighbour’s pickup truck, snow plow at the helm, rhythmically rocking frontwards and back as he attempts to clear his own driveway.  Why bother?

I’ve not seen so much snow since I was a little girl, when it settled up to our shoulders and my sister and I spent hours digging out forts and spelunking through the intricate tunnel systems that evolved in our front yard.  (Well, given that my shoulders were a little closer to the ground in those days, I suppose it’s possible that today’s is actually more snow).  My mom would squeeze us into our snowsuits (mine was a briliant hunter green, I recall), hoods up and scarves wrapped tight across face and forehead so only a slit for eyes remained. 

She must have known we’d quickly wrench the scarves from our mouths, impatient to get going and uncomfortble with the frost that formed into crystals, almost instantly, where our breath had been. So as an added precaution, she’d smear Vaseline over our cheeks to prevent chapping or frostbite. This allowed us to stay out for hours, protected from the harsh elements and their effects on our tender faces. (It worked great, too; if only I were still willing to exit the house with a mug covered in greasy, glossy petrolatum, I could have perfectly smooth, not-in-the-least-bit-dry, skin over the winter months). 

snow2.jpg In a way, I’m not sorry the city is blanketed, even though it’s virtually immobilized and you can be sure that nothing at our house will take place outside these brick walls today.  (Now, the last time our city saw so much snow was probably in 1999, when we were hit with a similar massive storm, and the mayor called in the army to dig us out from under it . And, as I recall, for which he was relentlessly mocked by mayors in other, equally snowy, cities across North America).

For me, the insulation of snow creates a calm and quiet workspace (the perfect surroundings in which to post my Holidailies entry).  Thank goodness I don’t have to be anywhere else today.  What I do have to do is bake, bake, bake, something I’ve been missing since I started my marking marathon last week.  

The past few days have brought a few orders from regular customers trickling in, and I’ve been itching to do some of my own baking as well–new recipes to try out, experiments to endeavor, old standards to mix up so my HH can have his favorite Orange-Pistachio Scones or Lemon Bundt Cake over the holidays.

So, with the backdrop of tender, fluffy flakes settling on the windowsills; with Stravinsky’s Firebird filling the air (we’re supposed to hear it live, courtesy of the Kirov Orchestra, tomorrow evening–IF the roads are cleared by then); and with The Girls settled in front of our new fireplace (“We don’t care that it’s fake gas, Mum, it’s still pretty and warm!”), I’m off to the kitchen to fulfill orders and whatever other confections my heart desires. 

Hope you’re all warm and toasty today.

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Food and Warm Fuzzies

December 14, 2007

After a couple of weeks of planning and looking forward to a visit from my younger sister (we can call her the CFO), the trip was cancelled as of this morning because of the nasty storm on its way, and a forecast of 65 cm. (that’s  about 26 inches) of snow they’re expecting in Montreal.  Bummer.

It does, however, free up my weekend so that we can finally unpack the boxes still in the garage (forget about the 60 or so in the basement), hang curtains, post to Holidailies, set up chotchkes, organize my sock drawer, etc.  (“And spend time romping in the snow with us, right, Mum?  Right??”)

The aborted visit also got me to thinking about the nature of our social lives.  Here is the itinerary we’d planned:

  • Friday eve:  Sis arrives; go to our favorite Malaysian restaurant to decompress and chat over dinner.
  • Saturday AM:  sleep in; brunch at home.  Drive downtown and spend the morning browsing around Yorkville, stopping in at Whole Foods Market and the Grigorian, before heading to King Street to look at various furniture shops (even though I can’t afford any of it–but my sister, being gifted in interior design, was going to give me some hints on how to decorate this place on a budget).
  • Saturday eve:  take my sister out to dinner to celebrate her birthday.
  • Sunday:  back downtown for brunch; then to the train station to send her on her way.

Well, I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.  Food, food, eat, food, chew, food, swallow, eat, food, food, FOOD.

True, this list is more chow-centric than my typical weekend plans.  Still, why does the addition of another person–ergo, a social group–immediately bring with it the suggestion of eating? As we all approach this most social, and most feast-laden, times of the year, it’s pretty darned difficult to find even one activity that doesn’t revolve around food.  Rich, luscious, decadent, spiked, fatty, indulgent food. 

I can see how it makes sense, but still. Since our first-ever social interaction also involves nourishment (feeding at our mother’s breast), we are born to associate food with comfort, feeling soothed, and affection.  And isn’t that what we’d all like from our family and friends, especially at this time of year? (Well, except for the breast part, that is–at least, for most of us).  So maybe the formula (no pun intended) of socializing + food = warm, fuzzy feelings of satisfaction and contentment  is just civilization’s way of allowing people to feel good about spending time with other people, and ensuring that it continues to happen. 

Otherwise, why else would we all continue to voluntarily submit to these annual holiday dinners? Ah, well, there’s definitely more to examine on this topic (food for thought?  gaak!), but I shall leave it at that for now. . . and return to my mountain-turned-molehill of essays to mark.

(“Food always makes us happy, Mum, no matter who’s around.  And, you know, we’re still warm and fuzzy, even without it.”)

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 [Diet, Dessert and Dogs has moved!  If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

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

* * *

The snow here in the GTA this morning is relentless–curtains of white, ice pellets grazing your cheeks as you attempt, vainly, to walk the crunchy path to the local park to appease The Girls.  It was Chaser’s first experience with snow, and apparently (so my H.H. tells me), she loved it, bouncing and prancing and pawing at every crystallized chunk that scuttled her way along the road.  (“That stuff is awesome, Mum!  Can we go out again?  Can we? Huh? Huh?!”)

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[If you look really hard, you can see snowflakes against the fence.]

On mornings like this, I wish I had a fireplace before which I could curl up and just read, my latest book club book (as-yet unchosen, since it will be my pick this time round), one of the fifty or so I have stacked up in my office, the entire newspaper, magazines, or food mags.  But, hey, wait a second!  I do have a fireplace (albeit gas–ugh), one of the nicer features of this house.  Unfortunately, it’s still surrounded by boxes and as-yet unassembled bookcases and other detritus that we haven’t found a place for yet. 

But something about the snow and the cold, as we all know, elicits a strong desire for comfort foods. As if I don’t have enough cravings for chocolate, anyway.

In order to satisfy the urge and eat something relatively healthy, I decided to mix up my favorite vegan chocolate pudding.  Now, admittedly, there are at least 7,482 such recipes floating on the Internet and in various vegan cookbooks, but I still think mine is best.  It’s an amalgam of recipes I’ve read over the years for similar puddings, from the McDougall‘s original to the ubiquitous vegan chocolate mousse one finds everywhere. 

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This one is ultra-rich tasting, creamy and has a certain globby texture that reminds me exactly of old-fashioned, cooked, chocolate pudding.  Only this one is made with relatively low-fat silken tofu (the kind in the aseptic boxes), cocoa powder (lower fat than actual chocolate), and agave nectar instead of any refined sugar.  Chocolate bliss, truly. 

One caveat:  my photos do not do justice to this extraordinary dessert.  (In fact, the H.H. thinks it looks sort of like poo.  “Poo?  Did you say, ‘Poo,’ Mum?  But I love to eat poo!”).  Seriously, you have to try it.  Even the highly carnivorous H.H. loves it (despite its scatological appearance).

Heavenly Chocolate Tofu Pudding

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[This recipe will also appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog.  For more information, check the “Cookbook” button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]

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