[Okay, so the post title is a bit obscure (I was alluding to Four Weddings and a Funeral)–but with the Oscars coming up in a couple of days, and with my having seen, hmmn, let’s see–a total of “zero” of the movies, I wanted to make reference to that grand little Golden Guy in some way or other in this post. ]

bdaycakeslice

[Slice of birthday cake: chocolate layers filled with chocolate buttercream frosting, all topped with Sweet Potato Frosting]

It’s almost time for midterms at the college where I teach, so I’m afraid I’ll  be MIA from the blog for a little while (not to be confused with the recently balloon-bellied, singing-at-the-Grammys, went-into-labor-and-gave-birth-the-next-day MIA).  But before I bid you all adieu, I thought I’d mention three festivities leading up to said exams. 

Shindig One: The most recent celebration we enjoyed here in the DDD household was an intimate birthday dinner for my friend Eternal Optimist (consisting of just the EO, the HH, and me).We three enjoyed a spectacular, yet simple meal of Potato-Miso Soup (Alisa’s uniquely delicious recipe: satiny smooth, rich and slightly yeasty from the hint of miso–in fact, this was the second time I’ve made this in a week!); trusty Tagine of Quinoa with Chickpeas, Olives and Prunes (always a hit around here); garlic sautéed rapini and collards; and a special b-day cake  (chocolate layers with sugar-free chocolate buttercream frosting (both from Sweet Freedom) and the Sweet Potato Frosting I wrote about a while back.  

potmisosoup

[Alisa’s Creamy Potato Miso Soup]

It was grand to spend a leisurely evening together fêting a dear friend. The EO also brought along her own pooch, another border collie cross, and The Girls were in heaven.  (“We love having our friends over, too, Mum!  Except next time, there should be a cake that we can eat as well.”) 

Shindig Two: In addition to the birthday, the dinner was also occasion for a spontaneous mini-celebration in honor of the cookbook finally reaching the publisher.  After numerous delays in formatting and glitches with the cover, it’s finally on its way!  My publishing rep called yesterday to confirm that she received the files and their part of the book’s production will begin next week.  YIPPPPPPEEEEEE!!  (Of course, this means it will still take about three months before the book is in print, but it is out of my hands at this point).  I can’t even begin to express what a relief that is!  So we had a little toast in honor of Sweet Freedom last evening as well.

Shindig Three: Despite mountains of marking, I’ll be peeking in periodically at the Academy Awards, that shindig to beat all shindigs, that tribute to all things silicone and Juvéderm and Botox, that massive glitterati ego-massage that will take place on Sunday evening.  From the Barbara Walters interviews to the Joan Rivers gaffes to the melodramatic and slurred acceptance speeches, I love it all.  And even if I haven’t actually seen any of the movies, who cares?  That’s not what the Oscars are all about, anyway!

Before I depart on break, I thought it might be fun to leave you with a little midterm quiz of your own to ponder while I’m away (and the best part–it doesn’t matter whether you know the answers or not!).  I’ll reveal the “correct” responses when I get back (though with a bit of sleuthing, it should be fairly easy to find them before then).  

bdaycakewhole2

[Chocolate birthday cake in all its uncut glory]

A Diet, Dessert and Dogs Mid-Term Quiz

Instructions: Please answer each of the following questions.  Note that this is an open-blog test; answers can be found in previous entries.  Please double space your answers. 

1)  DDD stands for:

a) The 2009, eco-friendly version of the pesticide “DDT”

b) Pamela Anderson’s bra size (now that she’s had a breast reduction)

c) a cutsie way to refer to “3-D” movies

d) the name of this blog.

2) “NAG” refers to

a) the HH’s endearing nickname for me;

b) the ol’ grey girl who ain’t what she used to be;

c) a healthy way of eating that includes whole, unprocessed, organic foods.

3) Ricki’s favorite food is:

a) chocolate

b) chocolate

c) chocolate

d) all of the above

4) “LC” stands for

a) Lon Chaney

b) Lewis Carroll

c) Love Chocolate!

d) Life Companion

5) Complete this phrase:  “Rocker Guy (He of the —)”

a) broken guitar

b) off his rocker 

c) rock collection

d) black leather pants

6) Ricki loves blogging because:

a) of all the amazing people she’s “met” in the blog world

b) it’s always fun to read other blogs and learn about new foods

c) reading your comments on her blog is the high point of her day (truly)

d) YOU GUYS ARE SIMPLY THE BEST!

I’m sure you all got an “A”!  Have a great time at the Oscars, all, and see you in a week or so! 😉

Last Year at this TimeMy Favorite Mistake:  Savory Filled Breakfast Crepes

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!

If you’re reading this, you’ve landed on the old site. Please visit the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs by clicking here.

As always, thanks for reading. I look forward to hearing from you at the new site.

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

 

cabbagesoup5

Now is the discontent of our winter.

The dozen or so of you who were reading my blog last year at this time probably remember how much I hate the snowy season.  (How much, you ask?  As much as Gepetto hates dishonesty.  As much as Ellen loves Portia.  As much as the calories in a deep-fried Mars Bar (with whipped cream on top).  As much as union disagrees with management.  As much as my eternal incredulity at the popularity of Julia Roberts.)   This morning, when I emitted a plaintive little lament about the fact that we’ve already surpassed last year’s (record-breaking) snowfall for this date, the HH helpfully piped up, “Yeah, and we’ve still got over a month more of this to go!”  Gee, thanks, sweetheart.

So, what to do about a wall of pelting snow every time you leave the house,  ice crystals forming on your eyebrows, the grey rime that coats your glasses like vaseline on a camera lens? 

Make soup, that’s what. 

When I was a carefree singleton* back in the early 90s, I developed a Friday evening cooking ritual.   After arriving home from work, I’d change into sweats and a T-shirt, then spend most of the evening cooking food for the following week.  By the end of the week, I was usually too pooped to socialize anyway, and I found cooking to be incredibly meditative.  (Besides, if anything better male intellectually stimulating came up instead, I wasn’t irrevocably tied to my plan; I’d just cook the following day).  I’d pack the prepared dishes into plastic containers, then freeze them for consumption later on.  A relaxing evening plus seven days of healthy, homemade food–a pretty good arrangement, I thought.

In those days, I tended to cook a lot of soups.  Perhaps I was subconsciously emulating my mom, whose chicken soup graced our stovetop every Friday evening as far back as I can remember. In fact, the very first recipe I cooked in my very first apartment was soup–split pea and ham, as I recall (which is odd, since even then I didn’t really like meat, and I’d never tasted ham at all before that–or since).  In the interim, I’ve expanded my repertoire a bit, enjoying a variety of traditional or exotic or unusual soups over the years.  With its ability to embrace any and all stray vegetables, then bathe them in a warm, soothing broth, vitamin and mineral-rich soup is an ideal meal-in-a-bowl. 

Strangely, once the HH and I began seeing each other, I all but stopped making soups on Friday nights (he seemed to think our courtship should take place alongside a wine bottle rather than a stockpot).  Then, a couple of weeks ago, I received a copy of Nava Atlas’s newly released Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons  (this is a 4th edition of her earlier Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons) as part of the book’s virtual tour.   Suddenly, soup was back on my radar.  And I must tell you, I think this book has singlehandedly renewed my zeal for soup making. 

The book is divided by season, so it made sense that the fall and winter offerings would appeal most right now, with innovative and interesting combinations like Broccoli, Apple and Peanut Soup or Almond-Brussels Sprouts Soup (which I just enjoyed for lunch today–splendid!), and classics like Hearty Barley-Bean Soup or Minestrone.  But the spring and summer were equally tantalizing, with recipes for Creole Eggplant Soup and Gingery Miso-Spinach Soup and Strawberry Colada Soup.  (Now I have yet another reason to wish winter would end soon.)

With our seemingly irrepressible mountains of snow (now taller than the HH, who is over 6 feet/1.8 meters) outside, a hearty winter stew seemed just the right antidote. This Sweet and Sour Cabbage and Bread Stew is a perfectly warming, filling, tasty combination, with a substantial broth, in which you simmer a variety of winter veggies, all imbued with a subtle sweet and piquant tang. Initially, the HH was a bit reluctant to try it (paradoxically, the guy will eat anything and everything if it’s derived from an animal, but is entirely unadventurous when it comes to vegetable dishes).  After the first few spoonfuls, however, he pronounced it “a keeper” and was content to have nothing more than this for dinner. 

I’m happy to say that I’m even looking forward to getting back in the swing of Friday evening soup-a-thons. And these days, I won’t be cooking alone  (hear that, HH?).

Mum, you know that we’d love to help you cook, too, if we could. There’s just this little matter of the ‘no opposable thumbs’ thing. But we’re still more than happy to help clean up the leftovers.” 

* Okay, I was never “carefree,” but more like “unattached, at loose ends, having no weekend plans.”  The closest I’ve ever gotten to “carefree” was probably during that time before I embraced all the responsibilities and anxieties of adulthood–like, maybe, when I was three.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage and Bread Stew

from Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons

by Nava Atlas

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

cabbagestew2

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! PLEASE VISIT THE SHINY NEW HOME OF DDD BY CLICKING HERE.

curriedsoupspoon

Years ago (oops, make that a decade), during the tumultuous year after my starter marriage dissolved, I lived with my friend Gemini I.  As two single thirty-somethings interested in social events or activities that might bring us into contact with eligible men, we decided to try out some cooking classes (what were we thinking?  We might as well have looked for guys in the pantyhose department at Macy’s.  .  . oh, wait a sec: apparently, in Australia, that’s exactly where you might meet some guys these days). 

In any case, we signed up for one series run by a well-heeled Toronto chatelaine who’d attended Le Cordon Bleu (it was only a weekend seminar, but she never told us that) and decided to teach classes out of her home.  It took just one evening, and I was hooked; after that, Gemini I and I attended about half a dozen more classes as well.  It’s not that I actually learned very much; and the food, while fine, wasn’t the most spectacular I’d had, either. But oh, what a house!

Oh my, how I envied her house.  Situated beside a thickly forested ravine on a cul-de-sac in the tony Rosedale area, Ms. Culinati’s residence was a massive, ivy-covered, stone-and-brick Tudor style mansion of at least 5,000 square feet, almost more like a museum than a home.  At over 100 years old, the building’s interior had been completely renovated and rendered ultra-modern inside.  The setup was perfect for cooking classes: after passing beneath the towering entryway, we participants filed across the open-concept first floor (tiled in marble), toward a state-of-the-art kitchen just off the entrance.  There were six cushy stools lined up against one side of a wide, grey and black granite peninsula, which also divided the room and separated us from the cooking area. 

Ms. Cordon Bleu held forth on the opposite side of the counter behind the built-in stainless steel stovetop, prepping ingredients and chattering about the best shop in Paris to buy Le Creuset, the plumpest, most perfect berries at All the Best on Summerhill (even back then, I recall that a pint–about  500 ml.–of strawberries cost over $4.00 at that store), or how she flew to New York last weekend to pick up the very best fleur de sel (because really, you simply couldn’t use anything less).  

Despite the fact that our personal orbits existed in completely different universes, I still enjoyed the recipes, the skillfully selected wines that accompanied them, and the stolen glances around the rest of the house as I ostensibly attended to our cooking.  And, of course, it was always rewarding to have an evening out with Gemini I.

curriedsoupclose1

Most of the dishes I encountered in those classes, I will never make again, either because they contain ingredients I no longer eat, or because they contain ingredients far too extravagant for everyday consumption (last I heard, her courses had morphed into all-out travel tours, wherein participants flew to Tuscany for a week to cook and live together in a villa.  Who are these people, and how can I be written into the will? Just asking).

Still, almost despite herself, in one class Ms. C.B. provided us with this recipe for Curried Root Vegetable Chowder with Dumplings.  And while the original soup contained chicken broth, butter and wheat flour, it was a cinch to convert.

I’ve loved this chowder since the first time I slurped it back in the 1990s.  It’s one of the easiest soups you’ll ever make (and while the dumplings are marvelous and do elevate the broth an echelon, you can just as easily forego the sophistication, toss in some elbow pasta, and happily spoon this up for a quick weekday dinner). Once the veggies are chopped, it’s a matter of a quick sauté, a splash of prepared broth, and a sprinkling of ONE spice: mild curry powder. It also makes use of an underused, but very tasty, root veggie: celery root.

It sounds almost too simple, I know; but believe me, the result will astonish you. The varying levels of sweetness from the different roots, along with the whisper of curry, combine for a soothing, warming and entirely captivating dish. This is one soup you’ll want to stay at home for. In fact, it’s the perfect soup to charm those eligible guys–that is, once you find them. 

This month’s No Croutons Required is asking for soups or salads with pasta.  I’m hoping these dumplings count. The event was started by Lisa and Holler and is this month being hosted by Holler.

Curried Root Vegetable Chowder with Dumplings

(adapted from a very old recipe from The Art of Food Cooking School)

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

curriedsouptop

This is the perfect soup to serve to guests; the dumplings elevate this to a fancier level, yet the soup is down to earth and very appealing.  For a gluten-free option, omit the dumplings or use your favorite dumpling recipe with GF flour.

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

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chiliside

The three of you who were reading my blog last year at this time may recall that I am not a fan of winter.  “What?” the rest of you ask, “and you from Montreal?” 

Well, I’m here to tell you that being born in a certain place doesn’t automatically predispose one kindly toward the weather of said location (nor does it predispose one to winter sports; in other words, no, that’s not a tatoo on my rear, but a lingering bruise from a skating accident back in 1981).  To me, the ideal climate would be temperate, neither too hot nor too cool (I’m thinking between 68 and 80 Fahrenheit, or 20 and 22 Celsius), with sun about 95% of the time (just enough rain to ensure there’s no drought) and terrain surrounded by lush, grassy, fragrant forests with treetops that sway and quietly rustle in the breeze, like Hawaiians doing the hula. Oh, and no bugs.  And no snakes.  Or spiders.  And, what the heck, may as well throw in a yellow brick road, while you’re at it.*

But here we are, too far into November to deny the imminent crystalline entombment, and I must face the fact: it will be winter soon.  And what is there to do?  Generally, when I’m feeling down, my options fall into two categories:  1) food-related; and 2) dog-related.  As I write this, The Girls are sleeping off their early walk with the HH; and so, it seems, the next step is alimentary, my dear.

While baking is always my first instinct in the kitchen, I do enjoy cooking as well.  These days, it’s rare for me to spend any more time than necessary making dinner (read: 20 minutes, tops), but yesterday, I felt the need for the extended, meditative experience of slow cooking. In the morning, I loaded the dutch oven with dried beans and water; and by 7:00 PM, we were feasting on my age-old, many-times-refined, much-tweaked recipe for chili with mixed beans and “ground turkey.” 

chilitop

[Seems I still haven’t quite mastered the focus on my dandy new camera, but you can still make out the meaty-looking crumbles in there, can’t you?]

When I was a kid, I used to think chili acquired its name because it was meant to be eaten in cold weather.  While it’s true that this soup-cum-stew is best served in cool weather, it wasn’t until I began to read up on Indian cuisine that I discovered the name actually referred to a spice blend often used in the mix. Trusty Wikipedia tells me that Chili con Carne is the official dish of Texas; and that particular bowlful, it turns out, is the version made without beans.  Most of us, I’d wager, still think of beans when we think of chili, however. 

I also think of chili as the chameleon of stews: years ago, a friend who’d just returned to Canada from three years in Mexico served me mole, another form of chili; the notion of sharp spices with just an undertone of bitterness seemed immensely appealing (don’t be alarmed at the coffee and chocolate in this version!).  And a recipe once given to me by a former student from India featured simmered, pulled beef and a variety of curry spices with lentils. 

I first cooked chili when I was an impoverished graduate student living in Windsor, Ontario.  The recipe developed over the years, and what was once a fairly basic vegetarian chili has morphed over the years into my own version of the dish.  I include frozen tofu that’s been defrosted and crumbled to resemble ground meat (in fact, the first time I made this for the HH, he assumed the tofu was ground chicken. Perfect for skeptics!). The HH and I also both agree that chili should be more of a stew than a soup, so I simmer mine until almost all the liquid is absorbed and the beans are suspended in a kind of spicy tomato sauce.  If you prefer yours thinner, simply cook a bit less or add a bit more water. 

Eventually, my own additions became so numerous that even my enormous dutch oven was barely adequate to hold the stew, and I had to stop adding ingredients.  As a result, this makes a huge batch, and enough to freeze in single-serve containers that will sustain you through the winter.  While you slurp it up, just imagine that you’re somewhere warm, and green.

Oh, and with all these legumes in here, I thought this would be the perfect submission to My Legume Love Affair, the monthly event started by Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook and this month hosted by Simona at Briciole. 

Chili to Last Through the Winter

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

chilitop2

This chili provides a thick, spicy, filling and very substantial meal. Don’t let the long ingredient list deter you—this recipe makes a big batch that you can freeze for later, and it’s definitely worth the effort!

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

Pear and Parsnip Soup

September 19, 2008

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.” 

It seems like another lifetime now, but the year after my starter marriage

ended, I lived in a townhouse with my dear friend Gemini I.  Shortly after the furniture was placed and the boxes unpacked, we began to negotiate the rules of housework, grocery shopping, and TV usage when we got to chatting about food.  I remember asking, “Do you like cous cous?” (In those days, I ate it all the time, though it’s pretty much verboten now since I don’t eat wheat).  I was taken aback by her answer, which, at the time, I found a little odd.

“Well, I suppose I do,” she responded.  “There are times when I’ll cook it every day for two weeks, but then I might not touch it or even think of it for 8 or 9 months.”  I couldn’t imagine ignoring a food I actually enjoyed for that long (and chocolate? Well, that one would be calculated in hours–nay, minutes–rather than days or weeks). 

These days, though, I understand exactly what she meant.  When one maintains a food blog, the quest for the novel and atypical dish never ends.  This pursuit sometimes leaves old favorites languishing in the dust–or at the back of the cupboard (or both, in the case of our cupboard).  On the other hand, I might whip up something new from a recipe I found on another blog, and enjoy it so much that the HH and I will feast on said dish several times during the next week.  And the following week.  In fact, we might just consume that comestible every second or third day for two to three weeks (which does provide several useful photo-ops, after all)–and then dump it unceremoniously, just as Chaser dumps her squeaky ball (ad nauseum, I might add) at my feet.  Once I’ve gotten my fill, I move on, seeking the next culinary encounter.

Well, I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I often find myself with a surplus of overripe pears in the house, as I did a couple of evenings ago. Since the HH refuses to share in the burden of eating fruit (hey!  That could be the title of Michael Pollan’s next tome:  The Burden of Eating Fruit: An Exposition on Overripe Organic Produce), I’m always on the lookout for tasty recipes with pears, before they become too soft and squishy, too oozy, too yellow-flecked-with-brown.  Our freezer is already bursting with chopped, frozen pears, so I needed to cook up these babies–and fast.

It was then I remembered an erstwhile favorite, one that we consumed for a spell and then promptly forgot. It’s from one of my favorite cookbooks, Green by Flip Shelton. From what I understand, Shelton is kind of like an Aussie Rachael Ray, and isn’t taken very seriously as a chef (what’s that bogan doing cooking biscuits on the barbie? What a dag!  Well, she’s still ace to me.  G’day!).  The recipe sounds like an incongruous combination of ingredients (though not as incongruous as radishes, olives and grapefruit), mixing pear and parsnip with sautéed leeks, but the final result is incredibly tasty.  Fragrant, slightly sweet from the pears and slightly peppery from the parsnip, with a velvety smooth, light texture.  Yum-O!

And since this soup features both fruit and, well, soup, I’m submitting it to this months’ No Croutons Required, a monthly event hosted alternately by Holler (this month) and Lisa, which asks us to cook up either a salad or soup with fruit as a main ingredient. 

Oh, and before I sign off, I really must thank all of you for being so understanding and so polite.  I mean, it’s painfully evident that I was a total bust at the ACD this time round (okay, maybe not a TOTAL bust–I did last almost 2 weeks). And yet you’ve all had the diplomacy and tact not to mention it!  For that, I am grateful. 

And while I’ve decided this may not have been the best time to embark on an even more restrictive diet (school starting up, cold weather coming, cookbook calling), I do still try to eat foods that would fit within the parameters of the diet as often as possible, perhaps minus one or two ingredients. Well, turns out this fantastic soup could easily qualify as an anti-candida meal, even without trying (if you’re following the version that permits non-tropical fruits, that is).  It’s also a very simple, very nourishing concoction that offers fabulous fiber from the pears, a hit of extra calcium from the parsnips and a satisfying early autumn tummy-warming. You may even decide to make it again and again–at least, for a couple of weeks or so.   

Pear and Parsnip Soup

from Flip Shelton’s Green

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

It may not be entirely photogenic, but this easy, quick recipe produces a satisfying soup.  The combination of slightly sweet, slightly peppery, and slightly creamy works beautifully here.

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 SHINY NEW HOME OF DDD, 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.” 

Who could have ever guessed that our summer would FINALLY arrive on Labor Day Weekend?  The weather this past weekend was glorious: brilliant sunshine, sky entirely unsullied by even a speck of cloud, so blue even the dogs seemed able to perceive its piercing azure, colorblind or no.  The temperature’s been hovering at around 28C (that’s high 80s, my American compadres!), and–best of all–no humidity!  What a perfect way to usher out the summer as students prepare to get back to school tomorrow and parents prepare to shout obscenities at all the extra drivers on the newly traffic-clogged roadways. 

It does seem strange to be bidding summer adieu when it feels as if we never actually had a real summer this year to begin with.  Let’s see: before this weekend, I can recall a total of three sunny days.  And it’s official:  this summer, we surpassed every known record for rainfall in Ontario between June 1 and August 31st. 

And so, to celebrate the late arrival of warmth and to send off the season that never was, I thought I’d present this heavenly soup.  It’s one I mentioned waaaaay back when I ran the last Lucky Comestible series on avocados.  As the warm weather dissipates and the stealthy chill of autumn returns with its crisp sheets in the evenings and dewy sprays of frost on car windows each morning, this is a soup you can make to remind you that, before you know it–a mere 293 days from now–the warm weather will finally return.  That is, if there’s actually a summer next year.

The soup is creamy, rich, and very refreshing after an afternoon in the sun.  It’s also great as a quick dinner if you’ve been taking advantage of one of the rare balmy afternoons left in which you can go outside in just a T-shirt and shorts. 

So long, Oh Blazing Sol of the summer. So long, lush, humective grasses and tomato blossoms, amazonian mint, purple clover and sundry weeds in a multicolored tangle like some crazy knitting basket in my vegetable garden. So long, little Chaser slurping at the hose.  So long, G & Ts on the patio, tan lines on my shoulders, shoes slipped on casually with no socks. So long, coveted, much cherished, far too short and ever appreciated summer weather.

Summer, we hardly knew ya.  Sniff.  Boo hoo.  But now, there’s soup. . .

Oh, and for those of you returning to school tomorrow (or those who’ve just returned this past week)–welcome back!

Chilled Avocado Soup

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

This is a simple, quick and delicious soup for a summer’s evening.  Avocado offers healthy monounsaturated fats, and cucumber is cooling and alkalizing.

 

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

Prufrock Special*

June 6, 2008

*Or, Do I Dare To Eat a Chilled Peach Soup?

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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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.” 

Well, I’ve just completed my second day on my Total Health cleanse, also known as the Grain Drain.  

(I must interject here just to say thank you to everyone for your great comments, suggestions and encouragement–I am truly blown away by all the positive wishes and love hearing from you all. And it makes a huge difference to know that the support is out there!)

After two days of eating this way, I’m feeling a tad self-reproaching.  You see, so far, I’ve found the diet nowhere near as difficult as I’d anticipated.  In fact, it’s been downright easy–one might go so far as to call it enjoyable, even. (I know–I was shocked, too!)

I mean, what could be wrong with a fresh and juicy Earth Bowl for breakfast?  Or a classic Three-Bean Salad for lunch?  In order to keep my blood sugar levels steady, I’ve been munching on nuts and seeds, baby carrots, prunes (or, as they’re now called, dried plums) and wee bits of Cocoa Nibbles. I feel lighter and my allergies seem to be diminishing.  Whoo hoo!

And then, most unlike Eliot’s eponymous poltroon, I most certainly did dare to eat a peach.  Several, actually, all blended into a smashing soup. That, followed by a serving of Red Pepper stuffed with Raw Asian Pâté, (recipe in a future post), and dinner was rather spectacular.  So, let us go then, you and I, and I’ll fill you in on all the details of Chilled Peach Soup with Cashew Coconut Cream.

Last week, on one of those grey days when the fog rubs its back upon the window-panes, we received a true harbinger of summer: four plump, downy, rosy peaches in our organic produce box. I was so thrilled that I devoured one immediately before I realized there will be time, there will be time to eat more of them throughout the summer. 

As it happened, I’ve been on a bit of a library kick lately.  Maybe it’s the ever-increasing tower of unread magazines that waits patiently in the corner of my office; maybe it’s my newfound frugality; maybe it’s the fact that I had to go get this month’s book (About Alice by Calvin Trillin) for my book club; whatever the reason, I found myself at the local library and decided to drop by the cookbook section.  And there, after reading a variety of recipes (the dishes measured out in coffee spoons), I happened upon The Artful Vegan by Eric Tucker et al.

Tucker is executive chef at the famed Millenium restaurant in San Francisco, one of the very first vegan restaurants to introduce elegant, exciting and innovative cuisine for vegans (and one of the places on my list of “must-visit”s).  I did have the enormous pleasure of sitting in the audience while Tucker demonstrated several recipes a few years ago at the inaugural Vegetarian Awakening conference; it was a revelation to watch him tame a tomatillo, pipe aïoli, or wrangle a fennel bulb. Everything he made was visually stunning and entirely delectable.  (And even after the sampling, the cups, the marmalade, the tea–it would have been worthwhile. Oh. . . perhaps it’s the perfume from his Five Spice Watercress that makes me so digress? ). 

Many of Tucker’s recipes are multi-faceted, multi-tiered, multi-stage affairs that require three days of preparation and innumerable specialty utensils to accomplish; the true appeal of his cookbook is that it allows you to gaze in awe at the culinary gymnastics his creations represent.  And yet, as luck would have it, about midway through the book was a recipe for a chilled peach soup with a rosewater cashew cream.  And best of all–it was perfectly accessible to a home cook! I bit off the matter with a smile, thinking this soup would definitely be worthwhile. 

Preparing the soup couldn’t be easier–if not for the cashew cream accompaniment, I would certainly designate this a Flash in the Pan recipe–and it is entirely transporting when you taste it.  

I made quite a few changes to the original recipe, so I’ll print my own version here.  The soup is intensely fruity, with a slight sour note balanced by the hint of sweetness in the cashew cream topping.  It is entirely refreshing on a smoldering summer day.  This soup fairly hums “summer.”  And even though there’s nothing in it that The Girls must avoid, this soup was too good to share. 

(“Yes, Mum, I did hear the peach soup singing.  But I do not think that it will sing to me. . . it did look good, though.”)

Okay, enough with the Prufrock. . . just don’t get me started on Nabokov’s peach reference!

Since this recipe hails from a truly “gourmet” cookbook and is also extremely low-cal (only 53 calories per serving, according to The Artful Vegan), I thought it would be the perfect submission to the  Fat Chefs or Skinny Gourmets event, hosted by Ben of What’s Cooking and Ivy of Kopiaste’.  They’ll be posting a roundup at the end of the month.

 Chilled Peach Soup with Cashew Coconut Cream

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

With an irresistible deep coral color and light, refreshing flavor, this soup is the perfect first course to a cool summer meal.  It would also be great as a breakfast soup.

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

Spiced Cauliflower Soup

March 17, 2008

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!

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

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

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

spicycaulisoup1.jpg 

It occurred to me yesterday that the last three food posts on this blog have all been desserts.  Is this my chocolate withdrawal talking?  Well, maybe so, but that means a contrapuntal savory dish must make its appearance today.  No; more than just savory–we need something spicy.  No; more than just spicy; we need something SPICE-EEEE!  Aye, Carumba!! And I have just the thing. . . .

One of the aspects of blogging I love is reading about others writers’ food adventures.  By reading food blogs, you can vicariously cook and eat almost anything, without lifting so much as a measuring spoon. Another great byproduct is how blogging encourages you to try cooking something new almost daily, stretching your culinary muscles and gustatory acumen. Would I naturally think to peruse my cookbooks in search of a novel pasta dish every week?  Not likely.  Would I ordinarily wax poetic about rice pudding in any other context?  Negative.  Would I customarily resurrect old standards that I haven’t thought about in years?  Certainly not. And yet, today, that’s exactly what I’ve done!

When I read about this month’s No Croutons Required challenge hosted by Holler at Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa at Lisa’s Kitchen, I immediately decided to rummage through my old recipes to locate this particular soup. Back when we were first together, the HH and I would devour this soup at least once a week for several months at a time.  In those days, the HH pounced at the opportunity to share dinner prep (what we won’t do in the first flush of a new relationship!).  At that time, we cooked together almost every evening. These days, on the other hand, after the HH arrives home from work and we’ve walked  The Girls  we often embark on a game of verbal ping-pong:

Me: “What should we do for dinner?” (Subtext: I don’t really feel like doing anything for dinner.)

HH: “I dunno.  Um, did you cook anything yet?” (Subtext: What the heck were you doing here all day?”)

Me: “No.  I was waiting for you to get home from work before deciding.” (Subtext: I’ll be damned if I lift so much as a finger without your help, buster! Just because I work at home doesn’t mean I don’t work hard, too, you know. I’d appreciate just a little acknowledgement of what I do, if you don’t mind.)

HH: “Hmm.  How about pizza?” (Subtext: I am lazy and don’t feel like cooking.)

Me: “You know I don’t eat pizza!” (Subtext: How could you forget that I don’t eat wheat, or cheese, or sugar-laden pizza sauce??? Don’t you pay attention to what’s been going on here for the past eight years?  Don’t you ever notice what I do or do not eat??  Don’t you ever think of anyone besides YOURSELF??  Oh, I see what’s going on here. I see now how little you appreciate me.  Oh, don’t try to deny it.  It’s clear that you’ve never really cared for me!  You’ve never really loved me at all!  Otherwise how could you even suggest–)

HH: “Are you sure?  Well, okay, sweetie, if that’s what you want, that’s fine with me. (Subtext: Great. I really would prefer to go out.  Man, she’s the greatest.  Man,  I love this woman. )

Okay, maybe that wasn’t exactly our daily conversation, but we did go out to dinner a lot in those days.  

These days, on a slightly tighter budget after my two years away from work, we tend to throw together something quick and easy, or something I’ve come across in search of blog recipes.  The HH plays sous-chef and chops or slices according to my directives.  He sets the table and plays with The Girls while the dish finishes cooking.  And gee, he doesn’t even mind waiting for me to photograph our daily dinners.  (Man, he really is the greatest.  Man, I love that guy!)

Okay, sappy interlude is now over. Back to the soup.

This is one of the first Indian recipes I ever tried, shortly after I went off wheat, eggs, dairy, etc..  I discovered fairly quickly that my dietary restrictions could be met easily in Asian restaurants, primarily Indian or Thai.  As we visited one after the other restaurant in our neighbourhood, I also quickly discovered that I adored Indian food–and that I wanted to learn how to make it myself. 

This soup comes from the first Indian cookbook I bought, The New Indian Cooking Course, by Manisha Kanani and Shehzad Husain.  It is incredibly easy, quick, and delicious.  Not overpowering, there’s still enough zing in the soup to imprint its spicy tingle on your tongue after the bowl is emptied–perfect for the No Croutons Required event. 

(PS  I’ve finally posted a photo for another fantastic spicy soup, the Moroccan Tomato Soup that I wrote about back in December (and which the HH and I enjoyed again recently).  If you like spice, head on over and take a look! )

Spiced Cauliflower Soup

Adapted From The New Indian Cooking Course

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

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This soup is a great way to incorporate cauliflower, a vegetable that isn’t particularly exciting on its own. For a more powerful spice, increase the amount of ginger and cumin accordingly.  

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.”]  

 

 

 vegan-express_thumbnail1.jpg As you may know, I was a startled and very delighted recipient of Nava Atlas’s latest cookbook, Vegan Express, as a result of Susan’s contest a while back on Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen.  A couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to receive the book in the mail, and set about making a whack of recipes from it.  I thought I’d write a bona fide book review so you can all get your own taste of express cooking, vegan style!

Vegan Express by Nava Atlas

Vegan Express is the most recent addition to the long line of popular publications by veteran cookbook author Nava Atlas, already well known for her previous classics such as Vegetariana or The Vegetarian Family Cookbook and website, In A Vegetarian Kitchen.  A vegan herself, in this book Atlas addresses one of the foremost hurdles for vegan eaters, both established and newly inclined: prepping veggies can take up lots of time!   

 

 

Vegan Express provides an antidote for the kitchen weary by proving the truism untrue after all: turns out you can prepare fresh, healthy, vegetable-rich dishes in less time than it takes to watch the evening newscast!  Every recipe in the book, from appetizer to dessert, takes between 30 and 45 minutes from assembling the ingredients to digging your fork into that first steaming mouthful (and many take even less time).  

 

 

In order to write an objective assessment of the book, I decided it would only be fair to test as broad a range of recipes as I could manage in a week. As a result, I prepared seven of the book’s recipes, attempting to sample dishes from many different courses (though, given my natural inclination, I did lean rather heavily on the desserts). 

 

 

The book begins with Atlas’s own story of how she converted from vegetarianism to a vegan diet. She actually found the transition fairly easy, as nowadays, substitutions for eggs, cheese, and milk abound, even outside the larger  cities.

 

 

The book also discusses vegans’ nutritional needs and how to achieve them, debunking some common myths about acquiring sufficient protein or vitamin B12. And while Atlas does include some convenience foods (this is a book about cooking shortcuts, after all!), I had no problem using the recipes even though I don’t consume products such as soy cheeses or meat alternatives (as you’ll see when I discuss the pizza, below). 

 

 

The book also contains a variety of ease-of-use features to help home cooks prepare their meals in a flash. For instance, following each recipe is a “Menu Selections” sidebar that provides possible partners for the dish or other ways to serve it. Many recipes include variations for flexibility and to accommodate different tastes. There is also a fair number of “recipe-free” quick options, as well as further suggestions for some basic ingredients (such as “Speedy Ways to Prepare Tofu”). 

 

The book’s design is aesthetically pleasing, with clean, simple lines and two-color print (and how could we miss those luscious, color-suffused photos by Susan Voisin of Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen?).  Many of her readers may not be aware that Atlas herself is an artist with several solo and group exhibitions to her credit. Her cheery line drawings adorn the pages as backdrops that highlight individual dishes and ingredients.  

 

And the recipes?  They do, indeed, deliver as promised! All the dishes I attempted were quick to prepare, with straightforward, easy directions. Atlas also includes some nifty tips with certain recipes (such as cutting your pizza into slices before adding the toppings, as it’s so much easier that way). 

 

Finally, here’s what was cooking in the DDD kitchen last week:  

 

Soup and Entrees: 

 

Nearly Instant Thai Coconut Corn Soup

vecornsoup2.jpg

This is listed as one of Atlas’s favorite recipes, and a “must-try” for those who buy the book. As its title suggests, the soup cooks up in no time, and was truly delicious–light yet creamy, with a subtle spiciness interspersed with sweet, chewy corn kernels.  Fast, simple, easy…perfect.   

 

Singapore Noodles 

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I’ve was a huge fan of Singapore noodles in restaurants back in the day, but could never figure out how to make them. Who knew it could be so simple?  The HH and I both love spicy foods, so if I had any suggestions for this one, it would be to add more of the spice mixture (I used the maximum amount suggested and would have liked still more kick in this dish). The original recipe called for peas, but since we didn’t have any, I subbed edamame.  Still worked beautifully. 

 

Rich Peanut Sauce

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This sauce, suggested as an accompaniment to Golden Tofu Triangles, was ready in a snap.  Still in a noodle frame of mind, I poured it over some cooked kamut-soba noodles, tossed in an assortment of chopped and sliced veggies, and enjoyed a terrific cold noodle salad. Great the next day, too! 

 

Very Green Veggie Pesto Pizza

vegreenpizzalarge.jpg  This dish was by far the biggest hit of the savories–the HH ate half the pizza all by himself, and I must admit it was my own favorite as well.  My photo doesn’t do it justice, as the subtle variance in shades of green comes across here as rather monochromatic, but this combination of pesto underlying oven-roasted veggies is a perfect melding of flavors and textures.   

 

One change I made, however, was to omit the “cheese” originally called for (to be melted over the pesto, and under the veggies).  Since I avoid processed soy, I simply omitted that ingredient and vegreenpizzaslice.jpg sprinkled a little nutritional yeast over the top instead.  Both the HH and I agreed that the pizza didn’t even need the cheese, which, I think, would have actually detracted  from the disarming flavors of the pesto and veggies.  For the crust, I used my own trusty spelt pizza crust recipe, and baked it about 15 minutes at 425F before adding the remaining ingredients.    

Desserts:

While Atlas’s recipes are already healthy, I did make some minor adjustments to accommodate my own dietary restrictions. In general, I used spelt flour instead of wheat, and Sucanat for sugar.  It didn’t seem to matter—everything still came out terrific. 

 

Dense and Fruity Banana Bread

 vebancake2.jpg

This is a moist, not-too-sweet loaf with chopped dates and walnuts nestled in a banana-cocoa base.  As you can see from the photo, I was so anxious to try this one that I sliced it while still a bit too warm.  When I first tasted the bread, the cocoa was extremely understated. By the next day, however, the flavors had matured, yielding a lovely balance between the chocolate and fruit.  I thoroughly enjoyed this with some almond butter.  

 

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cake

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This cake reminded me of treats my mother used to make when my sisters and I were kids.  Baked in a 9” square pan and cut into squares, this is the perfect after-school snack (lucky for me, I’m still in school!).  Peanut butter whispers its presence rather than bellows in this surprisingly light and tender cake.  As you can see, I cut this one while still warm, too, when the chips were still melty. Cut your slices small, because you’ll want more than one. 

 

Butterscotch Mousse Pie

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I had really, really wanted to try out the Caramel Pudding, but since I couldn’t find vegan caramel syrup and didn’t think my homemade caramel would work, I made this pie instead.  I’m so glad I did!  Although I’m not usually a “pie person,” this was truly delicious.  In fact, I’m going to post an entire entry about this one (including the recipe!!) in the next day or two—so stay tuned.  

I had enormous fun trying out the recipes from this useful and enjoyable book, and definitely look forward to sampling more. Thanks again, Nava and Susan, for this wonderful opportunity–and for adding another treasure to my cookbook collection.

 

 

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.”]

When I first read about the blog event called No Croutons Required, hosted by Lisa of Lisa’s Kitchen and Holler of Tinned Tomatoes, my first thought was, “Yes! I’d love to contribute my favorite soup recipe!” 

Then, quick on the heels of that thought was this one: “Hmmn.  No, maybe not.  Can’t use that one; too bland. Too boring.  Too commonplace. Too–I don’t know–too beige.” 

And yet, I love that soup.  It’s easy to make, the ingredients are staples we always have on hand, and it’s never let me down. It conjures warming memories of my childhood. In wintertime, it’s often the basis for a hearty, simple dinner in our house.  And it’s delicious!  

And that’s how I realized that yes, sometimes, beige is exactly what you want. 

You know what I mean.  Case in point:  we recently moved into this relatively new house.  The previous tenants had taken it upon themselves to paint every room according to their own eccentric tastes.  Living room:  mustard yellow, tomato red and rust.  Kitchen:  mint green and dusty rose.  Bedroom (I kid you not): DEEP PURPLE and MUSTARD YELLOW.  (Purple!  And yellow!)  Bathroom:  baby blue.  And so on, and so on. . .

Well, before we moved in, we had to have the whole thing freshly painted in a nice, neutral, beige-like color.  And while part of our choice was really just consideration for the next tenants and what they might like, that wasn’t the only reason we picked beige.  Beige is familiar. Beige is inobtrusive.  Beige is unoffensive.  And it goes with everything (unlike paisley, which, apparently, goes with nothing).

There are times in life when you could just use a little beige. 

When, for example, you finally break it off with that philandering Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants), and now you desire a nice, standard-issue, plaid-shirt-Levis-jeans kinda guy.  Or when you’ve already contorted your mind watching Memento, Twelve Monkeys, Adaptation, or Dogville, and now you just want simple and easy, like On the Road to Morocco or Pretty Woman (yes, I realize that last one stars Julia Roberts, but she wasn’t quite so Julia Roberts back then, so I can live with it). Or when you’ve spent a romantic evening lingering over a seven course tasting menu of exotic, geometrically spectacular dishes and a magnum of Veuve Cliquot, and now you just crave a long, cool, soothing glass of plain vanilla. 

Or this, perhaps most of all: when you’re feeling desolate because winter has just gone on far too long with its relentless snowstorms and hours of shoveling, and what you yearn for more than anything is to seek refuge inside, peel off those sodden mitts and pants, curl up with a hot bowl of potato soup, and slurp.

This is the soup my mother made regularly when we were kids.  Unlike my dad’s soup (he was the Soup Master in the house), my mother’s potato and corn concoction was a conventional recipe without bells and whistles.  I’d never tire of watching as she peeled the potatoes, their spiraling, freckled skins falling silently on a sheet of paper towelling by the sink.  After she chopped the flesh into small cubes, she’d ease them by handfuls into the pot of simmering broth. Prep time was usually fairly hasty, as my mother had other things to attend to (such as watching her soap opera) while the soup bubbled gently on the stove. She’d return to the kitchen once or twice at commericals to stir the contents of the pot, but for the most part, the soup took care of itself.

Even though it isn’t fancy or flashy, this soup was a favorite in our house. Though unadorned with dumplings, noodles, or even a dollop of cream, don’t let this soup’s unassuming appearance fool you; this still broth runs deep. Under the basic plaid shirt and Levis exterior you’ll find a sensitive stock that’s more alluring than you might expect. It offers a serious nutritional contribution of potassium and other minerals (potaotes), beta carotene (carrots), soluble fibre and anti-diabetes qualities (corn and barley), all bathed in a reliable, stable, standup broth that would never break your heart. 

Oh, and it’s unabashedly beige.

My Mother’s Potato-Corn Chowder

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

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No dissembling here; this soup is just what it appears to be–hot, milky, nourishing, and quintessentially comforting.  Potatoes and corn and carrots and celery cooperate beautifully to create a classically delicious chowder. This recipe was my mother’s specialty, and like her, exudes an understated charm.  

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