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[Sometimes, you just want to eat something now.  I’ve decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required. Here’s today’s “Flash in the Pan.” (For other FitP recipes, see “Categories” at right).]

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It’s astonishing to me how our tastes can change so dramatically as we age. Remember those things you loved as a kid which elicit apathy now? As a tot, I loved The Monkees.  In my teens it was historical romances. In my twenties, I wore dark eye shadow and painted eyeliner across the base of my lashes.  In my thirties, I dressed in black almost every day for three or four years in a row.

There’s no doubt my palate has changed over time as well.  Foods I loved to eat as a child–saltwater taffy, Cap’n Crunch cereal, mellowcreme pumpkins or (a dinnertime favorite) a hillock of mashed potatoes with nuggets of hamburger cut up and hidden under it–all seem slightly repulsive to me now.  Then again, many of the foods I abhored then are ones I adore today; to wit, parsnips, cilantro, and–as of two days ago–baked apples.

When I decided back in January to attempt a “cleaner” diet for a while so that I might reverse some of the holiday era choc-o-rama indulgences, I turned to a cookbook I’ve had for some time but have never really used:  The Detox Cookbook and Health Plan, by Maggie Pannell.  Hiding at the back, on the very last page, was a rather fetching photo of a lone baked apple, stuffed to the brim with chopped figs and walnuts.

Apple?  Baked?  I could feel myself recoiling, thinking, “Nawwww. . . . ”  I mean, who eats baked apples?  They’re granny food.  They’re ulcer food.  They’re nothing-else-is-in-the-house-so-I-have-to-make-do-with-this-dull-fruit food.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I love raw apples and try to have one every day.  But I’ve always found the concept of a baked apple to be rather meh

Besides, apples are so common, so quotidien, so humdrum that they’re suffering from overexposure, like cupcake wedding cakes or Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons or Pamela Anderson’s cleavage.  I mean, aren’t apples like the perma-date of fruits–pleasant, enjoyable, always there–but just not exciting enough to seek out for something exceptional?  When I think of apples, all the old, hackneyed language comes to mind:   Apple of my eye.  One bad apple. An apple a day. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Apple Paltrow-Martin.

I was also flooded with memories of baked apples from my childhood, and why I never liked them back then: plain, dowdy, as wrinkled as your frowsy neighbor’s housecoat.  And yet, that photo beckoned to me.  I found the final push I needed when I went grocery shopping a couple of days ago: I often buy marked-down packages of apples to cut up and serve The Girls along with their regular dinner.  That day, I found three packs of six apples each, at 99 cents a pack.  Usually, these bargain-basement fruits and veggies sport more than a few little bruises; but these packages were perfect–smooth, rosy, unblemished; pristine. Seriously, I couldn’t find  a single nick or mark on any of the apples!  It was a sign. 

I went home and baked these apples.  The recipe was ridiculously easy, with only 4 ingredients.  And while they baked, I got dinner ready and even fed The Girls (they got the unbaked fruit). 

I guess my tastes have matured now that I’m an adult.  I loved these–they were stupendous.  I’d say these apples are like the homely, bespectacled secretary in the 1950s movie who suddenly tears off her glasses, pulls the hairpin holding her bun and shakes her head, and then–mon dieu!–she’s beautiful!  I now am officially smitten with baked apples. Baked apples are my hero!

I used Gala apples (that’s what was on sale) and the outcome was perfect.  The contrast between the sweet, pliable stewed figs with their popping crunch, and the perfectly creamy, tart apple flesh was delightfully unexpected. And as the glaze baked and thickened up, it acquired a deep, intense orange flavor as well as a deep caramel hue, contributing a glossy, sticky exterior glaze to the skins. 

I think I’d better try to eat baked apples at least a few times a week through the winter. I plan to have them as often as I can. I mean, who knows when my tastes might change again? 

 Baked Apples with Figs and Walnuts in a Citrus Glaze

adapted from The Detox Cookbook and Health Plan

by Maggie Pannell

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

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This is an elegant weekday dessert, that’s a comforting winter treat.  And for pennies a serving, you really can’t go wrong.

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

 

Last Year at this Time

: Reubenesque Sandwich

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

I had intended a lovely post today, in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving long weekend to the south of us.  But time constraints (read: massive, unwieldly pile of essays and assignments to mark) have prevented me from following through. So I’ll just have to wait till the next batch of holidays in December to post about some new, frost-and-snow inspired, treats.

Instead, I thought I’d pull together a few recipes from previous posts that are suitably festive for a holiday table, or the breakfast table the following day (I’ve also got a few detox recipes on the blog–I’ll let you seek those out yourselves, as required).  Most of these are fairly quick to make as well, as long as you’ve got the ingredients on hand.

Hope everyone enjoys some togetherness with friends and family, great food, and a bit of time to relax and play.

See you after the holiday!

chaserunderbed

Mum, will Elsie be able to play again after the holiday?  I mean, it’s just so boring with her out of commission. . .

Main Meal Dishes:

Side Dishes:

Desserts:

Breakfast Dishes:

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This past weekend, I took the train to Montreal to visit with the CFO (unfortunately, the HH stayed at home on dog duty, as our regular doggie daycare was closed and it was too late to find an alternative).  Just before I left, though, I was delighted to learn that I’d been awarded the “E for Excellence” award by Misty over at Mischief blog!  Misty is also the owner of 2 adorable dogs (check out their Halloween duds!) who often appear on her blog (plus lots of yummy food, of course).  Sorry it’s taken me so long to acknowledge this, Misty, as I ran off on Friday and just returned yesterday evening.  It’s much appreciated and I’m so glad you think my blog is excellent!  Thanks so much. 🙂

 

While lovely nonetheless, the visit was over in a flash, filled with a cocktail party, brunch with the family, a birthday lunch with friends, and a stroll through the area known as the Plateau (fascinating, isn’t it, how 90% of social activities revolve around food?  Sorry, what’s that you say? What do you mean, it’s just me–??).  Since my birthday (sort of) coincided with the CFO’s annual cocktail party, we combined celebrations. As the HH remarked before I left, this year I seem to be enjoying The Birthday That Wouldn’t End.  But who am I to argue?

Let me tell you, that CFO sure knows how to throw a party! The menu featured several vegan options, as well as a few gluten-free choices (though, if I remember correctly, the two never overlapped in a single hors d’oeuvre). Still, there was plenty for me to eat and drink, such as tapenade-topped mini-toasts; an apple-pecan butter-cracker combo; crudités and spinach dip; thai rice salad with peppers, cilantro and mango; spanakopita; plus a few others I’ve forgotten (and don’t even get me started on the desserts).  Saturday afternoon was reserved for a leisurely lunch with my old buddies Phil, Linda and Babe, and on Sunday morning, my family brunched at a restaurant I’d not heard of before, called Orange, where they offer the most astonishingly boundless bowls of steaming, perfectly creamy yet nubby oatmeal, capped with your choice of imaginative toppings, from fresh berries to cinnamon-apple pie filling to walnuts and coconut doused in maple syrup.  

Still, it was good to be home. That final stretch of the journey always seems to elicit in me a certain psychic restlessness, the desire to stretch, stand up and stroll the length of car as the train approaches Toronto. No matter how many times I leave and return, I still experience that familiar ripple of excitement and anticipation, the tingle in the chest, when I first catch a glimpse of city life twinkling in the distance beyond the blanket of black outside the window.  Slowly, the number of flickering lamps or silhouettes in apartment windows multiplies, then the glaring neon billboards make their appearance above highway overpasses, and cars’ flashing headlights join the symphony of movement and glitter. Before I know it we’re within reach of the CN tower and the station beneath the Royal York Hotel, the buzz of the downtown humming up through the rails.  Toronto, with its denizens crowding the streets at 11:00 PM, knots of taxis and buses jammed in front of the station, the clang of the train and roar of the subway and yips emanating from staggering groups of twenty-somethings as they exit the bars after midnight. . . yep, it’s good to be home.

As it turned out, we didn’t “do” Halloween this year.  Due to both my absence and The Girls’ xenophobic reaction to strangers at the door (read: frenzied barking and growling, at a volume of around 120 decibels), the HH chose to forgo the treats.  Still, like many of you, we do have a surfeit of pumpkin and pumpkin seeds left in the house.  I remembered this recipe and thought it would be a perfect way to use the pepitas.

I call this mixture “pesto,” but it can also be used on its own as a spread for crackers or bread.  In fact, the inspiration came shortly after I sampled roasted garlic for the first time and was immediately transported. As I recall, the HH and I were served an entire head of garlic once at a restaurant, the top sliced clean across and the pudgy exposed cloves baked to a rich, earthy mahogany, glistening with a sheen of olive oil.  We squeezed the garlic from the papery casing like toothpaste from the tube, spreading the softened, caramelized pulp on fresh slices of bagette.  It was heavenly, and we polished off the entire thing in minutes.

Garlic smell?  Yes, heavenly. When baked, its scent is subdued, sweet, and alluring. It’s one of my favorite foods, and I use it as often as I can.  In this pesto, the garlic adds richness and a smooth base for the grainy pumpkinseeds, contrasted perfectly with the cilantro and citrus tang of the lemon zest and juice.  You can use this spread directly on crackers, as I like to do, or toss it with pasta (save about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to thin it out a bit and create a slight creaminess to the mix). Or, hey–I bet it would even be great as a snack while you mull over some election results!

Since this recipe uses both garlic and cilantro, I thought it would be perfect for Weekend Herb Blogging, newly managed by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once).  This week’s host is Wiffy of Noob Cook.

Roasted Garlic and Pumpkinseed Pesto

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

This dish is great for your heart, and also terrific for flu season: both garlic and pumpkin seeds are high in antioxidants, and the pumpkinseeds contain zinc, essential for fighting viruses and bacteria.  

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.”]  

 

True confession (of the culinary kind): 

Even though I stopped baking with refined sugar almost a decade ago and never keep it in the house, there are times when I cave.  On occasion I’ll purchase a sugar-laden product, either because (a) it’s something new and fabulous and I feel I MUST try it, or (b) it’s something not normally available to vegan eaters and I want to taste-test, to see if I can conjure up a healthier version of my own.  Sometimes, it’s both.

That was the case when I bought my first–and only–can of Soyatoo a couple of months ago.  My friend PR Queen and I attended a health food fair where they were hawking selling the product tax-free (which–as those of you who’ve ever shopped in Canada will know–is, like, 85% off).  I couldn’t resist.

And so, feeling oddly like Sethi in the movie The Ten Commandments (though not at all regal, of course), I broke my own vow, and uttered the name of. . . Roses!  Soyatoo-based roses, to be precise.  And rosettes.  And swirls. And squiggles.

I had visions of light, fluffy peaks of the white stuff adorning cream pies and tarts; high, shimmering towers of it piped over fresh berries; or amorphous, cloudlike mounds of it perched atop steaming mugs of hot chocolate.  All these images whirled in my head as I forked over the cash and embraced my can of white, wondrous whipped “cream.”

The second I got home, I pulled some frozen raspberries from the freezer and hastily spooned them into a bowl so I could test out my cache. I followed the directions on the can–exactly–and pressed the button.  There was a hissing sound, a slight whoosh, and then–ah, sweet mystery of compressed edible oil product!–out came a rosette.  One. 

And then, all was silent. 

I shook the can.  I pressed again.  I shook again.  I placed my mouth over the nozzle as if performing some grotesque, otherworldly mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and sucked out the excess topping before trying again.

Nothing. Nada. Not even the slightest sibilance. 

And so, there went my can of Soyatoo–straight in to the garbage.*

Well, there was one favorable outcome from that failed experiment: I decided then and there to create my own, much healthier,  non-dairy whipped cream.  I fully realize that there are other similar creams already posted on the Internet (thanks, Hannah, for this recipe), but my needs were very specific.  I wanted mine to (1) be soy-free; (2) avoid the waste of using only part of the can of coconut milk;  (3) contain no sugar, and (4) be simple enough that it could work without a candy thermometer or any other special equipment.

Well, I came up fairly quickly with what I considered to be a servicable product, and one that was soy-free, to boot.  I even piped it onto Nava‘s Butterscotch Mousse Pie that I wrote about a while back, and the HH and I enjoyed that batch immensely.  Here’s what it looked like:

Before posting my recipe, however, I knew I’d need to test it out numerous times to ensure it was sound and that the results were consistent. I even enlisted two others (thanks, Sally and Alice) to help out as recipe testers.

Well, sorry to say, the results weren’t stellar. While the testers’ feedback was very positive regarding taste,  they both said the cream was a bit too soft and not fluffy enough.  I found my own results to be frustratingly inconsistent, even though I thought I was following the exact recipe each time.

And then, it hit me:  I was using coconut milk, but not the identical coconut milk for each and every trial!  Once I discovered which brand worked best, I tried again–and again, and again–with (qualified)  success. It wasn’t perfect, but the outcome was similar each time.  And so, I’ve decided to post the recipe as it now stands despite the imperfections, in the hopes that some of you might try it out and report your own findings.

The cream is rich-tasting, light, and can stand in very effectively for dairy cream atop desserts (I have no idea how it would work, say, folded into a chocolate mousse, however). 

Here are some important notes before you begin: :

  1. The recipe uses agar, an ingredient I’ve found to be tricky in the past.  Moreover, since I couldn’t find agar powder here in Toronto, I bought flakes and then ground them up myself in a coffee grinder.  So I can’t vouch for results if you use regular agar powder or agar flakes. 
  2. After trying several brands of organic coconut milk and finally moving to conventional coconut milk, I found the only brand that seemed to work consistently was Rooster Gold Label brand (I know it’s available at all Loblaws stores, but have no idea about stores outside of Canada).  I checked labels, and the brand I used contains a whopping 22% total fat content.  I’d think that if you use a milk with a similar fat content, it should work just as well.
  3. This is a very fussy recipe.  You need to cook the mixture, blend it, cool it a bit, blend again, cool some more, then whip with electric beaters–not for the faint of heart.  That said, once it’s whipped, it will retain its shape for several days.
  4. If it doesn’t work out perfectly as a whipped topping, it is sensational to eat on its own–rich, smooth, not too sweet, and very creamy.

I’d love to hear from those of you brave (foolhardy?) enough to try it out, and see if we can’t refine and perfect the recipe!

Coconut Whipped Cream

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

This is a great topping for fancy desserts.  To make the cream, you will need a hand (immersion) blender (a regular blender won’t work for this) and electric beaters.

 

 

And here’s a slightly firmer version:

 

Despite the fussiness of the recipe, I’d definitely make this again for special occasions (it was great on Nava’s Butterscotch Mousse Pie, as well as the Coffee “Cheesecake” Tart, above–recipe from Laura Mathias’s Extraveganza). 

Though perhaps not for a while. . . after more than 15 trials, the HH and I are maxed out on cream for now!

Don’t worry, Mum, we’d be willing to help you out with any extra cream. . . 

For those of you who celebrate, Happy Passover!  (I think this cream would be allowed. . . ).  And happy weekend to all!

*Addendum:  I’ve since learned from other bloggers that Soyatoo is unreliable for them, too.  Thanks to Chocolate Covered Vegan for the suggestion to open and try out each can in the store–if it doesn’t work, they should want to return it to the manufacturer, anyway; and if it does work, you’re buying it, so what would they care?

[UPDATE, December 2008:  I’ve been tinkering with the recipe and have finally come up with a much less fussy and much more reliable recipe!  The revised version will 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.]

[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.”]