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(“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.”)

 

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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.

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© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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

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.” 

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[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.

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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.

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.