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A few of you asked for the Pumpkin Bread Pudding recipe about which I posted yesterday. Since I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the pumpkin bread on its own, and I was most assuredly dissatisfied with the sweetened condensed milk (the base for the caramel sauce) on its own, I hadn’t intended to post the recipe.

But you know what they say about the sum of individual parts. . . despite the haphazard way the dish came together, it ended up being a winner, so I’ll try to reconstruct the recipe here.  It was a huge hit and would make a spectacular New Year’s Eve dessert served in wine or martini glasses.

[BIG caveat:  I didn’t take notes while making this, so you may have to play with proportions a bit, particularly with the caramel sauce. Results may vary.]

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Warm Caramel Sauce (GF option)

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With pumpkin in both the bread and the “custard” in which it bakes, this pudding is definitely rich in pumpkin.  Lightly spiced, this moist bread pudding is highlighted with a rum-infused caramel sauce. 

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

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

[There’s just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays.  This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I’m determined to make at least a few in my kitchen–and thought I’d share my ideas in case you’d like to partake, too.  ]

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Isn’t synchronicity the darndest thing?  You know, that phenomenon when things just seem to occur around the same time. . . because. . . well, just because.  Like when you learn a new word, and suddenly “schadenfreude seems to pop up in all the newspapers you read.  Or “pecuniary” makes its appearance in every magazine article you see about the faltering economy.  Save money with a “stay-cation”? It was mentioned at least once on every financial-advice show that aired in the past week. (And how about antediluvian, lachrymose, arachibutyrophobia?  Okay, maybe not so much.)

I love synchronicity; I figure it’s the closest I’ll ever get to having intuition.  Years ago, during a carefree Christmas shopping spree (entirely unlike this year, what with all the pecuniary limitations to my budget), I was meandering along a downtown Toronto street engrossed in a lachrymose daydream, probably about being bullied in gradeschool.  For some unknown reason, I remembered a former classmate, and wondered what had become of her.  In the midst of my reverie, there came from behind me a sudden, staccato warbling, like the sound an antique radio makes when being tuned: “Ricki?! Eeeeoooooouuuuwwww! RICKI HELLER, is that you–??” 

Yep, you guessed it: that very classmate, whom I hadn’t seen in over 30 years.  We hugged,  we excitedly exchanged updates on our lives, we traded phone numbers and swore to keep in touch–then never heard from each other again. But that sure was some synchronicity in action!

If you’ve ever thought about someone you haven’t seen in a while, only to receive a phone call from them that day; if you’ve ever had a dream about finding a $20 bill and later picked up a stray piece of paper in a parking lot that happened to be a $20 bill; if you’ve ever loved a novel by a particular author and then happened to be seated next to that author on your next flight across the country; if you’ve ever been reminded of an old love while surfing the internet only to discover the profile of said love on your Classmates page–well, if you’ve ever experienced a seemingly unrelated coexistence of two meaningfully related things in any context at all, then you, too, have experienced synchronicity.  And last weekend, there it was again!

In my previous Gastronomic Gift post last week, I mentioned a pioneer of the now-booming Toronto culinary scene, Bonnie Stern. That long-ago (seems positively antediluvian, in fact) cooking class was my only encounter with Ms. Stern in person; and her recipe for Brandied Apricot-Ginger Spread was, it turns out, the only recipe of hers I’ve ever reproduced at home. 

Until now.

Why, just this past weekend, there she was again, peering out at me from the crinkled pages of our weekend National Post!  Not only that; in the photo, she proffered some startlingly attractive shortbread cookies: rich, buttery freeform mounds topped with shards of  Toblerone chocolate bars.  I decided on the spot that I had to re-create those bars, but what to use instead of the Toblerone?  I wanted something similar–a mix of chocolate and a sweet filling–but nothing quite as sticky (and nothing producing any arachibutyrophobia, of course).  Aha!  Marzipan-filled Ritter Sport!

In response to  Amanda’s comment in the last post, I used my own Life in Balance Buttery Spread in place of the butter in these cookies.  The result was a slightly-sandy-on-the-outside, slightly-chewy-on-the-inside, not-too-sweet and very decadent-tasting cookie.  And while they don’t melt in your mouth like tradtional shortbread, the combination of  rich dough and chunks of chocolate-covered marzipan is truly enchanting.  The HH said he thought they weren’t “really” like shortbread as they didn’t taste “buttery” enough, but that didn’t stop him from scarfing down three of these babies in quick succession.

And while this recipe is a bit more decadent than my usual baked good, hey, it’s the holidays!  Gotta live a little.  Which, of course, will lead to the inevitable overindulging and weight gain. . . so as you bake up your own batch of these, you can think of me, smile, and enjoy a satisfying little taste of schadenfreude.

Mum, you know your readers would never do that!  Besides, I think I’ve had enough schadenfreude to last a lifetime, what with Chaser smirking at my cone over the past three weeks.”

Oh, and since these are intended as a holiday gift, after all, I thought they’d be a perfect submission to the Eat Christmas Cookies event hosted by Food Blogga this month. There’s already a huge array of cookies posted on the site for you to check out!

And since Holler and Lisa are asking for festive photos this month for their No Croutons Required event, I’m going to submit this Santa-bordered photo as my contribution as well. 

 Marzipan-Topped Shortbread Cookies

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

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You needn’t stick with marzipan chocolates for these cookies; in fact, they’d be great with many other kinds of chocolate bar–the Ritter Sport Peppermint comes to mind.

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

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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

[There’s just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays.  This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I’m determined to make at least a few in my kitchen–and thought I’d share my ideas in case you’d like to partake, too.  ]

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Back in the day (haven’t you always wondered about that expression?  I mean, which day?), I used to bake entirely conventional, non-vegan, sweets and treats. As a graduate student with a job as a Teaching Assistant as well as a scholarship, I was lucky enough to have both a flexible schedule and sufficient finances to indulge my love of culinary invention.  My favorites at the time were cheesecakes, light and fluffy (and, in particular, a chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake–yep, studded with globs of raw chocolate-chip cookie dough), whipped cream-topped layer cakes or pavlovas, and thick, dense, decadent brownies of all spots and stripes (top contender there was an intensely dark chocolate brownie with hidden pockets of Caramilk chocolate bar strewn throughout–cut the brownie and be treated to surprising little bursts of oozy, gooey caramel, enveloped in creamy milk chocolate. . . there must be a way to do this in a [semi?] NAG-friendly version!).

In any case, what I really loved was baking for the holidays.  Between studying for finals, I’d take breaks by whipping up assorted cookies and bars, and filling dainty, decorative tins with dozens of them as Christmas gifts for my friends and colleagues. It was a fun challenge to find 12-15 recipes for cookies in differing flavors, textures, shapes or colors, so that the varying hues and contours complemented each other visually when placed together like pieces of a mosaic in the tins.   Most years, I went so far as to draw a legend on a circle of paper (placed atop the cookies before closing the tin), like the kind you get in boxes of mixed chocolates, illustrating each different flavor and shape so people would know in advance what they chose (can you say, “anal”?).

Even though my schedule isn’t nearly as flexible any more (not to mention my hip joints), I decided that this year, I really wanted to resurrect that tradition for the holidays.  And while cookies are still on the list, I’m going to focus more on slightly less perishable items, so that I (and you) can send these goodies to loved ones far away, or as parting gifts with visitors who pop in over the next few weeks. 

One thing I’ve never made as a gift, though, is fudge.  When the HH and I were first together, we once took a weekend junket to Niagara-on-the-Lake (not far from the Canadian side of Niagra Falls) to trundle around and see a play at the Shaw Festival.  Well, I said I was going for the play, anyway.  What I really looked forward to was a visit to a little candy shop that’s become semi-famous for its fudge.  Have you ever tried fresh, satiny homemade fudge, like, 30 seconds after it’s set? 

Oh.

MY.

They say chocolate is better than sex, but really, chocolate fudge is even better than chocolate.

Still, I’m aware that no self-respecting holistic nutritionist or health-conscious foodie would foist fudge on friends (and no self-respecting writer would pen such an obviously hokey alliteration!)  Craving all that is chocolate, smooth, and fondant-like, I sought out a healthier version–but one that would still embody the same indulgent, creamy, and, most importantly, chocolate–qualities of “real” fudge.

Well, I’ve found it!  Today’s recipes are both based on a Carob Fudge I saw ages ago on Deb’s blog.  I’ve been waiting to try it since then, and this seemed the perfect occasion.  Of course, since I can’t even imagine a non-chocolate variety, I played with the recipes somewhat and created not one, but two cacao-flavored versions.  The first is orange-scented, studded with tangy bits of chopped dried apricot, while the other is draped over clusters of mixed nuts and dropped into little truffle cups to serve as individual candies.  I have no doubt that whomever you choose to bestow these upon, they will devour them most gratefully.  Perhaps best of all, this is incredibly quick to make!

Mum, we love the idea of food-based gifts for the holidays!  But why did you take out the carob–now we can’t have any. . .

I’d also love to hear what you’re whipping up this year as gifts.  Do you have any old favorites, or perhaps some newfound treasures?  Leave a comment (or a link to a recipe) so we can all increase our gift-giving repertoire!

I also thought this would be the perfect submission to the Monthly Mingle:  Low-Sugar Sweet Treats, this month hosted by Dee at The Daily Tiffin and originated by Meeta at What’s for Lunch, Honey?.  This month, they’re requesting desserts low sugar. 

Chocolate-Orange Fudge with Apricots

adapted from Altered Plates

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

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Smooth, rich and as dense as cream-based fudge, these squares are a perfect post-prandial sweet to help settle a meal (or, in my case, the final course of the meal itself).

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

Fudge Nut Clusters (variation)

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

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These little confections are perfect to serve at tea or on a dessert tray for a buffet celebration.

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

Such a Tease

November 11, 2008

I’ve never been what I’d call a “good” flirt.  In high school, I hung out with the nerdy crowd (hard to believe, I know!), so there wasn’t really any opportunity to flirt.  Then, when I was finally old enough to attract the opposite sex in my 20s, it seemed too late to get the hang of it. I do remember loathing, admiring and envying (all at the same time) the most popular girls in my high school.  It seemed as if their hair, or their eyelashes, or their limp wrists somehow possessed an invisible male adhesive as they giggled and nodded and caressed the guys, just so, on their forearms; or maybe it was just the pheromones they exuded. 

In any case, the flirty girls would always be surrounded by an inverse seraglio, an ever-shifting, amorphous cloud of doting males.  The boys would fawn over them, open doors for them, carry their books, offer them lifts, or request their phone numbers in a continuous stream.  Just how did the girls manage that, I wondered?  How did they get away with teasing the guys so overtly, implying lace and perfume and breathless embraces, yet, in reality, yield nothing?  These girls were whip-smart as well as beautiful, or they couldn’t have perfected their technique; yet they appeared vacuous and helpless and fragile all at the same time, thereby rendering themselves irresistible to the guys around them.

I had the opportunity to observe a consummate tease after my divorce, when I lived in the same flat as another woman who had previously been married to two of the richest men in Canada (and she was only 32 when I met her).  She was one of the smartest cookies I’ve ever known (and funny, witty, sweet and fun to be with, too) yet, the moment she came within a few feet of any attractive male, she appeared to devolve into–how shall I say this?–a helpless, needy, pouting little girl.  She’d bat her eyelashes at the nearest specimen and feign incompetence with the lock on the car trunk, the dial on the stereo or the squeaky door on the kitchen cabinet.  Then she’d throw up her hands in mock despair and emit a giggle that resonated across the room, like the clang of forks on wine glasses at a wedding, encouraging the newlyweds to kiss. 

There must have been something to it, too, because by the time I moved out, she’d snagged yet another of Canada’s wealthiest bachelors (they’ve since divorced, but let’s just say she’ll never have to work again–no, scratch that, she’ll never even have to brush her own teeth again).  

My own efforts at flirting have produced less than stellar results. True, some playful flirting resulted in four months dating Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants); as it turned out, Rocker Guy himself really enjoyed flirting, too–he enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he continued to do so throughout the time we were dating. And his definition of “flirting,” unfortunately, encompassed “sleeping with.” 

Thus ended my flirtation with flirting.

Today, however, I’m afraid I’m going to play the tease once again.  After finding out at the last minute that I’d be away at a conference all day today, I wasn’t able to photograph the dish I’d originally intended to post about. Instead, there’s a slew of goodies I’ve been working on for the cookbook, and with the holiday season almost upon us, I thought it might be a good way to get in the mood for holiday baking. (Oh, so how’s the book coming along?  Well, I’m still working on the manuscript, which should be complete in less than a month, after which the materials are shipped off to the printer.  Ultimately, I’m still aiming for a release date in early 2009–February or March.  Whoo!). 

Some of these sweets have already been published elsewhere on this blog, with recipes included. You may have also seen some on the testers’ blogs (ie, the absolute BEST TESTERS any cookbook author–or baker–could ever want). 

Following are some of my recent favorites from the book, and those that would make good holiday treats. And even if it’s not out in time for this year, you may wish to make some of these next time round.

Chocolate Covered Caramels:

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Old Fashioned Spice Cake:

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Sugar-Free Sugar Cookies (plus recipe–great for decorating):

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Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies:

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Cupcakes with Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Chocolate Buttercream:

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Chocolate Satin Tarts:

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Dalmatian “Cheesecake” Brownies:

Vegan Butter Tarts: (plus recipe):

And here’s a little preview of tomorrow’s sweet treat (recipe to follow).  I know, what a tease. . . 

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Green Drinks

November 1, 2007

If you see a Naturopath or follow the principles of holistic nutrition, you may have heard that drinking “green” drinks can help with sweets cravings.  A green drink is just what it sounds like–a drink made with greens powder, usually containing some form of sea algae or seaweed (such as spirulina or kelp), or a combination of that with dehydrated, ground up green veggies (such as kale, collard, dandelion, etc.).  Often they are flavored or also include some fruit extracts or other immune-boosting elements (such as bee pollen).

I have to admit that I actually like greens drinks.  And I actually really like spirulina–I have it almost every morning with my ground flax seeds, mixed with a little soy or rice milk.  My HH calls it “green slime.”  

 (“We love green slime, Mum!  You can let us lick up the leftovers any time!”).  The greens powder I use is by Nu Life, called Nu Greens.  My two favorite flavors are the apple-banana and tropical (which tastes vaguely of pineapple). 

The theory behind these drinks is that, because they are so heavily alkalized (from all the greens) and ALSO contain magnesium (often attributed to be the cause of chocolate cravings), that they will help to reduce or even eliminate cravings for sugary foods.  Spirulina, in particular, is said to help keep insulin levels steady, another reason some people have sugar cravings.  So I dutifully started drinking more greens on a daily basis about a month ago, sometimes two or three times a day (according to the manufacturer, one serving contains only about 33 calories, so I wasn’t worried), in the hopes that they would inhibit or even prevent the cravings entirely. 

What did I discover?  Well, as I said, that I really like greens drinks.  To my mind, they’re sort of like a very darkly hued, all-natural fruit juice.  And that I can drink quite a few of them in one day (well, at least they help me get my 8 glasses of H2O).  And that they do absolutely nothing to stop my cravings.

So. . . . will I continue to drink them?  Of course I will.  They are extremely good for me, they provide a host of very important minerals and other nutrients, they help keep my blood sugar levels in check.  And I like them.  Have I mentioned that I like them?

If they have helped anyone else out there with cravings, I’d love to know!

[Chaser polishing off the green stuff.]