Dog Day: Be Mine

February 14, 2009


“Mum, I heard it’s Valentine’s Day, so I’m practising my best come-hither look. . . do you think that cute Henry will notice?  In the meantime, would you mind peeling me a grape?” **


Hey, Elsie, is this how you do it?  How’s this, huh? What do you think?  Is this come hither? Huh?  Well, I don’t like grapes, anyway.  Sigh.”

** Yes, I know grapes should never be fed to dogs.  The references was for quoting song lyric purposes only. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!! 🙂


[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.”]  


Are you looking forward to V-Day next week?  Seems most people either love it or hate it.  Being from the “never too much schmaltz” school of romance, I love Valentine’s Day.  Even during all those years before I met the HH, I’d always endeavor to celebrate somehow.  I’d send cards to my friends or my sisters.  I’d invite a gal pal for dinner so we could sip Shiraz together and muse about how few good men there were out there.  One year, I think I even bought myself roses (must have been my “I am woman, hear me roar” phase).

Last year, I composed a fairly elaborate (and, as I recall, extremely disorderly) meal for the HH and me.  Given my frenetic schedule these days working on the book (the Index is done!  The book has officially moved from the “writing” to the “production” stage! Whoo!), I assumed I’d have no time to repeat last year’s amorous performance (I meant preparing the meal, silly!  You crazy romantics, you!). But then I saw Susan’s post about this year’s Vegetable Love contest, and how could I resist?  (Not that I find Fatfree Vegan Kitchen’s charms any more alluring than those of the HH, you understand). 

The contest asks you to create a romantic dish using one or more vegetables of your choice.  Last year, I came up with a Vegan Molten Chocolate Cake recipe using puréed zucchini and spinach.  I loved the taste of the cakes, but the molten filling was temperamental–sometimes it formed a lovely, floating cloud of lava in the center of the cake, as it was supposed to do; other times, the filling got sucked up by the batter and all that remained was a tiny disk of tar-like chocolate at its core.  You’d think I’d give up on sweets with veggies in them.  But no. . .


As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, sweet potatoes are my favorite vegetable.  I love sweet potatoes in just about anything (or, as I’ve seen the phrase skipping around the blogosphere lately, I lurrrve sweet potatoes).  When I was on the anti-candida diet several years ago, sweet potatoes became my favorite veggie (and my favorite brekkie).  They’re a healthy vegetable.  They’re orange.  They’re sweet.  And their name sounds like a term of endearment:  “Oh, why so coy, my little Sweet Potato?  Come on over here and let me help you out of that peel.”  Why not use them as the basis for a sweet filling in a Valentine’s Day truffle, then?


This year’s recipe really should have made it into the cookbook–it’s that good.  What you’ll end up with is an insanely creamy, smooth, rich-tasting truffle filling,  vibrantly orange and steeped in citrus flavor. In fact, no one would ever guess it contained one of the world’s healthiest roots.  I fed 0ne of these beauties to the HH, and he literally licked his fingers clean, enthusing, “This tastes exactly like a really fine quality, high-end chocolate!”  This from a guy who’d normally consume chocolates with cream, butter and white sugar.  “There is no trace of sweet potato flavor in these,” he went on. “All you taste is the orange” (enhanced with a splash of Cointreau–though you can use orange juice if you prefer alcohol-free confections). 

Even if you’re not into chocolates, the filling on its own makes a fabulous, versatile frosting.  Rich and fluffy, sweetened with agave and boasting the added fiber of the sweet potato, I’m guessing that the total GI (glycemic index) of this  frosting is fairly low and could be used successfully by those on a variety of restricted diets. (See instructions in the Variation, below).


I’ll definitely be making these again for V-Day (the half-batch I concocted is already long gone). Even if you don’t celebrate the Big V, it’s worth making a batch of these.  Give yourself a little gift of Vegetable Love this year.

This is my submission to Susan’s contest.  You have until tomorrow at midnight to enter if you’re so inclined!

Spiked Sweet Potato Truffles or Truffle Cups






© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs


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.”]  


Even though this morning was the first day of my chocolate detox, that didn’t stop me from having a whale of a time at our (slightly postponed) Valentine’s Day Dinner last evening.  With the weather being as inclement as ever, the HH and I began prepping our meal around 3:30 PM, and just kept at it till the whole darn thing was ready and we could devour it.  I thought I’d provide a quick recap of my last evening of dining decadence for  a while.   (Thanks Sally, Jamie, Theresa and Johanna for your great suggestions!)

champersvday08.jpgTo commence the festivities, the HH poured each of us a glass of our favorite cut-rate bubbly, a Spanish cava that I think rivals true champagne.  Here’s the bottle next to one of our special-occasion glasses (purchased just before the turn of the century, in fact!).

Instead of my original appetizer idea for “neat” balls in a sweet and sour sauce, I decided to try Johanna’s Nutroast from Green Gourmet Giraffe. I had planned to make it into balls, but when freshly blended, the mixture seemed too soft, and I was afraid it would fall apart simmering in a sauce. So I just baked it in a square pan, and we then cut it into appetizer-sized squares.  I made only minor adjustments to the recipe (miso for yeast extract, spelt breadcrumbs for regular), but otherwise followed Johanna’s excellent recipe exactly.

The planned sauce was one from my childhood, something my Boston cousin used to whip up all the time, in the spirit of “1980s suburban mom must have dinner for 5 on the table in 25 minutes.” The dish was called “Chili and Grape Meatballs.”  Now, before you politely excuse yourself and dash from the room, I know it sounds rather, well, purple. Yet there was something very tempting about the combination of sweet, sour and spicy, with a modicum of “barbecue” thrown in. 

In an attempt to channel that tangy, sugary spirit (and also to use up a bottle of chili sauce in our panty–from whence I have no idea, it’s that old), I created two dipping sauces for the nutroast.  Each contained an equal portion of the sauce (which, as far as I could tell from the ingredients, is basically just a spicy ketchup), and either marmalade or apple butter.  The apple butter-chili version was, hands down, the preferred one. 




But the nutroast?  All I can say is, “I love nutroast! Nutroast is King! LONG LIVE NUTROAST!!”  The HH was very fond of it, too.  In fact, I would have been satisfied with an entire dinner of just the nutroast, salad (Veganomicon’s Caesar, yet again) and that marvelous soup. (But then, insisted the HH, it wouldn’t have been a “real” meal.)  So we ended up having the pasta, too, but without the smoked tofu, as I just didn’t think I could bear something else heavy at that point (and I knew pie was coming later). I also took Jamie’s suggestion for chocolate-dipped fruit (strawberries), as I really couldn’t have an entire meal sans chocolate the very night before banning it from my diet entirely!

And so, without further ado, here’s the rest of our feast from the evening:

Cream of Olive Soup: 


This was simply spectacular (and yes, it was that grey-green color you see here).  As I mentioned in a previous post, this is a soup I recall eating in my twenties, and the creamy, silky memory has lingered this long.  I was determined to reproduce it. 

I began with a recipe that’s everywhere on the internet and adapted it to our tastes; I used half green and half black olives and held back about one quarter of these when I pureed the rest (and chopped those very fine, to then be returned to the soup).  Even substituting soymilk for the cream, the result was a smooth, salty, overflowing-with-olive sensation.  If you like olives, you will love this soup.

Pesto Pasta and Caesar Salad


The pasta does, I admit, appear very green here.  By omitting the tofu, we were left with just pesto pasta and sundried tomatoes, so we added edamame at the last minute.  While the combination was, indeed, pretty tasty, I think the pesto could have used more basil.

Next up, dessert!  By this point, we were so stuffed that we decided to take a break and tidy up a bit.  To say that we are “messy” cooks would not only be an understatement, it would actually be a compliment. You may, indeed, wonder how two fairly well educated, calm and rational people could create such a welter of utensils, pots, pans, spilled sauce, squirts of oil, miscellaneous soiled tea towels and other mayhem when cooking together (why, shame on you!  Of course all we were doing was cooking together!).  Me, too. But, hey, I’m not too proud to share it all–so here’s a pic of the post-apocalyptic kitchen:


Dessert: Banoffee Pie

My attempt at vegan Banoffee Pie was sincere, but less than successful, I’d say. While not a total failure, it didn’t quite hit the mark I’d intended.  First, I whipped up my “cream,” which did manage to hold together well:


After baking the pie crust and letting it cool, I sliced bananas and scattered them evenly over the bottom, then poured the caramel over top:


This base was then topped with the aforementioned cream:


 So far, so good, right?  Even though the caramel was rather thick and usually cools down to a solid state, some weird alchemy went on under that whipped cream.  By the time we finally cut into the pie several hours later, some of the caramel had dissolved, transforming it into caramel sauce that oozed out in dilatory rivulets from under each slice.  What to do? In the end, I used the “sauce” as a drizzle over the top of the pie, and we still enjoyed it immensely.  (I’ll still need to do a bit of refining before I’m ready to serve the pie to guests, I think).


This morning, after waking up still stuffed from the meal, I was definitely ready to embark on the Week of Chocolate Asceticism (WOCA), which I’ll discuss more next time.  On the other hand, the HH wasn’t quite as fulfilled by yesterday’s all-vegan Valentine’s Day dinner. As he prepared his morning coffee, he casually remarked, “You know, that dinner was really good yesterday. But by nine o’clock, I was already hungry enough for another one.”  

Well, my beloved HH, I guess you’ll just have to wait until next year.

I Heart Valentine’s Day

February 11, 2008

hearts.jpg Do you love Valentine’s Day?  It seems to elicit one of two diametrically opposed reactions from most people: either sentimental, tug-at-your-heartstrings devotion, or else complete, unmitigated disdain.  (I must admit I’m closer to the former).  But whether you love or hate it, wouldn’t it be fun to be a fly on the wall at someone else’s V-Day? 

Well, this year, I’m suggesting we both be flies on the wall (I know, technically that’s an incorrect grammatical construction, since I am only one fly and “you” constitute at least two others, so it should actually read, ‘I’m suggesting that we all be flies on the wall,’ but that just sounded stupid). 

I’ll be the little fly I remember so vividly from my childhood, the one in the original 1950s The Fly movie, who is trapped at the end in the evil, inescapable spider’s web and calls out pitifully in a tiny, wailing voice, “Help me.  Help meeeee. . . . ” 

And you can be the fly on my Valentine’s Day Dinner wall.  Or should I say, “Please be the fly on my Valentine’s Day Dinner Wall.”  What do I mean  by that, you ask?

Well, so far, my HH and I have spent 10 Valentine’s Days together.  Each year, we’ve gone out for a fancy dinner in a restaurant.  (For three of those years, I couldn’t drink wine or eat most of what was on the menu, but I’ve found that if the restaurant is expensive enough, they’ll accommodate almost anything.)

This year, with finances a little tight, we decided to do something different and entirely novel.  We’re going to stay home and cook a romantic dinner together. This is highly significant for two main reasons:  (1) my HH generally doesn’t cook. (I may have mentioned before his past record of two years in an apartment without using the stove once.) And (2) my HH has agreed that this particular romantic soiree will feature an entirely vegan meal!!

Whoo-hoo, I say.  Again, a monumental concession on his part.  In the past, by eating at restaurants, we’ve been able to accommodate his motto that “a meal without animal protein just isn’t a meal.”  (Wine fits the motto, too, if you add the word “special” before “meal.”)  This time, though, he’s happily going along for the ride as I leaf through my scores of cookbooks and attempt to choose some spectacular dishes for the meal. 

And here’s where you come in. I have a few okay ideas, but for this ground-breaking dinner, I would really, really, REALLY love some new ones.  

And so I am entreating YOU, dear reader, to please serve up some suggestions!  Now’s your chance–if you’ve been a silent reader in the past, here’s a perfect opportunity to speak up! (Truly.  It would just be too humiliating if there were not ONE single comment left here after this impassioned plea. I would be forced to make up some of my own. And believe me, that would not be pretty.)  

Here’s what I’m considering for the menu so far (some of which I’ll actually have to make up myself, as I can’t seem to find a great recipe):


Sweet and Sour “Neat” Balls (appetizer size)–I could use a better appetizer;

First Course

Caesar Salad (I’ve fallen in love with the Veganomicon one, but would love to try something I haven’t had before);

Second Course

Cream of Olive Soup (writing about it the other day got me hankering for this soup–and I must get myself some, even if I have to create the recipe myself!);

Main Course

Pasta with Pesto, Sundried Tomatoes, and Smoked Tofu–I’d REALLY like a better suggestion for the main course!


Banoffee Pie (I’m partway toward a fabulous vegan whipped cream recipe, but not sure I’ll pull it off by then–so other suggestions for wheat-free sweets would be much appreciated.)

Now, the HH and I have also made another unorthodox decision regarding this Big Day.  Unlike the rest of the civilized world, we are going to celebrate on Saturday–February 16th.  (Who said the 14th has to have a monopoly on love?).  Since Saturday is the weekend, we’ll both have the day off to cook in a leisurely fashion, perhaps even stretching the loving vibe throughout the afternoon. I’ll have time to set up the candles and bring out the bubble machine (well, the bubble wand, anyway).  And besides, all the Valentine’s Day chocolate will be on sale by then (fitting perfectly into our more frugal approach to the holiday this year).

So if you have an idea for a main dish that’s fabulous, romantic, tried-and-true, or an all time favorite, I’d love to hear about it.  If there’s a great appetizer you sampled at a party and would love to share, go for it.  If you’ve been blown away by a (wheat-free-dairy-free-egg-free-sugar-free) dessert in the past and know the recipe, send it on over! And if you’ve already blogged about your recipe, let me know and I’ll gladly add a link (I was going to say, “I’ll even invite you for dinner,” but I don’t think the HH would appreciate that on V-Day.)

Here’s your chance to spread the love around on Valentine’s Day! (And just think, this way, years from now, you’ll be able to say you were a driving force in encouraging the HH to finally cook something! How cool is that?)

[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.”]  

[Disclaimer:  With all the responses I’ve gotten to this cake–good AND bad–I felt it necessary to point out that I created this recipe as a response to all the hype over a particular cookbook that has taken the spotlight over hiding spinach in a chocolate dessert. As I mentioned in the original post about sweets with hidden veggies in them, neither Mrs. JS nor I invented this idea.  And if you’re more accustomed to “traditional” sweets with white flour or sugar, be warned that these are simply not like that.  They have spinach and zucchini in them, after all 😉 . ]

One of the sure signs that we’ve embarked on a new, health-conscious, era in our food history is the rash of vegan cookbooks recently flooding the market. 

For a sweets fanatic like me, these books offer ostensibly endless possibilities, from the mega tome by Colleen Patrick Goudreau with its shortcakes, fudge, or classic chocolate layers, to the spectacular, every-flavor-every-color masterpiece by Hannah (wasabi cupcakes, anyone?) to the ever-popular Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

One persistent problem for vegan bakers, however, is the fact that some recipes simply don’t translate easily into vegan versions (meringues, for instance, or dairy-dependent treats like cheesecake or cream-topped mousse pie).  Inevitably, we’re served up  “cheesecake” (or cheezecake) made from processed tofu-cream “cheese,” or items like the newly-marketed Soyatoo when whipped cream is called for; similarly, margarine (usually Earth Balance) is the perennial stand-in for dairy butter.

While these recipes all look and sound fantastic, most of them are usually verboten for me. Ever since I revamped my eating habits about eight years ago in accordance with dietary restrictions, I willingly said “so long” to eggs, milk and most other dairy; “au revoir”to wheat and meat; “toodle-loo” to refined white sugars and flours.  This all-natural, organic, whole-foods diet can be rather prohibitive as well; my authoritarian menu permits nothing artificial, no ingredients hatched in a laboratory, and nothing whose name is too complex for a 7 year-old to read aloud. 

Consequently, even many of these otherwise delectable vegan baked goods are banned from my baking repertoire.  So it’s “so long” to all those lovely margarine-based shortbread cookies dusted with icing sugar, “au revoir”to chocolate cream pie with its Soyatoo-derived peaks and dollops; “toodle-loo” to that sublime fudge that relies on cane sugar or pies and puddings with soy creamer as a major ingredient. Basically, it’s “bye-bye” to almost all manner of vegan baked goods attempting to replicate their more conventional cousins.   

Instead, I’ve spent the last eight years experimenting with a variety of whole food ingredients in a quest to reproduce both the quality and the appeal of standard desserts, but in a more healthful package. I generally use organic oils or coconut butter, whole grain flours, natural sweeteners, or dark cocoa powder (which contains more flavonoids than Dutch process) for my treats.  For the most part, I’ve had great fun developing a variety of recipes. My HH isn’t complaining about the freshly baked cookies, muffins, or cakes constantly hoarding counter space, and my colleagues at the office tend to perk up, eagerly peering round their computer screens, when I arrive with plastic containers in hand.  

moltenwcup2.jpg Recently, I set myself the task of creating a trio of chocolate recipes for Valentine’s Day. I was determined to come up with something decadent, something spectacular, something alluring that was, at the same time, mouth-watering.  I wanted something that would both express and elicit heartfelt affection when it was served. 

And so, I created a recipe for Molten Lava Cakes.

Which are vegan. 

And healthy.

Why Lava Cakes? Well, to begin with, this is for Valentine’s Day–which can mean only one thing: chocolate.  And these babies spell “LOVE”: they’re rich-tasting, they’re chocolately, they’re warm, and they even serve up in their own personalized little packages (perfect for indulging a loved one, or, if you’re feeling intimate, sharing).  And with the addition of pureed spinach and zucchini, they pack a nutritional punch as well. What could be more romantic than contributing to your loved one’s good health?

A quick Google search on “Molten Chocolate Cake” will reveal that these treats are generally comprised of only 4 main ingredients:  butter, sugar, eggs, and chocolate–none of which I’ve added here.  I opted for cocoa powder in lieu of the chocolate (so that I could control the sugar and fat, and for the greater flavonoid content). I also used spelt flour, which has a lower gluten content than wheat, and sunflower oil, a light oil with a good balance of mono- and polyunsaturated fats. 

To compensate for the fact that there is no egg-based center available to underbake (the usual source of the “lava”), I’ve simply whipped up a second batter that serves as the molten interior, to be placed inside the cake before baking.  The result is a gooey, oozing filling that provides all the richness–and romance–of the original.  A healthy indulgence this Valentine’s Day?  Now, that’s sweet.

Because they’re so darned healthy, I’m also submitting this recipe to Cate at Sweetnicks for her weekly ARF/5-A-Day Roundup.  Spinach is an amazing antioxidant food, after all!

And since Susan over at Fat Free Vegan has requested some Vegetable Love for her event of the same name,  I couldn’t resist sending this along there as well.  As Susan wrote, “Last year I asked food bloggers to post their most romantic, most seductive vegetable recipes…something suitable for a cozy dinner by candlelight…something that says ‘I love you, and I don’t want to see you keel over with a heart attack!'” So really, do these fit the bill, or what?

Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes 


Even if you are able to eat traditional molten chocolate cakes, this version is worth a try for its ultra-healthy ingredients.  Don’t worry; no one will know the veggies are there, but they’ll definitely feel the love in these decadent-tasting treats.


 [Edit, February 15th: I baked these again last evening for Valentine’s Day, and made some of the cupcake version on the side. moltencupcaketrio.jpg  

I thought I’d add a note in response to some questions/ feeback about the recipe I’ve either received or seen.  This recipe is definitely a bit fussy. There are two points I think are essential to keep in mind when making these: 1) the size of the ramekin or custard cup.  If it’s too small, there won’t be enough room for the molten center; you need quite a generous dollop of filling to stay soft and mushy inside all that cake.  2) if you want your molten center to remain separate from the cake (and not be absorbed by it), it’s important to ensure that the filling doesn’t touch the side of the ramekin and is covered completely with batter before you bake this; the amount of filling used in each cake also seems to play a role.  I’ve found that if the filling spreads, you end up with a layer of chocolate across the middle, but not a concentration of it. But still, soft gooey chocolate inside a chocolate cake can’t be bad, right?  My HH actually liked these better the next day, as the cake takes on a more fudgy texture. 


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