Chinese Scallion Pancakes

January 23, 2009

[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.”]  

 

 

gronionpancake2

Over the past couple of years, the HH and I have developed a fairly steadfast routine: every Tuesday at mid day, we connect for a hefty serving of afternoon delight. (No, no debauchery, silly! Forget the cheeesy song.  I’m talking about afternoon culinary delight).  To wit, food. To wit, Japanese food. To wit, Sushi. 

As our own unique twist on “date night,” we have “date lunch”:  at a little sushi bar near the HH’s place of employ, he feasts on various species of marine life (well, I suppose that would more properly be “marine after-life”), and I enjoy some of the best vegetarian sushi I’ve ever tasted.  While clacking chopsticks, slathering wasabi and dipping into soy sauce, he reports on his recent work projects, while I regale him with anecdotes about The Girls’ antics. We eat, we laugh, we fight over who gets the last piece of pickled ginger, and then we kiss goodbye and go about the rest of our day.  It’s a lovely interlude in an otherwise bland workday. 

Well, a few weeks ago at the habitual time and place, I was devastated to discover that the establishment had unceremoniously changed owners.  Oh, the new folks are nice enough, but the distinctive sheen of the place had definitely tarnished. (The new vegetarian option consists of 8 pieces of cucumber and avocado maki.  Now, how could they possibly think vegetarians want 8 identical pieces of a single variety, when the HH gets a full dozen varieties of raw, slimy oceanic tidbits on his plate?).  Haven’t these people heard of the expression, “If it ain’t broke. . .”?   Harrumph.

Being fairly close to Toronto’s Chinatown North, we opted that day to try one of the many Asian restaurants in the vicinity instead.  I assumed I’d have no trouble finding plenty to eat. 

Well, you know what they say about assumptions.  (No? It’s even too puerile to repeat here.  But there are plenty of others out there who’ll tell you.) I sat down feeling peckish. Perusing the menu, I quickly discovered there was precious little I could consume save steamed veggies and rice.  (Not that there’s anything wrong wtih steamed veggies and rice, you understand, but I get plenty of those at home–and certainly don’t feel like driving halfway across the city and dishing out restaurant prices for someone else to throw them on a plate for me). 

Yes, every single dish contained at least one ingredient I can’t eat. The few animal-free options all contained wheat (another no-no). Listed under “Vegetable Dishes,” we had Vegetables and Ground Beef; Vegetables and Pork Stir-Fry;  Egg Noodles with Vegetables; Chicken and Shrimp with Vegetables.  Even the “Vegetable Dumplings” contained ground pork.  Argh!  (And another “harrumph,” just for good measure. ) Would I have to sit there starving*, I wondered, while the HH gorged himself on beef, chicken, and pork-laden vegetables?

 And then, I noticed these:  Scallion Pancakes.  Simplicity itself, these pan-fried cakes studded with rings of shiny green onion were cut into four triangles, served with a variety of dipping sauces.  Humble, yet divine; my mouth began to water. And then, I realized:  they were made with wheat flour.  Which I am not supposed to eat. 

True, my wheat sensitivity induces heartburn, bloating, and sometimes an achy stomach a couple of hours after ingesting it.  True,  wheat encourages my inflamed sinuses to close up shop entirely, forcing me to pant through my mouth like a dog in July.  True, any sane person in my situation would have passed on the wheat. Also true?  I was hungry.  Those pancakes were the sole item on the menu that appealed to me. I ordered them.

And, by golly, I loved them! (Well, for about 10 minutes, after which a volcano erupted in my chest, my stomach inflated like a beach ball, and my nasal passages sealed up like a mine shaft collapsing). 

After reading about Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian several times on Lisa’s blog, I finally picked it up from the library a few weeks ago.  And wouldn’t you know–right there, tucked near the back of the book, was a recipe for Chinese Scallion Cakes!  I was elated.  Since the entire recipe contains only five ingredients (two of which are salt and pepper), I felt pretty certain I could adapt these with (Ricki-friendly) spelt flour instead of wheat.  I did, and guess what?  They replicated the restaurant variety almost perfectly. 

The HH and I were so smitten with the results that we polished off two pancakes just on their own, with no accompaniments.  The second time round, we used them as a base for leftover dal, and they were spectacular.  I’m not generally a fan of salty foods, but something about the combination of salt and browned green onion (or would that be green browned onion?) is heavenly. 

I toned down the fat content by simply brushing the raw pancakes with olive oil (instead of following the original directions for filling a frypan with the stuff, as if drawing a bubble bath or something).  The results worked out pretty well, I’d say, as I couldn’t tell the difference in taste.

These boasted a crisp and even somewhat flaky exterior, with chewy insides punctuated here and there by the partially caramelized green onion.  My only regret is not having coarse sea salt in the house to sprinkle on top, as it would have made for a more photogenic bread.  (You’re actually meant to sprinkle the salt into the batter, anyway–but I forgot, so scattered it on top once the bread was cooked).

I’ve copied the recipe exactly as written because the method is quite particular.  It appears long and complicated, but once you’ve made them once, you’ll see how easy it is to prepare these wonderful savory cakes at home. I’d even whip them up for a quick lunch–except not on the days I meet the HH, of course. 

(Oh, and I made these again this morning, in honor of Chinese New Year.  Happy New Year to all who celebrate on Monday! )

*Clearly, not literally. But in terms of gustatory satisfaction, for sure.

Chinese Scallion Pancakes

adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian

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

gronionpancake3

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

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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alookale2

[Potato-Kale Curry]

First, and most importantly: Happy 2009, everyone!  Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments and good wishes for the new year.  I can’t even begin to express how much I appreciate them all and how much blogging has brought into my life.  But by far, the best part is you–readers and other bloggers.  Thank you for sharing 2008 with me, and I look forward to 2009!

The HH and I (sans The Girls, unfortunately, as our Elsie Girl refuses to play nice with the other five dogs who live there) spent another lovely, bucolic New Year’s Eve with my friends Gemini I and II and their broods up at Gemini I’s palatial country “cottage.”  We ate, we drank, and Gemini II’s hubby lit fireworks just before midnight, when we toasted in 2009.  The rest of the time, we chillaxed to the max, reading in front of the fireplace, watching ice fishers huddled by their hut atop the lake, taking photos of indigenous birds perched at the feeder outside the window, or working as a group on the massive, 2-page annual crossword puzzle  that’s printed in The Globe and Mail.  I didn’t even mind the snow and ice (a New Year’s Eve miracle!).

And now, back to reality. . . and back to business.

 Although I more or less threw resolutions out the window many years ago (really, don’t I already know I’ll want to lose weight after the holidays?), I do update a list I call my “Five Year Plan.”  In it, I write down goals for the following six months, the following year, two years, and five years.  I try to arrange them so that the earlier goals might naturally precede the later goals (eg., six months:  take a course in html; one year: design own web page). 

Okay, so maybe it’s just another version of resolutions after all. . .but this long-term view has worked well for me in the past: one of the most unusual “goals” that came to fruition was “work with a business coach–for free”; and so far, the best one (way back before I met the HH) was “own my own home,” something I’m adding back to the list this year, now that we’ve been renting for. . . well, far too long.

I’ve decided that this list works best when it’s kept private, as last year’s list, while not that different from the ones I wrote before it, was a total bust.  Instead of losing 50 pounds over the past 50 weeks or so, I’ve gained about four (definitely more than the “1.5 pound” holiday average. My parents always encouraged me to try to be above average, so I guess I can say I’ve accomplished that now).

Still, I believe the concept is a great one and one that most people should try at least once.  As the famous Harvard study  demonstrated, those who write down their goals (as opposed to simply thinking of them) tend to concretize them, and the goals are more apt to come true.  For whatever reason, putting something down on paper triggers a mechanism in the brain that impels you to action.  I will share the easiest goal on my list, though:  remain part of the blogging world, and keep blogging regularly.  That one, at least, I know will be pure pleasure to enact!

Before I bid 2008 adieu permanently, however, I wanted to share the amazing Indian feast we had when the CFO visited at Christmas time.  Although our meal on December 25th was relatively traditional, it was this one (the following night) that became the high point of holiday meals for us. 

peascreamysauce2

[Peas in a Creamy Curry Sauce]

I first discovered Indian cuisine about 10 years ago, after having to change my diet dramatically and seek out foods that met my dietary challenges.  At the time, being both a meat eater and a wheat eater, those challenges were plentiful.

Then I began to frequent Indian restaurants.  Most dishes were not only wheat-free, but gluten-free as well!  And the vegetarian/vegan options seemed endless.  Here in Toronto, many Indian restaurants operate as all-you-can-eat buffets.  These ostensibly boundless displays of vegetable- and legume-based dishes were dazzling and even a bit overwhelming at first, as I was determined to try every dish in my new culinary repertoire. (Eventually, I realized, many of those dishes had been sitting out under warming lights for hours, or were thrown together from leftovers of two or more of the previous day’s dishes; I began to opt for sit-down restaurants instead).

It seemed natural to attempt to re-create those spicy, saucy, succulent meals at home. I  bought a couple of Indian cookbooks and went to work.  In those days, I cooked a lot of chicken and meat dishes, some of which I’ve converted over the years.  Perhaps it was curry overload; perhaps I assumed I’d never achieve a comparable result without the meat.  For whatever reason, I hadn’t cooked a full Indian meal in some time.

Then I remembered that the CFO was also a fan of the cuisine and had an idea to whip up our own little Indian buffet as a post-Christmas dinner.  The results were stellar, and made me wonder why I’ve neglected those recipes for so long.

lentildal1

[Three-Lentil Dal]

Our meal included a fabulous multi-lentil dal based on Lisa’s recipe (my only change to the original recipe was using three types of lentil instead of lentils and moong beans); peas in a creamy sauce; curried potatoes and kale; and cheela (chickpea pancakes) along with basmati rice.  While the potato dish was pretty much a haphazard combination of leftover tomato sauce, chopped kale, and chunks of spud, I did take note of the other recipes and can share them here.

Each of these dishes on its own would make a warming, satisfying light meal; put them together, and you’ve got a memorable finale to an eventful year. 

One definite item in my next 5-Year Plan:  Cook Indian more often.

Peas in a Creamy Curry Sauce

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

peascreamysauce1

Super quick and easy, this side dish provides a lovely visual contrast to the mostly dull colors of long-simmered curries.  The vibrant green and sweet flavor of the peas is perfect as an accompaniment to the intense spice of the other dishes. From  an unidentified cookbook–sorry!

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

Cheela* (Chickpea Pancakes)

adapted from Meena Pathak’s Indian Cooking for Family and Friends

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

*From what I can tell, these are also sometimes called pudla. Whatever you call them, they were so remarkably good that we consumed them all before I realized I’d not taken a photo. But other versions abound on the net; for photos, check out the blog posts by Johanna, Lisa, Pikelet and Pie  (with zucchini) or (for an Italian twist) Kalyn.

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

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

 

*Or, Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. Now Eat Some Delicious Spread.

[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.  ]

pumpkinbutterplate1

I know that pretty much everyone in the blogosphere (well, and the rest of the galaxy, too, come to think of it) has already made this spread.  But hey, I’ve always been a late bloomer.  And now, I’ve finally tried it, too.  And it is so *&$@!% good that I had to include it as this (penultimate) Gastronomic Gift this year.  (I’ve got one more planned, as long as we can shovel ourselves out of the *&$@!% 25 cm. (just under a foot) of snow that battered the city yesterday and I can get to the store).

Pumpkin butter is the perfect means to use up cooked pumpkin (or squash, to those of us in North America).  It’s a great nut butter substitute if you’re trying to reduce fat and calories.  Or if, like me, you’ve once again allowed the insidious holiday-time profusion of chocolate and chocolate-coated/ chocolate studded/ chocolate-molded/ chocolate-frosted/ chocolate flavored/ chocolate filled/ chocolate-related-in-any-way desserts that seem to reproduce of their own accord on countertops and dining room tables and candy dishes and office desks and buffets and coffee tables and bar tops and glove compartments and pockets and dessert menus to override your (wobbly at the best of times) self control, and you find that you’ve now consumed more chocolate in the past two weeks than the entire GDP of a small country, more than Big Brother’s secret stash in 1984, more than the exports from Switzerland at Valentine’s Day, more than the full contents of Willie Wonka’s factory–more, really than you’d rightfully expect any normal human being to ingest under any circumstances whatsoever in a lifetime, except maybe under threat of torture. 

What? You mean it’s just me?

For some strange reason, I felt the need for a break from chocolate for a while (ahem). Now that I’ve made my own pumpkin butter, I can join the chorus and say that I, too,  am  smitten.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to pretty much any carbohydrate with a flat surface (or even a somewhat bumpy one–have you tried this on rice cakes? Divine.) 

But I must admit that my favorite use for the butter isn’t on toast, or a muffin, or pancakes, or any other solid food.  I think I love it most blended (using my hand blender) in a tall, cold glass of almond or soymilk.  Yum-mers!

pumpkinsmoothie

It also makes a fabulous hostess gift, of course, and a wonderful last-minute present; it’s the perfect way to use up that final can of pumpkin purée that’s been biding its time in your cupboard since Thanksgiving. 

This recipe (the ubiquitous allrecipes version) makes a pretty big batch, so you can scoop some away for home use and still fill two or three pretty little gift jars with the stuff to give away.   If you can bear to part with it.

Oh, and there are still four more days to bid on some amazing prizes from Menu for Hope! Hop on over to the main donation page and give it a go!

Pumpkin Butter

adapted from AllRecipes.com

pumpkinbutter

 Try this lovely alternative butter anywhere you’d spread jam or nut butter.  It’s got no fat, with the bonus of holiday spices all year round.

3-1/2 cups (about 820 g.) cooked, puréed pumpkin

3/4 cup (180 ml.) apple juice [but personally I think OJ would be great in this]

2 tsp. (10 ml.) ground ginger

1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) ground cloves

2/3 cup (160 ml.) agave nectar (light or dark)

2 tsp. (10 ml.) ground cinnamon

1 tsp. (5 ml.) ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized pot.  Heat over medium-high heat until mixture boils; reduce heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring very frequently, until the mixture is thick and has darkened (the original recipe said 30 minutes, but mine took a bit more than an hour).  This might also be a good time to pull out that old splatter screen if you have one, as the mixture tends to boil and pop a bit (my walls needed a good wipe-down after I was done).

Pour into clean glass jars and store in the refrigerator.  Makes about 2 cups (500 ml.). Will keep at least 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Other Gastronomic Gifts:

GG I: Fudge Two Ways

GG II:  Brandied Apricot-Ginger Spread

GG III: Marzipan-Topped Shortbread **Note: the original recipe was somehow transcribed incorrectly–please use the current version with the correct amount of flour!!

GG IV: Jam-Filled Turnovers

GG V: Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies

GG VII: Chocolate Macaroons in a Flash

Last Year at this Time: Holiday Cranberry Chippers

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! PLEASE VISIT THE NEW SITE BY CLICKING HERE.

[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this fourth entry, I’m focusing on Coconut. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. ]

Well, folks, it’s been quite the day here at the DDD household.  This post may be a tad longer than usual, so relax, don those fuzzy slippers, curl up by the firewall, and read on. . .

The day started out almost like any other, except that the HH, suffering from a bout of the flu, was at home.  Knowing he needed something substantial and nourishing–and fearing I might be felled as well–I cooked up a huge batch of stick-to-your-ribs, nutrient-dense, thick and creamy Baked Oatmeal.  So far, so good.

As is our habit, the HH and I ate our meal at the table, as The Girls waited in the wings (really just across the floor), like so:

Once we were done, as usual, we offered The Girls the leftovers.  In this case, it amounted to about 1/4 cup (60 ml.) cooked oatmeal each.  I scraped the oatmeal into their bowls, set them on the floor, and the enthusiastic slurping began. 

“Isn’t it cute how they hoover it up?” I mused absentmindedly to the HH.

“Yep, they really seem to like that apple-raisin combo,” he remarked.

“Ha, ha, yes, the–the WHAT?!!  Apple-raisin??!!!  RAISIN???!!!!”  How could I have missed them?? HOW COULD I BE SO IRRESPONSIBLE???!!!! RAISIN. Oh, no. . . . . . 

I swooped in to whisk the bowls out of reach–but alas, too late.  They’d both eaten several mouthfuls of raisin-infused oatmeal!  Now, as any of you with dogs already know, recent media reports have warned that raisins–for some unknown reason–can be highly toxic to dogs, sometimes causing nausea, renal failure–or worse.  Horrors!

In a panic, I called the vet to see what to do.  My mind was already reeling with unspeakable possibilities. “Bring them in immediately,” she commanded. 

And so, a few moments of carelessness led Ricki to spend half her morning chewing her nails in the vet’s office, waiting for The Girls to upchuck a few mouthfuls of cooked oatmeal, apples, and raisins. 

Thankfully, everyone came through just fine (though to tell the truth, I’m probably still a bit traumatized–but that might just be because of the size of the vet bill).

Well, after the Ordeal of the Raisins, I was in no mood to crack open a coconut, so we’ll forgo that demonstration today.  I do, however, have this yummy coconut-rich Cabbage T’horin for you, as the first entry in the Lucky Comestibles: Coconut series.  (And no dogs were harmed in the making of this side dish).  

*   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Coconut, like coffee, chocolate and wine, is a perfect example of culinary atavism: hailed as a boon to health in one generation, scorned in the next, then revived as a “health food” yet again decades later.

Given a bad rap in the past because of its high saturated fat content, what we think of as coconut, that white “meat” that’s most often eaten shredded and dried, is actually the nut of a fresh, green coconut fruit.  In recent years controversy has developed over whether or not coconut oil is or is not good for us.  Apparently considered a panacea in the tropical countries where it’s naturally abundant,  coconuts have been touted more recently in North America as well, to treat a variety of medical problems. 

In nutrition school, we learned that the saturated fats in coconut, unlike those in other foods with a high sat fat content (such as meat or butter), are considered “medium chain fatty acids,” which don’t increase cholesterol levels or contribute to atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular issues.  In fact, most of the studies previously done on coconut oil focused on hydrogenated varieties, and hydrogenation renders any fats unhealthy

Some researchers also believe that coconut oil is useful for a plethora of ills, including fungal infections (caprylic acid, derived from coconut, is a primary alternative treatment for candida yeast overgrowth), viruses, parasites, digestive disorders, and a wealth of other conditions, as well as helping to prevent heart disease and promote weight loss (though I’ve never been the beneficiary of this last characteristic). 

One thing that’s indisputable is its place as first choice when you’re seeking an oil to cook with on high heat.  Because of its saturated status, coconut oil is the oil least damaged by heat, which makes it great for frying (even though I know you never fry foods, right?) or baking.  And because it’s solid at room temperature (as long as your room is below 76F), coconut oil makes a great butter substitute, and can be used interchangeably with butter. At the organic market where I used to sell my baked goods, one of the vendors was known to eat it off a spoon.  I never quite achieved that lofty accomplishment, but do use it for stir-fries and baking.  

Fresh coconuts also confer health benefits, through the coconut “water” (the liquid inside the coconut fruit–not to be confused with coconut milk, which is made by boiling the meat of a coconut). I had the opportunity to drink some fresh coconut water extracted from one of these green coconuts a few years back when in nutrition school.  An incredibly healthy imbibement, the liquid from a fresh young coconut is said to have the same electolyte balance as our blood, so it’s a wonderful energy drink (which, according to Wikipedia, can actually be taken intravenously!) .  I must admit I wasn’t a fan. Apparently, coconut water is now being sold already flavored, so I may give it a try.

As to coconut milk, well. . . is there anything richer tasting than full fat coconut milk?  It’s the base for my soy-free vegan whipped cream (the recipe for which is being tweaked daily, with the goal of perfection by the time it appears in the upcoming cookbook) and many a creamy sauce.  I love it in desserts and use it in baking as well when I can, although again, you don’t want to overdo the sat fat. 

Finally, there’s the coconut itself.  Fresh coconut meat is unparalleled in flavor and texture, but practicality does take over most of the time when we’re cooking or baking, and dried is a fine substitute.  I’ve used freshly grated coconut meat on only a handful of occasions in cooking.  Generally, I prefer unsweetened, as I’d rather have control over the amount of sweetener in my foods (and shredded coconut is often sweetened with white sugar).  This way, as well, you need buy only one type, as it’s suitable for both cooking and baking.  For the recipes in the Lucky Comestibles series, I’ll try to include coconut meat, milk, and oil (and leave you to try fresh coconut water on your own).

Today’s recipe, the first one I made from my new cookbook, Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon, features shredded dried coconut.

According to the book, this dish hails from Kerala province in India, the very name of which means “Land of the Coconut Palms” and where “almost everything contains coconut.” I think this T’horin is testament to that sentiment–I mean, how often would you consider combining coconut with your cabbage?  And yet, it really works.

Try this out for a quick, easy, and incredibly tasty dish. Unlike many dishes with cabbage, this one stir-fries it without the addition of very much liquid, for a crisp yet fully cooked result.  I thoroughly enjoyed it as a side with dinner–and was sure it never came anywhere near the drooling mouths of The Girls.

“Thanks, Mum, we appreciate that. . . we’re still feeling a bit woozy from that weird breakfast you gave us.”

Cabbage T’horin

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

[Now, why would I place chopsticks in a photo of an Indian dish, you ask?  Beats me; just thought they looked nice somehow.  I did eat the T’horin with them, though.]

TO VIEW 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! 

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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.” 

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.

Sweet Things (Times Three)

August 17, 2008

[Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad–recipe below.]

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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.” 

Ah, yes, life is sweet.  Not so much in the “I’m a celebrity, I haven’t a care in the world, I’m revoltingly rich, beautiful and vacuous” kind of way; but more in the “every which way I turn I see or think ‘sweet,’ most recently the chocolate chip blondies I devoured last week” kind of way.  Also in the “I’m finally finished marking for the semester and it feels so sweet to be able to breathe for a few days before it all starts up again next week” kind of way. But I wouldn’t want to forget the “blog readers are truly some of the sweetest people in the world and the principal reason I’m so thrilled to be back here and blogging again” kind of way, either.

I have to tell you, as a rule, I consider myself pretty lucky in the friends department.  I mean, I’ve made some really great pals over the years (in fact, I’ve known a few of my friends even longer than I’ve known my younger sister!–take that, Oprah and Gayle). 

But you know what?  Ever since I started blogging last year, I’ve been repeatedly amazed at the level of support, compassion, and just basic goodwill that abounds among blog readers and writers, rivalling any of the best friendships out there. I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate that you keep coming back to read  and comment (even when I disappear for a spell) and how much I enjoy my forays into reading all my favorite blogs out there as well. And so, without disintegrating into pure mush, please accept my heartfelt thanks, and a big virtual bear hug.  Truly, sweet

And now, on to our other “sweets” of the day. . . 

First:  My diet, temporarily an official “No-Sweets” Zone.

Forget the term, “yo-yo dieter.” With me, it’s more like a “bungee-jump” dieter.  Up, down, Up, down.  Waaaaay up, waay down (and note how the “waay” down is smaller than the “waaaaay” up–in other words, a net gain).  Seems the more I diet, the more my weight rebounds upward after a fall.  Recently, it struck me that I am more or less at the same weight I was when I began this blog (at which point my goal was to lose 40 pounds!!).  Still, like die-hard smokers who wish to quit, we overly zaftig people who wish to lose weight must persevere!  I’m thankful that 90% of the food I put in my mouth is healthful and very nourishing.  The other ten per cent, well. . . that explains the weight gain.

Several times on this blog, I’ve mentioned the anti-candida diet I endured a few years ago when my symptoms got truly out of hand.  Well, I’ve decided it’s time to return to that diet as a way to rid myself of the sweets addiction once and for all (I think of it as the “Chunky Monkey on my back“).  This time, the cleanse will be somewhat shorter than previously (which lasted 2 years!). 

What does this mean for the blog?  Not much, I’m hoping. Most of my eating habits already fall in line with this new regimen (about which I’ll blog anon–this post will be long enough without fitting it in today).  The restrictions represent a new and–truth be told–somewhat exciting culinary challenge for me: can I concoct appealing, delicious dishes, even some alluring desserts, all within the bounds of the diet?  And afterwards, can I learn to consume dessert as a regular part of my menu, yet in moderation and sans cravings?  Only time will tell (and so will I, right here on this blog).

Second: Announcing Sweet Freedom!

As I mentioned last time, I’ve been working on this project for a while now (just about a year–even before I started this blog!).  After I closed down my full-time baking business in 2006, I decided to begin working on a cookbook containing recipes for my most popular products; because I’d been running the business for a few years, I already had a full compliment of proven recipes at the ready.  So in August 2007, I began mailing out cookbook proposals to various publishers (I eventually heard from two who expressed an interest in the project, only to decide against it after months of correspondence). And then, as I plowed my way through yet another set of student papers last week, I wondered:  why not just publish this book myself? And so, I averred, I shall!

Now, before I go on, yes, I do recognize the irony of doing a dessert book when I’ve just sworn off desserts.  But as I said above, my goal, ultimately, is to be capable of incorporating healthy desserts into my diet, in moderation–and these happen to be just that kind of dessert!  

I also know that there are scads (not to mention oodles, a plethora, loads and a real glut) of bloggers’ cookbooks already out there right now.  Who needs one more?  But when I started receiving emails from people asking if I had a cookbook, and when my former customers asked if I’d consider printing up my recipes so they could bake their treats at home, and when I thought of all those existing recipes just lying idle in a filing cabinet. . . well, I just couldn’t leave them to such an ignominious fate. 

Mine will be a dessert-only book, and everything in it is compatible with the NAG diet that I try to follow all the time.  Many of these recipes are already familiar to my former customers here in Toronto, so when the book is published, they’ll be able to bake the same muffins, cookies, and cakes that they used to buy at local health food stores. And once I made the decision, I got really excited about sharing the recipes and “doing them up right”! 

The book, called Sweet Freedom, will contain recipes for a wide variety of baked goods and other sweet treats, all in a style similar to those you find on this blog (in fact, a few of the DDD recipes will also find their way into the book). However, the majority of the cookbook’s 100+ recipes will be new, having not appeared anywhere else.  All the recipes are made with without wheat, eggs, dairy, or refined sweeteners; many are gluten free, soy free, and corn free as well (I’ll tag each recipe according to the category into which it fits).  In other words, these are sweets that even people with food sensitivities (like me) are free to enjoy! Eventually, I plan to post a full Table of Contents with the names of all the recipes, but for now, if you’d like a peek at some photos of goodies from the book, I’ve started a blog that’s devoted just to that.  I’m aiming for a publication date late this year or early next year; I’ll keep you updated occasionally on this site, too.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you all about what you’d look for in a “good-for-you” baking book, or whether you’ve got specific items you’d like to see in it.  And it you’ve ever tried any of the desserts from this site, I’d love your feedback on the recipes.  Just leave any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions in the comments section, or send me at email at dietdessertdogs AT gmail DOT com.

And finally: A sweet (potato) ending to this post. . . 

Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad

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

I couldn’t very well leave without posting a recipe, could I?  I actually mentioned this dish way back in my second blog entry, but since there were only two readers that day (no, literally, two readers), I thought it was worth repeating.  This is a salad from Everyday Food magazine, and it’s both simple and delicious.  I like it so much that I’ve made an entire meal out of it, in fact. The trick to its appeal, I think, is that Martha advises us to bake the sweet potato rather than boil it–and that seems to make all the difference.

This salad is filling and satisfying, with a tangy ginger and dijon-based dressing to complement the yielding sweetness of the potatoes.  I enjoy this most at room temperature, but it can be eaten cold or hot as well.  Great for a picnic or party table.

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

A Joy: Pot Luck Club

December 28, 2007

emptytable.jpg I’m still quite new to blogging, and I certainly proved it last evening.  At my house was a group of six amazing women–three whom I met at my nutrition school, one from a long-ago volunteer gig, and the last as a participant in one of my (now defunct) cooking classes–and each brought at least one fantastic, high-saliva inciting food to the table.  And I?  Yes, I, too contributed to the culinary canvas.  In fact, I added not two, not three, but four delectable dishes to the cornucopia.  But did I remember to take a photo of said table, overflowing with the bounty of our kitchens?  Uh, no.  I was so engrossed in the captivating conversation, so distracted by the eye-catching textures and colours, interesting ingredient combinations and seductively wafting aromas that I, like everyone else, simply dug in and enjoyed. 

By the time I remembered this blog and the fact that I was supposed to chronicle the evening in photos (and post it to Holidailies), it was too late.  By then, only a few solitary dregs of each food lay wilted and soggy in the bottoms of platters, bowls, and casserole dishes, far too sparse and too exhausted to submit to a photo op.  And for that, I hang my blogging head in shame.

As an attempt to make amends for my lack of forethought when it came to the buffet table, I will here recreate the menu for you, and even supply recipes!  I did, thankfully, take a couple of photos of my own contributions before the crowd arrived, so you can have a glimpse of those.

First, the menu.  What a great bunch of gals–this is the Vegan assortment they (and I) co-created:

Appetizers:

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  • * Garlicky Black Bean Dip
  • * Chickpea-mint Spread
  • * Mushroom and Walnut Pate (from Veganomicon), photo left
  • * Assortment of wheat-free crackers
  • * Homemade Veggie Spring Rolls with Asian Cranberry Dipping sauce (to die for–will definitely see if I can cadge the recipe)

Salads/Sides:

  • Caesar Salad (from Veganomicon, with a twist–see below)
  • Edamame-Cabbage and Sesame Slaw
  • Stir-fried Mixed Veggies

Mains:

  • Smoked Tofu and Veggie-Lentil Stir-Fry with Zucchini “Pasta”
  • Mushroom, Potato and Tempeh Stew (a twist on recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance)

Desserts:

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  • * Vegan Tiramisu (recipe follows!)
  • * Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Loaves
  • * Chocolate-Cashew Bark (homemade and easy–see below)

Doesn’t everything sound amazing?  And with people just coming off all that holiday excess, this healthy yet delicious meal seemed almost ascetic.  Well, except the tiramisu, of course.

After the initial squeals of joy at seeing each other again, and the introductions (the nutrition crowd wasn’t yet familiar with the other two), we settled in to some wine or mineral water and the appetizers.  Since I’d promised at least one main and one dessert, I hadn’t planned to contribute to this particular course. But I had a surfeit of mushrooms after preparing the stew, so decided to browse my new copy of Veganomicon and came up with the Walnut Mushroom Pate.  I followed the recipe verbatim and was thrilled with the result–smooth, savory, and very rich tasting.  I seem to recall a similar reicpe from my childhood, when my mother experimented with “Mock Chopped Liver” (see, I told you she was an unwitting vegetarian). 

The other dip and spread, a chunky, minty chickpea mash and a smooth, slightly sweet black bean spread, were both delicious, but I think all the other appetizers were trumped by the absolutely mouth watering veggie spring rolls with Asian cranberry dipping sauce.  A succulent mix of veggies in a filo crust, baked to flaky perfection, then dipped in a slightly spicy, tart sauce brimming with cranberries–it was divine. 

By the time we’d cleared the buffet table of appetizers and moved to the main course,  we were all anticipating the treasures this group had brought to the table.  We began with a zingy vegan Caesar, also from Veganomicon (getting a lot of press in this post!).  I made just one adjustment to the already more or less perfect dressing recipe, mostly to accommodate my own peccadilloes and because I felt it would taste more authentically Italian this way:  I substituted roasted pine nuts for the almonds in the recipe.  Like the almonds, the pine nuts offered a slight graininess to the otherwise perfectly creamy dressing, approximating the texture of grated parmesan.  I loved, loved, loved the garlicky creaminess of the dressing, though I must admit it was a bit too pungent for most of the crowd, and that was with only 3 of the 4 recommended cloves! 

Guests also provided some sensational stir-fried veggies and Smoked Tofu mixture with veggies, lentils, and zucchini “pasta.”  The raw “pasta” is actually zucchini that’s been cut into long thin spaghetti-like threads using a Spiral Slicer.  You can approximate this idea by repeatedly grating the zucchini along its length with a carrot peeler (as if you were peeling the zucchini–but keep going even once the peel is gone).

My own addition to the menu was the savory Tempeh Stew, a variation on Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Tofu, Mushroom and Potato stew from her first cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance.  mushiesinpan.jpg I won’t repeat the entire recipe here, but I will tell you the changes I made:  first, instead of using exclusively cremini mushrooms (which looked a little drab and tired at my local grocer’s), I used half portobello mushrooms, for their meaty flavor and texture, and half regular button mushrooms.  This is a quick pic of the mushies after they’d been sauteed.

The combination seemed to work pretty well, allowing for a substantial chewiness along with an earthy flavor.  I also substituted tempeh for the tofu, as we were having quite a lot of tofu in other dishes and tempeh is my preference in any case.  I steamed the tempeh first in a mixture of vegetable broth and a splash of Bragg’s aminos (like soy sauce) before adding it, chunked, to the pot. 

The resulting mixture, right before it was covered for the final simmer, looked like this:

stew2.jpg

Simmering for an additional 30 or so minutes allowed the tempeh to absorb much of the flavor, and the potatoes to soften and soak up much of the sauce.  The final product was a thickly sauced, rich tasting and lip-smacking stew that I served with some whole spelt biscuits I whipped up at the last minute–great for sloshing in the gravy.

[Later insert:  This is what it looked like, reheated the following day for lunch–mmmnn!]:

tempehcooked.jpg

We reveled in both the feast and the confabulation for about an hour before venturing to dessert–itself enough to fill the table with platters and bowls! 

Absolute bedlam ensued at one point while Barb recounted a visit to an alternative energy worker, the methods of whom were new to most of us (Barb included).  While treating us to her vocal imitation of the healing chant she’d heard (somewhat like the scene in When Harry Met Sally, now that I think of it), she became so animated that The Girls, who’d been sleeping peacefully in opposite corners of the living room, immediately leapt to their feet, hackles up and tails erect,  snapping and growling as they dashed to the front door to see who was there.  Much like the prophet Elijah at Passover, the poltergeist evaded their detection, and they circled the room, roused and disoriented, until we gave them each a treat to calm down, poor things.  (“It was pretty startling, you know, Mum.  She did sound rather distressed.  And we just wanted to protect you all in case someone was trying to steal the food, that’s all.”)

My friend Michelle graciously brought two treats, a container of the Mocha Hazelnut cookies I previously posted on this site, as well as some delicious Mini Pumpkin Chocolate Chip loaves, another recipe of mine that I will post here anon. 

I provided a variety of the Mostly Raw Chocolate Truffles from an earlier post as well as a dish I’d created for a customer’s Christmas party last year–Vegan Tiramisu.  I got the idea from an old recipe in Dreena Burton’s Vive le Vegan, and adapted it with my own cake and filling.  I’ll explain what I did differently from Dreena’s recipe, so you can recreate it yourself if you wish.

Dessert brought more sharing of stories and howls of laughter before everyone dispersed around 11:30 (on a school night!).  It was the most fun I’ve had in ages.  Thanks, ladies, for a great evening, filled with your talented culinary creations, thoroughly delightful conversation, and generous spirits. 

Vegan Tiramisu

This is a dish I created for a customer last Christmas, and I’ve used it many times since.  It may be vegan, but it is definitely not virtuous.  A very rich, very luscious and velvety cream filling oozes between layers of light vanilla cake drizzled with spiked coffee. The entire affair is topped off with a light whipped “cream” and then sprinkled with chocolate curls.  My HH practically swooned over this one (and let me tell you, the last time he swooned over anything I did probably dates back to the Paleozoic era, just to give you a yardstick on that).

tiramisuclose.jpg

Ingredients:

  • one baked and cooled 9 x9 inch single-layer vanilla cake (I used my own recipe for a spelt and agave-based cake, but I think the agave cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World would work well if baked in a square pan as well).
  • Filling (recipe follows)
  • Whipped “cream” (I use a double recipe of the soymilk-based whipped “cream” from How It All Vegan, with the following changes:  I use 1 Tbsp. Sucanat instead of dry sweetener, and add 1 Tbsp. light agave nectar.  The texture is very light and quite irresistible.)
  • Chocolate curls (made by melting dairy-free chocolate chips, spreading on a plate lined with plastic wrap, and allowing to cool; then use a carrot peeler to grate along the side and the chocolate will form little curls, as you see in the photo).
  • about 1/2 to 2/3 cup cold, very strong coffee or coffee substitute, mixed with an equal amount liqueur (either coffee liquer, creme de cacao, or, as we did last evening, hazelnut liqueur (Frangelico).

Filling: I altered Dreena’s original filling recipe in the following way.  My version is really a combination of a cooked “pudding” blended with silken tofu. 

2 packages extra-firm silken tofu (aseptically packaged, such as Mori-Nu)

1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup Sucanat

1/4 cup soymilk (either vanilla or plain)

1/8 tsp. sea salt

1/4 cup organic cornstarch

In the bowl of a food processor, whir together the tofu and vanilla until perfectly smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.

In a medium pot, combine the maple syrup, Sucanat, soymilk, salt and cornstarch, and whisk to blend.  Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to boil softly.  Continue to stir or whisk constantly, cooking for one minute. 

Pour the hot mixture into the food processor along with the tofu and blend again until perfectly mixed and smooth.  Pour into a large bowl and place in refrigerator until cool, at least two hours. 

 To Assemble the Tiramisu:

In a large decorative bowl, spoon some of the filling and swirl to coat the bottom of the bowl.  Cut or tear the cake into thin strips or squares and lay down in a single layer over the filling.  Drizzle with about 1/3 of the coffee/booze mixture.  Cover with about 1/3 of the filling, and repeat with more cake, drizzle, filling, cake, drizzle and filling again, until all the filling, liquid, and cake are used up (you should have about 3 layers of each, and end with a layer of filling). 

Top the last layer with a thin coating of the whipped “cream,” ensuring no filling peeks through.  Sprinkle with chocolate curls.  Refrigerate at least 6 hours to allow cake to absorb the liquid and for flavors to meld. 

To serve, spoon into individual serving bowls, or– just to use them and because they look pretty–pull out that old set of martini glasses and use those for a decorative presentation.  Makes at least 10 servings, more if your crowd is able to exercise restraint.