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A Fresh Start. . . and 2008’s Last (Food-Related) Hurrah


[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. 


[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.


[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


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!

1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) Sucanat or other unrefined evaporated cane juice

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

1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) garam masala

3/4 tsp. (7.5 ml.) fine sea salt

1/4-1/2 tsp. (1-2.5 ml.) chili powder, to your taste

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) tomato purée (I used organic ketchup and omitted the Sucanat, above)

3/4 cup (180 ml.) unsweetened almond or soymilk

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 Tbsp. (10 ml.) chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 fresh green chili, chopped (optional–I omitted it as all the other dishes were very spicy)

3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) cumin seeds

1/2 tsp. (2. 5 ml.) black or yellow mustard seeds (I used black)

2-10 ounce (285 g.) bags frozen peas, defrosted under lukewarm water and drained

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) organic cornstarch or arrowroot powder, if needed

Combine the Sucanat, ground cumin, garam masala, salt, chili powder and tomato purée in the bottom of a medium-sized bowl.  Slowly stir in 2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) water and mix well.  Add the soymilk gradually and mix; then add the lemon juice, cilantro and optional green chili.  Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large frypan over medium-high heat.  Once hot, add the cumin and mustard seeds and fry until the seeds begin to pop (about 20-30 seconds).  Add the peas and fry for 30 more seconds before adding the sauce to the pan.  Cook on medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.  For a thicker sauce, ladle out about 1/2 cup of the sauce into a small bowl and blend with the 1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) cornstarch.  Add this mixture back to the frypan and stir until thickened. 

Serve over rice or with cheela.  Makes about 6 servings.

Cheela* (Chickpea Pancakes)

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

*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.

9 ounces (250 g.) chickpea flour (besan)

pinch of salt

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

1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) baking soda

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

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) soy or coconut milk

1 onion, finely chopped

1/2-1 green chili, finely chopped

2 tomatoes, diced

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) chopped fresh cilantro

olive oil cooking spray (I use an atomizer)

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, turmeric, baking soda, cumin, soymilk, and enough water to make a slightly thick, yet still flowing, batter. Stir in the chopped onion, green chili, tomato and cilantro.

Heat a nonstick (5 inch or 12 cm.) pancake pan [I just used a regular frypan] and spray with olive oil spray.  Pour in about 1/3 cup batter, spreading it around to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin pancake.  Spray the top of the pancake with oil as well.

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook the pancake for about 2-3 minutes, until the top begins to dry and the bottom of browned in spots. Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes until the other side is browned as well. Remove and keep warm while you make another 7 or so pancakes. Serve hot.  Makes about 8 pancakes.  Best eaten immediately (they do dry out if kept till the next day).

Last Year at this Time: Pear and Ginger Mini Loaves or Muffins

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs



42 comments to A Fresh Start. . . and 2008’s Last (Food-Related) Hurrah

  • As usual, it all looks delicious. And now I really want to make dahl. Lentils are a-going onto my grocery list pronto.


  • That certainly does sound like some delicious Indian food! I like your 5-year plan idea….I just went for no resolutions this year, haha.


  • yeah, resolutions, goals… all the same thing, almost seems worse at the beginning of the year!

    i’m just getting into indian food, but i’ve enjoyed it so far. i’ll have to add these to my list!

    ps- ijust whipped up a batch of your chocolate pate, oh my, i haven’t cut it yet, but the batter was divine and will definately wooed over 🙂


  • I like your long-range resolution plan. It makes so much sense and is so hard to do.

    I like the menu, too. We also cooked a full Indian meal recently (it included samosas so it wasn’t gluten or wheat free) which I will eventually get around to posting. This reminds me that I haven’t cooked mung bean dal in a long time, and it’s my favorite.


  • Yum what a feast!! I really want to cook Indian food more often at home but I think I don’t because there are always a lot of ingredients I don’t already have. That’s no excuse though as most things are not hard to find. I should make my resolution the same as yours!


  • bex

    Maybe it’s because I love peas so much but those peas look dreamy. This is going to the top of my list to make.


  • Holy yum happy new year!! 😀


  • Looks like a scrumptious holiday feast – I love having lots of different Indian plates but often don’t have the energy for such endeavours – unless I have leftovers. But I love the look of those peas so will add to my bookmarks for a good Indian side dish. And am glad you explained the relationship between pudla and cheela which I was wondering about – now hope you can enjoy a little more chillaxing before 2009 gathers momentum 🙂


  • Mmm I love home made Indian food because I can leave out the heat factor 😛 It all looks amazing!


  • veganhomemade

    I am also one not for making resolutions, but for writing down goals – it makes them seem much more real and attainable. Your Indian feast looks absolutely scrumptious! Sounds like something worth making a tradition of.


  • Oh, those peas look and sound wonderful. Not a dish I’ve come across before and I do love my Indian food!
    Happ New Year to you.


  • Happy New Year! I love Indian food and those peas look so amazing! By the way, I made the apricot spread you blogged about before Christmas. I gave one jar to my father and another one to my boyfriend. They both really enjoyed it. Thank you for the recipe again.


  • I most definitely think you’re above average! Just last night I was wondering what I was going to do with the 2k bag of frozen peas I have in the freezer! Thank you for the great recipe! Well, recipes.
    And I think the 5-year plan is a good way to go. I’ve never been able to get that far ahead, but I often find myself writing a list of goals, and then writing mini-goals I’d need to reach to get to the big ones. I would really like to have my own home, too.


  • I seriously could eat Indian food every day. These recipes look wonderful and I know your buffet was fabulous!


  • “Cook Indian more often” sounds like an excellent, excellent goal. Your dinner components look so wonderful! I am hungry for Indian now, for sure. I always make excuses about cooking ethnic cuisine and don’t do it too often…it’s always, “I don’t have all the fresh spices,” or “I don’t know how to buy chiles,” and I talk myself out of it.
    I guess staring at your pretty pictures will have to suffice! 🙂


  • Now I’m craving good Indian food! Yum!


  • Everything looks delicious! My boyfriend and I love indian food, and this has just prompted me to make an indian feast of my own!


  • Everything looks so wonderful. I love Indian food, but haven’t tried making my own. Thanks for the ideas!


  • happy new year!
    I’d love to hear more about the potato kale curry, if you do figure out more specifics.


  • Those pictures are making my mouth water! A good curry is so perfect for winter… I must put this on my “to-cook” list!


  • ttfn300,
    Thanks so much! I hope you liked the finished product as well! 🙂

    I’m not actually sure if pudla and cheela are the same thing, but the recipes I found seemed to be about the same. And thanks for jumping on the chillaxing bandwagon! 🙂 (It IS somehow more laid back than just relaxing, you know 😉 )

    I’m so glad it worked out and both your boyfriend and dad liked it! I’m still working my way through the jar I made before Christmas (the HH isn’t a fan, sadly. . .)

    Aw, thanks! Here’s hoping we both get that home before the NEXT 5-year plan is written 🙂

    For the potato curry, I had some leftover plain tomato pasta sauce–tomatoes plus sauteed onion and garlic and a bit of oregano (!!). I added cooked cubed potato, chopped kale, black mustard seeds, fenugreek, curry powder, ground chilis, grated ginger, a splash of lemon juice, minced cilantro, more garlic. . . I think maybe some cumin and/or coriander as well–basically, spices for a masala curry. By the time I’d added everything else, the oregano got lost in the mix. . . and somehow, it worked!


  • Those peas look so pretty in the creamy tomato sauce! Love the colors.


  • Indian foods I’ve never eaten or heard of before are going on my list of new foods to try in 2009!

    Hey, if you need any help with HTML just let me know. I used to be a web designer 🙂


  • happy new year to you too, Ricki! hooray for 2009! that’s interesting on writing down goals – i’m gonna have to do that! w00t!

    what a delicious feast! i loooove me some indian yummies – and yours look divine! thanks for the recipes, too! totally going to have to try out those chickpea pancakes. mmmmmmmm!


  • wow. WOW! WOOOOW!! I am SO gonna go get lentils and peas and garam marsala right now. You’ve totally inspired me.


  • Carmen

    I’m curious…do you also cook for your dogs or do you buy dog food?
    I just found your site recently and love all your recipes….have tried several already…..fantastic!


  • giz

    I’m taking your advice – write down goals, get more committed to keeping them.
    New Years sounded just perfect. Too bad Elsie doesn’t play nice – she missed a great evening.


  • Liz

    Ooooh. Those peas look amazing! And the dal too.

    That is a great tip about writing down your goals. It sounds along the same lines with writing down what you eat everyday to cut calories.


  • Great entry, Ricki. I will try these recipes and report back. I am a sucker for Indian food.

    I wish you the best on all of your 2009 goals. Still need to make my list. 🙂


  • aAAH!! I’m in SE ASIA and I can’t find garam marsala! that’s CRAZY! and I have a whole bottle of it at home in America, too! guess these tantalizing recipes have to wait…


  • Happy New Year!! I absolutely love you idea of a 5 year plan- I’ve never made New Years resolutions, but you 5 year plan sounds so wise… Thank you for sharing your insight!

    Your peas look incredible, too… They’ll be the perfect pair to the curried butternut squash soup I’m planning on fixing tonight! Thank you for completing our meal!! 🙂


  • Yum! I love Indian food! Thanks for the recipes and for sharing your 5-year plan idea. Happy New Year!


  • I can’t wait to try those peas. I have been obsessed with curries and Indian food lately. Thanks for the recipe.


  • Hi Ricki!

    I just bought Chickpea flour and was not sure what to make with it so those pancakes are PERFECT. Along with Susan’s Sweet Potato Falafels I now have 2 great recipes. What luck!

    p.s. I went public with my blog, hahaha. I told you I probably was going to end up doing that.


  • Happy new year to you Ricki!! I’m so glad you’re going to keep on blogging in 2009. I so enjoy your posts. And I think you’re right that writing your goals down makes you more likely to follow through. You’ve inspired me to start a list of goals to accomplish too!!
    And yum, cooking more Indian food is a great one to add to the list!


  • happy new year! wow indian food looks delish!


  • I had big plans for my two days off at New Year too, but they didn’t come to pass. All I wanted to do was take it easy with a book. Once my housework was done of course. Happy New Year Ricki 🙂


  • Hi! I’m here from “Musings from the Fishbowl”. These recipes look so delicious … I can’t wait to try them. Thank you for sharing your recipes … I’m vegetarian and always looking for wonderful new dishes.

    Take Care!

    Small Footprints


  • Yum that all looks so lovely but the Peas in a Creamy Curry Sauce gets me all excited. Thanks for the recipe!
    Indian food is my favourite!


  • […] If you’re looking for a similar pancake (gluten-free) made with chickpea flour, I wrote about those here –just scroll to the bottom for the recipe (though there was no photo of that […]

  • Hey Ricki – I made the pancakes today! So yummy, and so easy! I didn’t have a few of the ingredients and I added more salt (love salt). They are delish! Thanks for another great recipe.


  • […] and to The Gluten-Free Homemaker’s Gluten-Free Wednesday. I recommend pairing the dal with Pudla from Diets, Desserts and Dogs. You have heard me rave about the recipe here. […]

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