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Appetizers in Absentia (and a Giveaway Winner!)


[Thanks to everyone who entered the Simply Bar giveaway!  I apologize for never learning how to capture and post the Random.org page with the winning number, but I promise you it was number 46–which translates to Eve of A Tale of Two Vegans!  Congrats, Eve!  Please email me with your mailing address so we can get your bars out to you asap!]

Well,  you know what they say. . . the best laid plans sometimes go AWOL (or something like that).  In my case, plans for the Labor Day weekend–well, Sunday, actually–were waylaid by an impromptu visit. . . to the emergency room.

No, not for me.  The HH, however, is still recovering (and he’ll be fine, thankfully).  We had planned to have our friends Nutritionista and her hubby over for appetizers and drinks in the evening, so the HH was conscientiously outside in the early afternoon (I was prepping for back to school), pulling weeds and mowing the lawn.  About midway through the task, he walked slowly into the house and stood, immobile, in the hallway. 

“Are you done already?” I asked. (The HH hates lawn work and I figured he’d done a haphazard job just to get it over with.)

“Um, no,” he replied.  “But I think maybe we need to go to the hospital.” 

Not exactly the words you want to hear emanating from your honey’s lips as you’re peeling potatoes. 

While pushing the (non-electric) mower, he’d been arrested by a sudden shower of brownish “floaters” (cloudy specs, strands or cobweb-like images that float across the field of vision, originating from within the eye).  He said it looked as if someone had poured balsamic vinegar over oil, or splattered mud all over a windshield–and he couldn’t see clearly through the mess. 

And so, emergency room it was. 

I mean, really–the lengths that HH will go to, just to get out of doing his chores!

Most floaters are a normal outcome of cells in the vitreous layer (the jelly-like fluid inside the eye) drying out and separating from the vitreous as people get older.  Normally, they are no more than a mild nuisance, most visible when you look at light backgrounds such as white paper or a clear blue sky. As someone who’s nearsighted, I have floaters undulating across my field of vision on a regular basis–but mine are fairly inobtrusive, mostly resembling tiny  jelllyfish-like creatures that swoosh and sway benignly.  (To see a cool example of what floaters look like, check this page–scroll down to the blue box on the bottom right hand side.)

After five hours in emerg, the HH was finally examined by a doctor, only to be told that they didn’t have an opthalmologist on call at that particular hospital. With so few opthalmologists to go around, they rotated their on-call sites each weekend (Americans, are you sure you want Canadian-style health care?  Really??).  So off we drove to the second hospital, 20 minutes away.  There, we were met by a young doctor whom we’d obviously wrenched from a family Labor Day event, still in his polo T and stonewashed jeans.  He led the HH to an examining room in an otherwise deserted  part of the hospital (the place was already closed for the weekend), then into an anteroom for laser surgery, to repair two large tears in the HH’s retina.  The brown floaters were signs of bleeding behind the eye!

It’s times like those that I wonder, what did we do before modern technology?  Within 15 minutes, the rips had been repaired, the bleeding stopped, and the HH released with a bottle of anti-inflammatory eye drops and no exterior signs of trauma .  While there is always a chance that the tear will progress to a detached retina (a big-deal emergency in which major surgery would be invoked), the kind doc reassured us that things looked pretty good in the HH’s vitreous, and set up a follow up appointment this week.  Whew!

Needless to say, our friends didn’t come over that evening.  I had, however, planned to serve some really ingenious appetizers.  I thought I’d serve them to all of you instead–well, virtually, anyway.

You may recall my love affair with cashew goat cheese a while back.** I’ve been eating the stuff every which way you can imagine, including spread on raw collard leaves for wraps, on plain coconut flour biscuits for breakfast, in blobs on salads, and straight from the container.  Another favorite is in jalapeno poppers. 


My poppers are an ACD-friendly version of a bar snack  I shared with a friend years ago in a pub in Welland. The originals involved cream cheese filling, a breaded coating and some heavy duty deep frying.  This version is much more civilized, simply roasted jalapenos filled with a hefty spoonful of “goat cheese”–no recipe required! 

I must warn you, however, that if you don’t have asbestos lips as I do (these were far too hot for the HH’s palate–after a tiny taste, he threw the pepper back on the plate, spat out the morsel that had made it inside his mouth, and drank half a beer in one gulp), you might want to try these with Cubanelles, poblanos or another slightly milder, yet still relatively small, pepper.  Part of the appeal of poppers, I think, is that they can be consumed in two or three bites.


The other appetizer I’d planned to serve was a twist on bruschetta, made with thick rounds of roasted potato instead of the bread.  I topped these with homemade pesto using basil from our garden, chopped tomatoes (also from the garden, thereby depleting our entire harvest of FOUR tomatoes this year), a drizzle of olive oil and a few more shreds of basil.  The final result was a little miracle of synergy.  

With a slightly crisp exterior and creamy, still warm interior, the potatoes offered a perfect base for the bruschetta.  Each bite presented a medley of temperatures and textures, the firm rounds highlighted with smooth, fragrant pesto and slurpy, ripe tomato. The HH and I actually consumed the entire batch (about 15 pieces) in one sitting as our late-night dinner, before toppling into bed. 

To those of you who read about the HH’s ordeal on twitter or Facebook, thanks for all the good wishes.  His eyes will be fine–though, after that bite of Jalapeno Popper, I think his lips may need a little more recovery time.

AND IF YOU’RE IN THE TORONTO AREA. . . Please drop by and see me at the annual Vegetarian Food Fair  at Harbourfront on Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13!  I’ll be demonstrating recipes from Sweet Freedom and handing out samples of both–Maple Walnut Cookies (Saturday) and Butterscotch Blondies (Sunday).   Come on over and say “hi”!


Last Year at this Time:  Mock Tuna Salad

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs


38 comments to Appetizers in Absentia (and a Giveaway Winner!)

  • This looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it sometime soon!


  • Pam

    Congratulations Eve!

    Nice food dishes…yum!


  • Courtney

    Oh no! Poor HH! What happened?! Did something happen to cause the tears?! Or did it just happen?!

    I think I would have to agree with the HH–I will have to look for a milder pepper…I love spice, but I like *my* version of spiciness, which is mild 🙂



  • Glad HH is ok!! crazy events, but i’m glad they got taken care of (relatively) quickly.

    These apps look great–and fantastic idea with the potato rounds!


  • I love the idea of roasted potatoes instead of toast for bruschetta – but as for the jalapeno, it might make my eyes water so much I wouldn’t be able to see much more than HH.

    That emergency with HH sounds stressful – glad you were able to find an opthamologist and get it fixed – hope he was able to finish the gardening 🙂

    PS – I used to get these floaters after cartwheeling as a student – those were the days when such things were possible!


  • is the goat cheese recipe your original? It does look amazing, and the shortcuts make it look even temtpting-er =)


  • I’m sorry to read that HH went through this last weekend. Not fun! I’m glad to learn he’s recovering well.
    Your potato bruschettas look fabulous! Using a potato slice instead of bread is a great idea.
    Thank you for sharing your shortcuts for the cashew cheese recipe! Getting the job done faster without compromising on quality? I’m all for it!


  • Eeep! I am sorry to hear about the eye drama. Hopefully that will be the end of the problem! *fingers crossed*

    Now, onto a serious matter I think I might love you for the potato bruschetta. Seriously. I love potato in all new and exciting forms, and this… looks delicious.

    Susan 🙂


  • How scary- I don’t know how you two manage to keep it together when emergencies happen! I’m prone to freak-outs, I guess… But I’m so glad the problem was found and fixed [fairly] easily.


  • Healthy Hostess,
    Thanks so much for your comment, and for reading! Let me know if you do try them out. 🙂


    Just a not-atypical eventuality of being older and very, very nearsighted. Apparently, could happen to anyone, without prior warning! And don’t worry, I’ll eat enough jalapenos for the two of us. 😉

    Thanks on behalf of the HH!

    Wouldn’t want your eyes to water! The opthalmologist was the on-call guy at the emergency department that night (he certainly earned his salary that evening). And cartwheels? You are my hero!

    No, the recipe is from Vegetarian Times. The link goes straight to their website (with the original recipe). I think it’s well worth the time (well, the shortcut time, anyway!) 😉

    Thanks so much! The shortcut makes it much easier (and you can get that cheese into your mouth that much faster!) 😉

    Thanks–I do hope this is the end of the drama, too! And I’m with you on the potato love (perhaps a bit too much, in my case. . . ).

    Did I say I kept it together? Um, nope. . . but didn’t let the HH know until all was fine. And yes, it did seem almost too easy given the seriousness of the problem! 🙂


  • Your appetizers are both amazing and amazingly creative.


  • First of all, this food looks amazing!

    Second of all, I’m so sorry that happened to your husband, I hope everything is alright and he feels better soon.

    Third, even though I don’t live in the US, I am an American and did live there during my time in university and YES, I would definitely prefer the Canadian (or UK or French, etc) version of health care to what we currently have. You see, if I was in the states and the same thing happened to me…I could not afford to go to the doctor at all. So, while it took you and your husband a bit longer to find the proper doctor, I would have no doctor. 🙂


  • Oh my goodness! I’m glad the HH is okay!! Mine once got himself bitten by a redback spider in order to get out of the mowing (thankfully him being big combined with Mr Spider not getting a good grip, he was fine after a couple of hours being monitered in hospital).

    Mmmm I really have to try that goats cheese! I made the feta (which was also wonderful, overpowering lemon and garlic aside) so this is definitely next on my list.

    And who could resist potato bruscetta?!?! LOVE potato!


  • I am so sorry for your husband! And for you both for having to spend the whole day in ER.
    Those appetizers look absolutely amazing. Seriously, Ricki when is your next cookbook coming out?


  • Oh my goodness, how scary! I’m so glad the HH is OK! Sending him tons of wishes for a speedy recovery!

    I’m sure one bite of your incredibly brilliant potato bruschetta would speed one along to recovery wonderfully – such a clever idea! Too cool! I also think your jalapeno poppers look amazing – bring on the fire! Yes! 🙂


  • Laura from over the pond

    Oh my goodness Ricki, I really hope that your husband is ok now- I was seven when my Mum’s retina detached twice- her GP (the equivalent of family doctor in the U.S?) refused to believe her first time around- meaning it got so bad that she had to have her eyeball taken out and retina stiched back together- needless to say that she is virtually blind in one eye. She said that when it began to detach it looked like a ‘veil’ coming down over her vision. Your husband is a very brave man! Sorry, thats a bit graphic for (such a great!) foodie site. Does your husband have a family history/very short sight? I know that my Mum was advised not to lean over to pick things up, and to sneeze through her mouth (!!) to prevent pressure building up in her eye socket. I hope that might help a bit… and btw, thank you so much for such a great source of inspiration- even if I am continually frustrated by the lack of equivalent vegan-friendly products/restaurants in the U.K…



  • Great idea..I will make this bruschetta!


  • i can’t believe he tore his retina! oh my goodness, Ricki – i’m glad your spouse is okay! i had to chuckle at the doctor being in a polo & jeans. that’s just too funny! i too have little floaters – mine are also jelly-fish like & kinda blue. i can’t imagine all of a sudden having crazy balsamic vinegar colored ones of that size. eeeeeeek! so crazy!

    sorry that you didn’t get to host the get-together, but your appetizers look mighty fine. i still need to make the cashew cheeze, and i think dan’s gonna FLIP for your potato bruschetta! mmmmmmmmm!


  • Jes

    I’m so glad everything turned out ok! That sounds like a horrifying ordeal for everyone!

    But those potato bruscetta bites look ridiculously awesome. I’m going to have to make those in the next 24 hours. I’m so not ready for fall and no more tomatoes or basil. 🙁

    And thanks for the alterations for the goat cheese. Now that it’s easier to make and less time consuming, I’m totally going to whip some up for poblano poppers!


  • Rrrrickky! You’re a ‘Heller’ of a cook! Nyuk nyuk nyuk…

    I didn’t know you were going to be at the Veg fair this weekend!!!?? (Hope that wasn’t a secret)…I’m going to try to see you…Meghan Telpner and Jae Steele and Ricki Heller…What a lineup!

    Gotta stop being lazy and try that goat cheez!

    Glad HH is ok!!


  • So relieved to hear the HH is doing well. That sounded like a scary incident.

    When I first saw the bruschetta I thought it was polenta, but I love the roasted potatoes. It looks so beautiful.

    I’m SO glad you shortened that cheese recipe! I never could get past the part where it drained for 12 hours through all those layers of cheesecloth. Maybe I can make it now. Maybe I don’t have to soak the cashews?


  • I love that you made gluten free bruschetta! Your tomato season was very similar to ours in Texas, but for different reasons I’m sure!


  • Happy to hear your husband is okay!!

    That bruschetta looks so amazing. I love that you used potato instead of bread!! Definitely something I know I’d love. You’re making me really curious about the cashew goat cheese! I love how you made a healthier version of jalapeno poppers though I’d likely not be able to eat them, same as your husband. I’m trying to up my tolerance for spicy foods but it’s a slow road!


  • Mom

    You definitely did the right thing getting that eye checked out immediately. I have had a separation without the tearing which was scary enough. That potato&pesto picture grabbed me; love potatoes, love pesto, the pepper thing not so much. The nut cheese is intriguing – have to plan a shopping trip soon. Glad you both made it through the rest of the weekend!


  • mmm, I love cashew cheese too!

    Not sure if someone commented yet, but hold down the ctrl key and press the key that says “print screen.” You are essentially copying the whole view on your screen then. Paste it into a program that allows you to manipulate images (I just use Image Composer – thinks it Microsoft or something) and crop it down. Not very fancy, but it works!


  • Oh my gosh, I’m glad HH is okay! That is a crazy sounding injury, I would have been totally freaked out.

    On the other hand, your appies look amazing, and you’ve totally got me wanting to make that cheese now.


  • I was trying to guess from the photo but didn’t come up with potato. Of course! Genius. Glad the HH is ok, sounds scary.


  • I’m glad HH is okay! I have to laugh, though, it’s such a food lover thing to do to describe a frightening medical symptom in terms of balsamic vinegar.


  • awesome bruschetta by using the pototoes! My son keeps asking be to try and make jalepeno poppers.


  • Whew, I am so glad that HH’s malady was not serious and quickly fixed. I was so nervous reading your account. I know my husband will find any reason NOT to get something checked out, so I’m glad HH knows when a check up is needed.


  • Micco,
    Thanks so much! And thanks for your comment. 🙂

    Voracious Vegan,
    Thanksk for the clarification. I was under the impression that there are some state-funded hospitals/doctors in the US as well. And thanks for the well-wishes–he is definitely better now!

    Yowch! I think the spider sounds scarier to me. 😉

    Aw, thanks so much! First, I need to get the word out about this one. . . ! 😉

    Astra Libris,
    Yay–another fire-lover! I can’t seem to eat enough of those poppers. And thanks for the good wishes for the HH! 🙂

    What a horribly scary story! I can’t believe they wouldn’t believe HER–and it’s her eye! I will pass the advice on to the HH. And sorry about the lack of equivalents–let me know what you’re missing and I’ll see if I can come up with some workable substitutes. 🙂

    Thanks so much, and for reading! Let me know how you like it if you do decide to make it.

    Thanks for the commiseration! And hope Dan likes the apps! (appetizers, that is, not iPhone toys!) 😉

    Hope you like them! And thanks for the good wishes re: HH. 🙂

    No, not a secret–just forgot to mention it! I’ve added a mention at the end of this post. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder, and hope to see you there!

    I just couldn’t get into such a long prep time, either (I am basically lazy). This version seems to work just as well! 🙂

    What are the reasons over there? Over here, it’s called, “unskilled gardener.” 😉

    Heat is an acquired taste, for sure. But I bet you’ll like the cheese!

    Aw, thanks–from me AND the HH. 🙂

    Thanks so much for the good wishes! The rest of the weekend was very low key, of course–a great time to eat more poppers (sorry ’bout that). 😉

    Thanks for the tip! I will try it next time.

    The cheese is worth it! And thanks for the good wishes. 🙂

    Really? I guess it’s only obvious once you know what it is! Thanks for the good wishes re: the HH.

    Thanks so much for your comment! And I hadn’t quite thought of it that way, but yes, food lover indeed! 🙂

    Let me know what he thinks if you do make them for him!

    Still Life,
    That’s what the HH is like, too, so I knew it HAD to be serious for him to ASK to go! Thanks for the good wishes. 🙂


  • that potato bruschetta looks amazing! it’s so funny how a bunch of simple ideas come together to create something so new, like you can’t believe nobody’s thought of it before. must try this.


  • Vivacious Vegan

    Hi Ricki,
    I checked out the cashew cheese recipe (and even double checked it with the printed version in the magazine to make sure it wasn’t a misprint online). Aside from the water to soak the cashews which gets drained off, I don’t see where it calls for 1/2 cup water (which means I don’t understand where you’d decrease it from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup). Help!


  • […] POTATO BRUSCHETTA recipe and photo via Diet, Dessert and Dogs […]

  • […] snacks and finger food menu and after much deliberation between the husband and me, we settled on potato plank bruschetta, chicken filled lettuce wraps, bean and corn quesadillas with guacamole and minced meat hand pies […]

  • want!!!! If it wasn’t so cold out would rush to the shops to make this right now!


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