*Or, It’s almost Valentine’s Day–time for bad puns!
When I was a teenager, I believed Valentine’s Day was all about romance–and the fact that I didn’t have a sweetheart with whom to be romantic. I’d sit at home listening to (Rod Stewart’s version of) The First Cut is the Deepeston my parents’ console stereo in our living room, fantasizing about tall, dark, handsome strangers who’d present me with a dozen long-stemmed roses; or dashing, rakish strangers (who happened to own their own chartered jets) who would sweep me off my feet and fly me to Paris for brunch. In reality, I was spending the evening alone, feeling sorry for myself and, mostly, wondering why I didn’t have a boyfriend. My parents, of course, were out for the evening, with each other–since it was Valentine’s Day.
Once I met my friend Sterlin in grade nine, she and I began to spend our Valentines Days together, watching old movies on TV and ruminating about why neither one of us had a boyfriend. One of our best February 14ths was the year they decided to broadcast that old Susan Hayward classic,I Want to Live, on TV. (You see, Oh Younger Readers, those were the days before the advent of PVRs–or even VCRs–in every home, and we were dependent upon the whims of the Great TV Programming Gods for our show selection.) We sat on the faux leather sofa in my parents’ basement hunched over a big bowl of Doritos, alternately munching and sobbing uncontrollably–especially when the laywer character (not realizing he is defending his own mother) remarks to the Susan Hayward character (who is going to face the gas chamber after being wrongfully accused of murder), ”If I had a mother, I’d want her to be just like you. “ Oh, boo hoo hoo hoo!! (Crunch, crunch).
Nowadays, although I have a sweetie with whom to share the Day of Hearts and Roses (and let’s not forget Chocolate), I still bemoan the lack of romance in my life on Valentine’s Day. The HH, you see, is many things (witty, kind, generous, incredibly artistically talented, a human trivia database, in love with our Girls), but “romantic” is not one of them. His idea of romance is reading aloud to me. . . from his “Polywell Fusion Reactor“ article.
Normally, for special occasions like Christmas or my birthday, I’ve learned to let the HH know in advance what I might like so that, at the least, he’ll show up after work with something gift-wrapped under his arm. This year for Valentine’s Day, however, I decided not to put in my usual request for chocolates (not ACD-friendly) or champagne (ditto) or flowers (I’d probably be allergic to the ones he chose) and just accept that he expresses his love in other ways. A few weeks ago, for instance, when I was feeling a little under the weather, the HH marched out into the snow and -22C (-8 F) weather with The Girls every evening to spare me having to go. And when I slowly rotate my head from side to side in an attempt to release some of the stress in my neck, he’ll often magically appear behind my desk chair and provide a mini neck-and-shoulder massage, no prompting necessary.
I hope I’ll be pleasantly surprised on Valentine’s Day, whether or not the HH’s contribution to the day is classically “romantic.” For my part, I’ve got a special celebration in mind, and it involves making Whoopee. (Pies, of course. Silly!). We’ll have chocolate, we’ll have cake, we’ll have sweetness and a light filling. And, of course, we’ll have each other. And that’s romantic enough for me.
When I first developed this recipe, I put out a note on twitter asking folks about the texture of “authentic” whoopie pies, because I had never tasted one before. I was told they were halfway between cake and cookie, slightly denser than a cake but softer than a cookie–and that’s just how these turn out. Even if they don’t taste “authentic,” I don’t mind. They’re delicious in their own right.
2/3 cup (160 ml) unsweetened plain or vanilla soy, almond, rice or coconut milk (the type in a carton, not a can)
one batch of ACD-Friendly Chocolate “Buttercream” Frosting, from here, or your favorite thick frosting
Make the pies:
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment or spray wtih nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, coconut sugar, stevia, vinegar, vanilla, oil, tahini and flax until smooth. Set aside while you measure the dry ingredients, or at least 5 minutes.
In a small bowl, sift together the teff flour, millet flour, potato starch, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until combined. Using an ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup (80 ml) measuring cup, scoop out batter and place in mounds on cookie sheet. Wet your palms and flatten the mounds so that they are uniformly about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thick all over.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, then rotate cookie sheets and bake another 5-7 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.
Assemble the pies:
Once cooled, cut each cookie in half horizontally (as if cutting a sandwich roll). Spread 1-2 Tbsp (15-30 ml) of frosting (or more, to taste) on the cut side of the bottom of each cookie; replace the top of each cookie over the frosting. Enjoy! May be frozen, either as-is or after they’ve been filled with frosting. Defrost, well-wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator. Makes 6 large whoopee pies.
“Mum, we wouldn’t mind staying home watching a movie on Valentine’s Day if we could munch on those Doritos, too. . . or else maybe we could make our own canine form of whoopee by just playing outside. As in, ‘It’s snowing–Whoooopeeeee!’”
[THANKS, everyone, for your comments in response to my question at the end of my last post. I appreciate all the different perspectives and will address the issue next time! If you haven't added your two cents yet, you still can. I'd love to hear from you!]
Ah, the crazy, lazy days of summer.
Well, at least I got it half right.
Ack!! I’m going nuts over here! Bonkers! Batty! Off the deep end! Loco! Folle! Verrückt! Whack! Or, as Susan Powter used to say,
“STOP THE INSANITEEEEEEEE!!”.
Well, really, it’s my own fault. I mean, it’s crunch time at my job, but I’m still motoring full-speed ahead with cookbook promotion (which is still on sale, too! You can check it out here). And starting to write a new one (more on that anon). And maintaining this blog. AND writing articles as a freelancer. AND agreeing to talk at various nutrition events. Oh, and somehow making sure my HH doesn’t forget what I look like through all of this. Not to mention the very high-maintenance Girls.
“Excuse me, Mum, but I resemble that remark–I mean, resent that remark. True, my fur sheds like nobody’s business and true, if you don’t play with me when I ask, I start to howl and moan and growl and bark at you, and true, if you continue to ignore me, I go over to Elsie and bite her ear and paw her until she finally plays with me, but what do you mean, ‘high maintenance’? What? Aren’t all dogs like that?”
Well, the only reason they get away with it (okay, it’s actually only Chaser) is because they are so gosh-darned cute. And because being with them lowers my blood pressure, which is actually helpful while I’m drowning in this welter of marking, writing, marking, baking, marking, writing, marking, cooking, marking and marking. And marking.
I really wanted to share this ingenious recipe for Rhubarb Swirl Ice Cream–especially since it’s time for another SOS Roundup in just four days! (c’mon, folks, get those rhubarb recipes in while you can!)–but I just don’t have time to write another blog post today. So I’ve decided to give the task over to The Girls, and let them earn their keep, a little.
Sorry, but I’m just too busy to let you know about how insanely creamy this ice cream is, or how it uses walnuts and coconut milk for an ultra-rich and smooth base that doesn’t turn to ice in the freezer, or how the meandering pink swirl of tangy rhubarb is simple to make and can also be used as a compote or topping instead, or how the HH and I scooped up the entire batch of this ice cream in in three days flat. Nope, no time for that. I’ll just have to leave it up to The Girls to convey the message for me.
Over to you, Elsie
And happy reading, everyone!
OOOh, Elsie–I mean, Ellen–can you believe it??!! Mum is letting us take over the blog! Whooopeee! Oh, I’m so excited, I can’t believe it, I have to writhe on the ground and grrrrrrr and yelp and bite your ear and—
Zip it, Chaser, or we’ll never get this done. Mum has bestowed this responsibility upon us and we must take it seriously. Oh, and you don’t have to call me Ellen for a while. The show is on hiatus for the summer, so they’re not paying attention, anyway. But if people want to send a message to the show in support of Mum being on it, this is a great time, because Ellen’s people will have more time to read them! Now, let me think about the best way to approach this blog task. . .
Okay!! But this is STILL so exciting! I can hardly contain myself! Should we write about playing? Or running up and down the hallway? Or watching for strangers from the window and barking at them??? Or maybe going on a “W. A. L. K”–
Put a lid on it, kid. We’ve got to get to work here. And just FYI, Mum doesn’t realize we know how to spell.
Oops, sorry! Okay, so how about discussing Frisbees, my favorite? Or my ball–I LOVE MY BALL! We could talk about throwing it and chasing it, and then throwing it and chasing it again! And maybe throwing it and chasing it once more after that!! Oooh, that’s my favorite activity! Or we could talk about–
* * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * *
Heh heh. Now that she’s gone, let’s get to–
Whew! That squirrel must have been moving pretty fast if I couldn’t even SEE it! Okay, here I am again! Now, I know we’re supposed to say something on the blog, but I think I’ve forgotten what it was. . . something to do with eating. . . .
Don’t worry, Chaser, I’ve done this before. Let’s just talk about this Rhubarb Swirl Ice Cream.
Oooh, yeah, Rhubarb Swirl Ice Cream! One of my favorite things!! I LOVE Rhubarb Swirl Ice Cream! It’s so delicious! It’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted! It’s better than sliced bread Dentabones! It’s tops! Fabulous! Fantastic!!!!!!
. . . . Um, what’s rhubarb, again?
It’s people food. But we’re allowed to taste it. It’s not too sweet, which is good for us. And it’s easy to make, which is good for Mum. But all you need to know is that it contains protein, from the walnuts and (good) fat.
Oooh, Protein and Fat! Two of my favorite things!! I LOVE protein and fat! They’re so delicious! They’re the best things–
Take a chill pill, kid. Let’s just let Mum’s readers see the recipe. Our job here is done.
Well, except for cleaning up the leftovers, right? Ooh, leftovers! I LOVE leftovers! They’re so delicious. . . . .
Rhubarb Swirl Ice Cream(suitable for ACD Phase II and beyond)
This is one vegan ice cream that won’t turn brick-hard as it freezes. The trick is the combination of walnuts and vegetable glycerin* in the base, since neither of these ever firms up completely in the freezer. This is also my first recipe using coconut sugar*, which worked like a charm.
2 Tbsp (30 ml) arrowroot powder or cornstarch
1/4 cup (60 ml) water, divided
2 cups (240 ml) chopped rhubarb (about 2 stalks)
1/4 cup (60 ml) coconut sugar*
2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) ground ginger
20-25 drops stevia, to taste
1 cup (4 oz/110 g) raw walnuts
1 can (14 ounces or 400 ml) full-fat coconut milk, preferably organic (I use Thai Kitchen)
1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable glycerin or agave nectar
2 Tbsp (30 ml) coconut sugar*
2 medium peaches or pears, cored or pitted and cut in to chunks (about 9.5 oz or 265 g)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
20 or more drops stevia, to taste
Pinch fine sea salt
1 Tbsp (15 ml) vanilla
* If you are not following an anti-candida diet and don’t have these sweeteners, you can use agave or maple syrup for the glycerin, and Sucanat or brown sugar for the coconut sugar.
For the Rhubarb Swirl, combine the arrowroot and 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) water in a small bowl and mix until smooth. Set aside. Place all ingredients except arrowroot in a small pot. Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to bubble, stirring frequently. Once the rhubarb is bubbling, lower heat to medium-low, add the arrowroot mixture and stir well. Cook another minute or two, until mixture thickens up and becomes a bit gooey. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
For the ice cream base, place all ingredients in a blender and blend until perfectly smooth. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to directions. When the ice cream is just ready, add rhubarb swirl mixture and let mix for 10 seconds or so, just until it’s distributed in a swirl through the base. Turn into a container and freeze until ready to serve. Makes 6 servings.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can prepare it this way: Prepare the rhubarb swirl as above, and place in a container.
Line an 8 x 8 inch (20 cm) square pan with waxed paper or parchment paper (plastic wrap won’t do in this case). Set aside.
Blend all ingredients for the ice cream base as above, and pour the base into the prepared pan. Freeze until just solid, then turn onto a cutting board, peel away the paper, and using a sharp knife, cut into about 25 squares. Store the squares in a plastic bag in the freezer until ready to use.
To serve the ice cream, place 4 squares for each serving in a food processor and process until it comes together in a ball, then for about 10 seconds more to create a “soft serve” consistency. Spoon into serving bowls and top with rhubarb mixture (or fold it into the base to create a swirl). Eat immediately.
This recipe is my submission this week to Amy’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays event. The ice cream actually tastes more than slightly indulgent–but without sugar or cream, it fits the bill perfectly anyway!
Side Note: For those who are interested, I’ve just added the clip of my television appearance earlier this week on Roger’s daytime to the Press Page.
[Sometimes, you just want to eat something now. I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
[Uber creamy--with no dairy or soy!]
Thanks, everyone, for all the great comments in response to my last post. One point I found fascinating–and hadn’t thought about before–is how so many vegan options in restaurants are just “meh.” As Julie, Jessy and Danielle pointed out, most often the vegan foods are simply the regular items with the animal products taken out–rather than dishes designed from scratch as “vegan.” In that case, I agree: more fun to eat at home! I do feel fortunate that there are so many great choices here in Toronto, however. (Oh, and summers are the best time to visit: it’s been sunny and between 22 and 30C/72-86F the past couple of weeks. Toronto is a fabulous city, filled with world-class events, sights and culture, not to mention multicultural cuisine. You’re welcome, Toronto Tourism Network).
One of the things I love about the ACD (a veto on over half the usual foods from my diet? Causing a horrendous detox reaction in which I stumbled around with flu-like symptoms, barely able to think straight during the first few weeks of the diet? Forcing me to stave off cravings that persisted unabated, basically for the first six months–sort of like The Bride against the Crazy 88s in that scene from Kill Bill (Volume I)? ) is that, now finally in Stage II, I can rejoice over the return of some fruits to my culinary repertoire.
I nearly wept with elation when I first ate fresh pineapple again a couple of weeks ago; I love it that much (can you believe the HH doesn’t fancy it? “Too acidic,” he says.) Besides its heavenly, ambrosia flavor and distinctively pinecone exterior, pineapple always brings with it the pleasant satisfaction of accomplishment after you finally cut away all the inedible parts and sink your teeth into the luscious, juicy fruit inside. I’ve even been known to gnaw at the yellow flesh clinging to the skin, risking the thorny bits for the joy of pineapple nectar running down my chin. (“Mum, you don’t have to take that risk. Just let us eat it instead–we don’t care about the thorny bits.”)
In my zeal to bring more fresh pineapple into the house, I purchsed a huge specimen last week and went to town cutting away the peel and slicing it into bite-sized chunks. But after two days of gorging on diced pineapple and with over half a container remaining, I realized that radical measures were necessary to finish the beloved treat before it began to ferment (a huge no-no for the ACD).
Some of you may recall the wayward patch of mint growing at the side of our house. Well, this year I determined to take the offensive and begin snipping and using those emerald leaves as soon as I saw their little Martian heads sprouting through the ground. I’ve already made a variation on my original mint smoothie (with the aforementioned pineapple, as well) and today whipped up this quick and easy salad dressing (or mint sauce–it’s very adaptable that way).
With Gena’s inspiration still in my mind, I based this dressing/sauce on the principle of “veggies + flax = creaminess.” I also added pineapple for its natural sweetness and the fact that it contains the compound bromelain, a digestive enzyme that serves to distinguish pineapple (and, similarly, papaya because of its papain) from other fruits as two that are acceptable to consume at the end of the meal even if you’re following principles of food combining (since they aid in digestion rather than delay it).
The dressing turned out light and smooth, its creamy texture complemented by a fresh and subtly mint flavor and aroma. It created a beautiful visual and textural counterpart to my lunchtime dandelion salad (fresh dandelion greens, cucumber slices, and more pineapple chunks). The very slight sweetness along with the spirited minty flavor were the perfect foils for the bitterness of the dandelion and crunch of the cucumber. Just right for a light and summery meal.
While I used the mixture as a dressing, I think it would also make a perfect sauce for your next dinner in a bowl. In fact, I’m going to cook up some millet for tonight’s supper and start thinking about which veggies would work well as a foundation for the sauce (I know; that’s sort of like buying furniture to match the color once you’ve already painted the walls, but hey).
Canada AM update: a few of you asked where you could find the clip of me on the show. I’ve now added it to my Press page (first item under “Television and Radio”).
Creamy Mint and Pineapple Dressing or Sauce
Quick and easy, this is a versatile summer salad dressing, dip or sauce. Try it with crudités, potato salad, or pasta. The zucchini here lends some creaminess, as does the tahini.
1 medium zucchini, cut into chunks
1 cup (240 ml) fresh pineapple chunks
1 Tbsp (15 ml) freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup (60 ml) tahini (sesame paste)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely ground flax seeds
1-inch (2.5 cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
20-25 fresh mint leaves (or more, to taste)
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until perfectly smooth. Allow to sit for 2-3 minutes, then stir before using. Use over salad greens, on grain-based salads or over warm grain and vegetable bowls. Makes about 1-1/2 cups (360 ml). Store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 3 days.
In case you haven’t noticed, we Canadians are pretty obsessed with the weather. It rules our schedules, our wardrobes and our moods. Wake up to sunny skies and 26C (79 F), as we did a couple of weeks ago, and it’s going to be a good day. Wake up to glum, sodden skies, and that scowl won’t leave your face for the next 18 hours.
The weather influences how early you have to leave for work, your choice of foot covering for the day, whether your hair will behave or not, and how long your dog-walk will be. Good or bad, it can even inspire me to haiku:
Last week was summer.
This week, earmuffs have returned.
(If you’re in the mood for more random haiku–including the HH’s magnum opus from his childhood–see this post).
Despite the unseasonally inclement weather this week, I’ve been hankering after raw foods for some reason. (I’ve also been dreaming of appearing on The Ellen Show, but that’s pretty much standard every week these days.)
Maybe I’m just classically conditioned to react this way at this time of year, thermostat to the contrary or not. It’s sort of like being hungry at 12:00 noon, even if I’ve eaten breakfast at 11:00 AM; my head says, “Oh, yeah! Time to eat!” and I heed the call, even if my tummy is still churning through my cereal. (Still trying to work on that “listen-to-your-body-signals” thing). Whatever; I decided to give in to the impulse, and whip up some broccoli hummus.
“Mum, are you suggesting that there’s something wrong with classical conditioning? And does this mean all of our work with that nice Mr. Pavlov was for naught? But you will still give us those treats every time you ring a bell, won’t you? “
This is Gena’s fantabulous recipe, so I can’t really take the cakethis man to be my lawfully wedded husbandthe heat the credit for it. However, I did minimally adapt it since, unlike Gena, I find it’s a rare hummus I can enjoy without a good hit of garlic included. If you prefer yours without the added allicin, then by all means, leave it out. I also substituted miso for the nutritional yeast, since I’m still adhering to ACD, of course.
The recipe is perfect in its simplicity, like a classic string of pearls, or a Henry Moore sculpture, or Jessica Simpson. I couldn’t believe how quickly it came together, and how scrumptious it was. The zucchini confers both smoothness and creaminess, just as it does in Gena’s remarkably delicious zucchini dressing (which I’ve been making almost daily for the past couple of weeks) as well; and the tahini provides a bit more density and heft for spreading.
Even if you’re not a fan of broccoli, you’ll likely enjoy this, as the flavor is tempered by the tahini. I’ve had the hummus spread on a raw collard wrap and on rice cakes–both work beautifully. And between the broccoli and tahini, you’re getting a nice hit of calcium in each serving. All in all, a bowl of yum.
And if you squint really hard at that photo up top, you can pretend it’s a poetry-inspiring photo of the sun, its rays emanating warmth and sunny dispositions across our Canadian skies this morning.
Gena’s Raw Broccoli Hummus (ACD Phase I and beyond)
This quick and easy spread is a perfect alternative to standard hummus, especially if you’re trying to reduce starchy foods. And since the main ingredients are broccoli and zucchini, you can even enjoy a little more than you would the regular stuff–without worrying about the calories.
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) raw broccoli, chopped
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) raw zucchini with skin, chopped
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup raw tahini (sesame paste)–use regular, as I did, if you don’t mind that the recipe isn’t entirely raw
1 Tbsp (15 ml) mild miso*
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) cumin
3 Tbsp (45 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
fresh ground pepper, to taste
olive oil, for drizzling
Place the broccoli and zucchini in a food processor and process until almost smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to process until smooth and creamy, scraping down sides of processor bowl as necessary. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Makes about 2 cups. Will keep, covered, in refrigerator up to 3 days.
*NOTE: For ACD Phase I, use Bragg’s instead of miso.
[Sometimes, you just want to eat something now. I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
It’s astonishing to me how our tastes can change so dramatically as we age. Remember those things you loved as a kid which elicit apathy now? As a tot, I loved The Monkees. In my teens it was historical romances. In my twenties, I wore dark eye shadow and painted eyeliner across the base of my lashes. In my thirties, I dressed in black almost every day for three or four years in a row.
There’s no doubt my palate has changed over time as well. Foods I loved to eat as a child–saltwater taffy, Cap’n Crunch cereal, mellowcreme pumpkins or (a dinnertime favorite) a hillock of mashed potatoes with nuggets of hamburger cut up and hidden under it–all seem slightly repulsive to me now. Then again, many of the foods I abhored then are ones I adore today; to wit, parsnips, cilantro, and–as of two days ago–baked apples.
When I decided back in January to attempt a “cleaner” diet for a while so that I might reverse some of the holiday era choc-o-rama indulgences, I turned to a cookbook I’ve had for some time but have never really used: The Detox Cookbook and Health Plan, by Maggie Pannell. Hiding at the back, on the very last page, was a rather fetching photo of a lone baked apple, stuffed to the brim with chopped figs and walnuts.
Apple? Baked? I could feel myself recoiling, thinking, “Nawwww. . . . “ I mean, who eats baked apples? They’re granny food. They’re ulcer food. They’re nothing-else-is-in-the-house-so-I-have-to-make-do-with-this-dull-fruit food. Now, don’t get me wrong; I love raw apples and try to have one every day. But I’ve always found the concept of a baked apple to be rather meh.
Besides, apples are so common, so quotidien, so humdrum that they’re suffering from overexposure, like cupcake wedding cakes or Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons or Pamela Anderson’s cleavage. I mean, aren’t apples like the perma-date of fruits–pleasant, enjoyable, always there–but just not exciting enough to seek out for something exceptional? When I think of apples, all the old, hackneyed language comes to mind: Apple of my eye. One bad apple. An apple a day. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Apple Paltrow-Martin.
I was also flooded with memories of baked apples from my childhood, and why I never liked them back then: plain, dowdy, as wrinkled as your frowsy neighbor’s housecoat. And yet, that photo beckoned to me. I found the final push I needed when I went grocery shopping a couple of days ago: I often buy marked-down packages of apples to cut up and serve The Girls along with their regular dinner. That day, I found three packs of six apples each, at 99 cents a pack. Usually, these bargain-basement fruits and veggies sport more than a few little bruises; but these packages were perfect–smooth, rosy, unblemished; pristine. Seriously, I couldn’t find a single nick or mark on any of the apples! It was a sign.
I went home and baked these apples. The recipe was ridiculously easy, with only 4 ingredients. And while they baked, I got dinner ready and even fed The Girls (they got the unbaked fruit).
I guess my tastes have matured now that I’m an adult. I loved these–they were stupendous. I’d say these apples are like the homely, bespectacled secretary in the 1950s movie who suddenly tears off her glasses, pulls the hairpin holding her bun and shakes her head, and then–mon dieu!–she’s beautiful! I now am officially smitten with baked apples. Baked apples are my hero!
I used Gala apples (that’s what was on sale) and the outcome was perfect. The contrast between the sweet, pliable stewed figs with their popping crunch, and the perfectly creamy, tart apple flesh was delightfully unexpected. And as the glaze baked and thickened up, it acquired a deep, intense orange flavor as well as a deep caramel hue, contributing a glossy, sticky exterior glaze to the skins.
I think I’d better try to eat baked apples at least a few times a week through the winter. I plan to have them as often as I can. I mean, who knows when my tastes might change again?
Baked Apples with Figs and Walnuts in a Citrus Glaze
This is an elegant weekday dessert, that’s a comforting winter treat. And for pennies a serving, you really can’t go wrong.
4 medium firm, juicy apples, such as Gala or Granny Smith
4 dried figs (I used organic Turkish)
4 Tbsp (60 ml) walnut pieces
juice of 2 oranges
Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Line a large square or rectangular pan with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
Wash and core the apples. Don’t worry if you cut right through to the bottom when you core them.
Place the apples upright in the pan, and divide the figs and walnuts evenly among them, stuffing the core area of each apple. If any fig or walnut pieces remain, scatter them on the bottom of the pan.
Pour the orange juice evenly over the apples. Cover the apples with foil (or a tight-fitting lid, if your pan has one). Bake in preheated oven 40-50 minutes, until the apples seem to be softening and the skins begin to wrinkle just a bit.
Uncover the pan and continue to bake 10-20 more minutes, basting occasionally with the juices, until the apples are soft and wrinkly and the orange juice has reduced to a thick glaze. Allow to cool 10 minutes before removing carefully from the pan and placing gingerly on a plate. Garnish with any extra fig and walnut pieces and any thick juices still in the pan. Makes 4 servings.
I had intended a lovely post today, in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving long weekend to the south of us. But time constraints (read: massive, unwieldly pile of essays and assignments to mark) have prevented me from following through. So I’ll just have to wait till the next batch of holidays in December to post about some new, frost-and-snow inspired, treats.
Instead, I thought I’d pull together a few recipes from previous posts that are suitably festive for a holiday table, or the breakfast table the following day (I’ve also got a few detox recipes on the blog–I’ll let you seek those out yourselves, as required). Most of these are fairly quick to make as well, as long as you’ve got the ingredients on hand.
Hope everyone enjoys some togetherness with friends and family, great food, and a bit of time to relax and play.
See you after the holiday!
“Mum, will Elsie be able to play again after the holiday? I mean, it’s just so boring with her out of commission. . . ”
This past weekend, I took the train to Montreal to visit with the CFO (unfortunately, the HH stayed at home on dog duty, as our regular doggie daycare was closed and it was too late to find an alternative). Just before I left, though, I was delighted to learn that I’d been awarded the “E for Excellence” award by Misty over at Mischief blog! Misty is also the owner of 2 adorable dogs (check out their Halloween duds!) who often appear on her blog (plus lots of yummy food, of course). Sorry it’s taken me so long to acknowledge this, Misty, as I ran off on Friday and just returned yesterday evening. It’s much appreciated and I’m so glad you think my blog is excellent! Thanks so much.
While lovely nonetheless, the visit was over in a flash, filled with a cocktail party, brunch with the family, a birthday lunch with friends, and a stroll through the area known as the Plateau (fascinating, isn’t it, how 90% of social activities revolve around food? Sorry, what’s that you say? What do you mean, it’s just me–??). Since my birthday (sort of) coincided with the CFO’s annual cocktail party, we combined celebrations. As the HH remarked before I left, this year I seem to be enjoying The Birthday That Wouldn’t End. But who am I to argue?
Let me tell you, that CFO sure knows how to throw a party! The menu featured several vegan options, as well as a few gluten-free choices (though, if I remember correctly, the two never overlapped in a single hors d’oeuvre). Still, there was plenty for me to eat and drink, such as tapenade-topped mini-toasts; an apple-pecan butter-cracker combo; crudités and spinach dip; thai rice salad with peppers, cilantro and mango; spanakopita; plus a few others I’ve forgotten (and don’t even get me started on the desserts). Saturday afternoon was reserved for a leisurely lunch with my old buddies Phil, Linda and Babe, and on Sunday morning, my family brunched at a restaurant I’d not heard of before, called Orange, where they offer the most astonishingly boundless bowls of steaming, perfectly creamy yet nubby oatmeal, capped with your choice of imaginative toppings, from fresh berries to cinnamon-apple pie filling to walnuts and coconut doused in maple syrup.
Still, it was good to be home. That final stretch of the journey always seems to elicit in me a certain psychic restlessness, the desire to stretch, stand up and stroll the length of car as the train approaches Toronto. No matter how many times I leave and return, I still experience that familiar ripple of excitement and anticipation, the tingle in the chest, when I first catch a glimpse of city life twinkling in the distance beyond the blanket of black outside the window. Slowly, the number of flickering lamps or silhouettes in apartment windows multiplies, then the glaring neon billboards make their appearance above highway overpasses, and cars’ flashing headlights join the symphony of movement and glitter. Before I know it we’re within reach of the CN tower and the station beneath the Royal York Hotel, the buzz of the downtown humming up through the rails. Toronto, with its denizens crowding the streets at 11:00 PM, knots of taxis and buses jammed in front of the station, the clang of the train and roar of the subway and yips emanating from staggering groups of twenty-somethings as they exit the bars after midnight. . . yep, it’s good to be home.
As it turned out, we didn’t ”do” Halloween this year. Due to both my absence and The Girls’ xenophobic reaction to strangers at the door (read: frenzied barking and growling, at a volume of around 120 decibels), the HH chose to forgo the treats. Still, like many of you, we do have a surfeit of pumpkin and pumpkin seeds left in the house. I remembered this recipe and thought it would be a perfect way to use the pepitas.
I call this mixture “pesto,” but it can also be used on its own as a spread for crackers or bread. In fact, the inspiration came shortly after I sampled roasted garlic for the first time and was immediately transported. As I recall, the HH and I were served an entire head of garlic once at a restaurant, the top sliced clean across and the pudgy exposed cloves baked to a rich, earthy mahogany, glistening with a sheen of olive oil. We squeezed the garlic from the papery casing like toothpaste from the tube, spreading the softened, caramelized pulp on fresh slices of bagette. It was heavenly, and we polished off the entire thing in minutes.
Garlic smell? Yes, heavenly. When baked, its scent is subdued, sweet, and alluring. It’s one of my favorite foods, and I use it as often as I can. In this pesto, the garlic adds richness and a smooth base for the grainy pumpkinseeds, contrasted perfectly with the cilantro and citrus tang of the lemon zest and juice. You can use this spread directly on crackers, as I like to do, or toss it with pasta (save about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to thin it out a bit and create a slight creaminess to the mix). Or, hey–I bet it would even be great as a snack while you mull over some election results!
This dish is great for your heart, and also terrific for flu season: both garlic and pumpkin seeds are high in antioxidants,and the pumpkinseeds contain zinc, essential for fighting viruses and bacteria.
1 whole bulb garlic (about 8-10 cloves)
4 T. (60 ml.) extra virgin olive oil, separated
1/2 cup (120 ml.) pumpkin seeds (pepitas), lightly roasted
3/4 cup (180 ml.) loosely packed cilantro or parsley, or a combination
2 T. (30 ml.) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. (5 ml.) lemon zest
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Cut the top off the garlic to expose the cloves inside.Place the garlic on a square of aluminum foil or in a garlic baker and drizzle with one tablespoon (15 ml.) of the olive oil.Wrap in foil or cover the baker and bake for about 40 minutes, until soft and dark golden. Let cool.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor or blender, whir the pumpkin seeds, cilantro or parsley, lemon juice, zest, and remaining oil until almost smooth. Squeeze the garlic from the bottom toward the top so the cooked cloves are pushed out of the skin; add the garlic to the processor and blend again until combined.Season with salt and pepper to taste. Best served at room temperature. Store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Makes about 1/2 cup.
Even though I stopped baking with refined sugar almost a decade ago and never keep it in the house, there are times when I cave. On occasion I’ll purchase a sugar-laden product, either because (a) it’s something new and fabulous and I feel I MUST try it, or (b) it’s something not normally available to vegan eaters and I want to taste-test, to see if I can conjure up a healthier version of my own. Sometimes, it’s both.
That was the case when I bought my first–and only–can of Soyatoo a couple of months ago. My friend PR Queen and I attended a health food fair where they were hawking selling the product tax-free (which–as those of you who’ve ever shopped in Canada will know–is, like, 85% off). I couldn’t resist.
And so, feeling oddly like Sethi in the movie The Ten Commandments (though not at all regal, of course), I broke my own vow, and uttered the name of. . . Roses! Soyatoo-based roses, to be precise. And rosettes. And swirls. And squiggles.
I had visions of light, fluffy peaks of the white stuff adorning cream pies and tarts; high, shimmering towers of it piped over fresh berries; or amorphous, cloudlike mounds of it perched atop steaming mugs of hot chocolate. All these images whirled in my head as I forked over the cash and embraced my can of white, wondrous whipped “cream.”
The second I got home, I pulled some frozen raspberries from the freezer and hastily spooned them into a bowl so I could test out my cache. I followed the directions on the can–exactly–and pressed the button. There was a hissing sound, a slight whoosh, and then–ah, sweet mystery of compressed edible oil product!–out came a rosette. One.
And then, all was silent.
I shook the can. I pressed again. I shook again. I placed my mouth over the nozzle as if performing some grotesque, otherworldly mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and sucked out the excess topping before trying again.
Nothing. Nada. Not even the slightest sibilance.
And so, there went my can of Soyatoo–straight in to the garbage.*
Well, there was one favorable outcome from that failed experiment: I decided then and there to create my own, much healthier, non-dairy whipped cream. I fully realize that there are other similar creams already posted on the Internet (thanks, Hannah, for this recipe), but my needs were very specific. I wanted mine to (1) be soy-free; (2) avoid the waste of using only part of the can of coconut milk; (3) contain no sugar, and (4) be simple enough that it could work without a candy thermometer or any other special equipment.
Well, I came up fairly quickly with what I considered to be a servicable product, and one that was soy-free, to boot. I even piped it onto Nava‘s Butterscotch Mousse Pie that I wrote about a while back, and the HH and I enjoyed that batch immensely. Here’s what it looked like:
Before posting my recipe, however, I knew I’d need to test it out numerous times to ensure it was sound and that the results were consistent. I even enlisted two others (thanks, Sally and Alice) to help out as recipe testers.
Well, sorry to say, the results weren’t stellar. While the testers’ feedback was very positive regarding taste, they both said the cream was a bit too soft and not fluffy enough. I found my own results to be frustratingly inconsistent, even though I thought I was following the exact recipe each time.
And then, it hit me: I was using coconut milk, but not the identical coconut milk for each and every trial! Once I discovered which brand worked best, I tried again–and again, and again–with (qualified) success. It wasn’t perfect, but the outcome was similar each time. And so, I’ve decided to post the recipe as it now stands despite the imperfections, in the hopes that some of you might try it out and report your own findings.
The cream is rich-tasting, light, and can stand in very effectively for dairy cream atop desserts (I have no idea how it would work, say, folded into a chocolate mousse, however).
Here are some important notes before you begin: :
The recipe uses agar, an ingredient I’ve found to be tricky in the past. Moreover, since I couldn’t find agar powder here in Toronto, I bought flakes and then ground them up myself in a coffee grinder. So I can’t vouch for results if you use regular agar powder or agar flakes.
After trying several brands of organic coconut milk and finally moving to conventional coconut milk, I found the only brand that seemed to work consistently was Rooster Gold Label brand (I know it’s available at all Loblaws stores, but have no idea about stores outside of Canada). I checked labels, and the brand I used contains a whopping 22% total fat content. I’d think that if you use a milk with a similar fat content, it should work just as well.
This is a very fussy recipe. You need to cook the mixture, blend it, cool it a bit, blend again, cool some more, then whip with electric beaters–not for the faint of heart. That said, once it’s whipped, it will retain its shape for several days.
If it doesn’t work out perfectly as a whipped topping, it is sensational to eat on its own–rich, smooth, not too sweet, and very creamy.
I’d love to hear from those of you brave (foolhardy?) enough to try it out, and see if we can’t refine and perfect the recipe!
Coconut Whipped Cream
This is a great topping for fancy desserts. To make the cream, you will need a hand (immersion) blender (a regular blender won’t work for this) and electric beaters.
1/3 cup (80 ml.) vanilla rice milk
2 tsp. (10 ml.) home-ground agar “powder”–it should look like this (these grains are in a teaspoon (5 ml.) to give you an idea of size):
1 can (398 ml.) full-fat coconut milk (22% fat content), at room temperature (shake well before opening)
Step 1: In a small pot, combine the rice milk and agar. Allow to sit, covered and at room temperature, for at least 30 minutes.
Step 2: Stir everything but the 1 Tbsp. cornstarch into the agar mixture and whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture just begins to boil. Lower heat so that the mixture is still bubbling just under the surface, and set a timer for 10 minutes. While it continues to cook, stir every minute or so.
After 5 minutes, choose one of the following options: (1) if all the agar is dissolved (and no longer visible on a rubber spatula or spoon), remove from heat and turn off the timer (just forget about the last 5 minutes). Pour into a bowl and proceed to step 3.
OR: (2) If you can still see bits of agar, like this:
then continue to cook for the remaining 5 minutes on the timer, and stir every minute or so. After 5 more minutes (10 total), remove the mixture from the heat, even if there are still tiny bits of agar left in it (they will be blended out next). Pour into a bowl and proceed to step 3.
Step 3: Pour the mixture into a deep bowl. Immediately blend with your immersion blender until perfectly smooth and no bits of agar are visible (careful, it’s hot and may spray a bit!). Set aside to cool somewhat.
Step 4: When the mixture is still slightly warm but no longer hot (and still fairly liquid), sprinkle the remaining 1 Tbsp. cornstarch over the top; using the immersion blender, blend again to even out the texture and get rid of any little lumps. Place the bowl in the refrigerator until the mixture is ice-cold; it will become very solid, like an extremely firm gel.
Step 5: Once again using the immersion blender, blend the gelled mixture until it is perfectly smooth and no lumps remain, but don’t blend any more than necessary. Scrape down the sides as you go.
Step 6: Now, using the beaters, beat the smoothed mixture until soft peaks form. If the mixture is cold, this should happen fairly quickly. You’ll have a soft cream that holds very soft peaks, but definitely holds its shape. It will look something like this:
Step 7: At this point, you can mound the cream over a pie, or put it in a piping bag and gently pipe it. It will seem too soft to pipe, but as long as it holds a shape in the bowl (and the surface of the cream doesn’t “melt” and flatten), it can be piped. Here’s how I piped it even when the cream turned out quite soft:
And here’s a slightly firmer version:
Despite the fussiness of the recipe, I’d definitely make this again for special occasions (it was great on Nava’s Butterscotch Mousse Pie, as well as the Coffee ”Cheesecake” Tart, above–recipe from Laura Mathias’s Extraveganza).
Though perhaps not for a while. . . after more than 15 trials, the HH and I are maxed out on cream for now!
“Don’t worry, Mum, we’d be willing to help you out with any extra cream. . . “
For those of you who celebrate, Happy Passover! (I think this cream would be allowed. . . ). And happy weekend to all!
*Addendum: I’ve since learned from other bloggers that Soyatoo is unreliable for them, too. Thanks to Chocolate Covered Vegan for the suggestion to open and try out each can in the store–if it doesn’t work, they should want to return it to the manufacturer, anyway; and if it does work, you’re buying it, so what would they care?
[UPDATE, December 2008: I've been tinkering with the recipe and have finally come up with a much less fussy and much more reliable recipe! The revised version will 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 the top of the page, or visit the cookbook blog.]