Chocolate Sunday on Monday – Vegan Chocolate Mousse!

Last week, I came across a recipe for vegan chocolate mousse that looked intriguing. It called for avocado, cocoa, and a natural sweetener, among one or two other ingredients. Nothing objectionable!

vegan chocolate mousseBut someone commented that she had found it dense, so I googled “vegan chocolate mousse” and decided to combine ideas from a few recipes, adding a little extra almond milk so it wouldn’t be too dense. I’m writing this today instead of yesterday, because my avocado was slow to ripen.

Of the recipes I found online, this one – from a blog called The Laidback Vegan – was the most unusual. It called for balsamic vinegar and tamari soy sauce to enhance the flavour, and also mask the avocado taste. The description sounded wonderful! Whatever else I included, I would include those two ingredients.

I was disappointed by the result at first, but it tasted much better after being chilled in the fridge for a couple of hours. Maybe it needed time for the flavours to blend, or maybe I shouldn’t have messed with the recipe. I think I’ll have to tweak it next time. I expect more maple syrup would help.

Here’s a link to another recipe I consulted. It’s a Food Network recipe by Giada De Laurentiis. How bad can that be?

And a third, from MindBodyGreen.

And lastly, my own first attempt, below.

As an alternative, I wouldn’t make the recipe at all – I’d eat the avocado on its own, because I like it that way, with a bit of vinaigrette, and I’d enjoy a piece of dark chocolate, or the healthy chocolate treats I made last week, for more serious chocolate flavour.

But it’s fun to experiment.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

1 avocado

1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted

1 tbsp. coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. almond milk, unsweetened

just under 1/8 tsp. balsamic vinegar

just under 1/8 tsp. tamari

2 tsp. maple syrup

1. Combine all ingredients in food processor.

2. Process until smooth.

3. Chill in fridge for two hours.

Enjoy!

Mashed potatoes/comfort food

A few days ago, I bought potatoes for the first time in several months. My son was recovering from stomach flu, or maybe food poisoning, and he was joining us for dinner.

For me – when it comes to comfort food that’s easy to digest – nothing is better than mashed potatoes. I do believe that sweet potatoes are healthier overall, as shown in this Cleveland Clinic posting, but regular potatoes also have nutritional value.

That said, I bought enough potatoes for all of us, even though my son was the only one who’d been sick.

comfort foodI also made an omelet (just eggs, salt and pepper). It was an easy meal, rounded out with boiled, mashed squash (with cinnamon! – much better than it sounds). The salad included leftover steamed broccoli, even though you can’t see it in the picture of my plate.

I think it was my favourite meal this week. And I covered all the bases – leafy greens, protein, cooked green vegetable, and cooked orange vegetable. Not to mention mashed potatoes with butter, pepper and sea salt. I added a bit of leftover sun-dried tomato and olive spread from Sunflower Kitchen to spice up my omelet. Delicious!

Easy mashed potatoes

red potatoes (because they’re easiest to clean!)

butter to taste

sea salt

pepper

1. Scrub potatoes, and peel (or leave skin on for more fibre).

2. Cut in chunks, and add to a pot of boiling water, just enough to cover the potatoes.

3. Cook partly covered about 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are soft enough for a paring knife to go in easily.

4. Scoop into bowl, and mash with a fork, adding butter, sea salt and pepper, and a bit of cooking water if necessary for consistency.

Enjoy!

 

Work, identity, and business cards

I followed up on the thought I included at the end of my last post, and asked my son – who has some experience in graphic design – if he might be able to design a business card for me.

He came up with four ideas, and I knew instantly which one I liked, as well as what tweaks I wanted.

I’m more excited than I expected at the thought of having my own “freelance journalist” business card, and it’s got me thinking about the whole issue of identity being tied up in work.

I never felt like I lost my sense of self after I was downsized last June, but after 22 years at The Canadian Jewish News, the paper and my job as a reporter had become a big part of who I was. Every so often, I get a little reminder. Today, for instance, I left a voice message for the first time as a CJN freelancer.Β  I was on the verge of leaving my phone number when I hesitated, realizing that I was about to give the CJN office number, not the number that I was calling from.

Starting this blog last July was helpful to me. It’s been my pseudo-work, and one answer to the question of what I’m doing now.

But seeing the design for my nice new business card makes my new reality more “real” to me. And it’ll be nice to have a business card to hand out again.

 

 

A taste of freelance (writing) life

It’s official, I’m freelancing. Last week, I interviewed Rabbi Miri Gold for The Canadian Jewish News. I just found the article online this morning.

Rabbi Gold – Miri – is the Reform rabbi in Israel who launched a 2005 court case seeking salary payment from the Israeli government, a benefit previously accorded only to Orthodox rabbis.

The interview is my first article since I was downsized last June, aside from a column I wrote a few months ago for my former CJN colleague Sheldon Kirshner’s online journal, about the role of Jewish food in my life.

In the weeks and months after being downsized, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would do next. I set up this blog partly to help me figure that out, and I looked at a lot of job postings.

As time went on, I leaned more toward the idea of freelance work, combined with work on my blog and my book-in-progress. I like the variety and flexibility, and I’m willing to live with the uncertainty that goes with it, at least for now.

I couldn’t help thinking back to my first assignment as a CJN freelancer, before I joined the staff in the early 1990s. A couple of things were different this time: I wasn’t nervous any more (experience makes a difference!), and I didn’t have to run out to the local bookstore to see my article as soon as it appeared.

My interview last week fell into one of my former beats (religious issues), so it was easy to get back into reporter mode. I re-familiarized myself with the issues, changed the battery in my tape recorder, and bought a new notebook. I was all set.

But there was one thing I hadn’t thought about. When I asked Miri for her business card, I realized I no longer had one to give her in return. I guess I should put that on my list.

 

Chocolate Sunday – Easy healthy treats!

This seems to be my week for easy recipes. First, my go-to easy fish recipe on Friday, and now a recipe I found online for chocolate treats (aka “Homemade Dark Chocolate Bar,” at the bottom of the page I’ve linked to). It calls for only three ingredients: cocoa, coconut oil, and maple syrup.

The recipe is from Miranda Malisani, a holistic nutritionist who appears on the Marilyn Denis Show.

frozen chocolate treats

I was so pleased to find it because I’d been thinking about concocting something like this myself, a chocolate version of the almond butter treats I tried when I was on an elimination diet. Something with no objectionable ingredients, rich chocolate flavour, and a melt-in-your-mouth consistency.

Enjoy!

Easiest fish

This week has been busy, and I’m writing this on the fly. A couple of years ago, my friend Brenda gave me an easy recipe for rainbow trout, and I’ve simplified it further. She mixes Dijon, mayonnaise, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and/or fresh parsley, and spreads it over the fillets before baking them. No measurements necessary.

When I’m in a rush (like today), I just mix Dijon and mayo. No chopping, no fuss – and it’s delicious! A few weeks ago, I used olive oil, lemon juice, fresh dill, salt and pepper – no mayo or Dijon.

I usually bake fish at 400 degrees on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Depending on the thickness of the fillets, it takes 10 to 12 minutes. Less time than it takes to thaw the fillets if they’re frozen (20 minutes in a bowl of cold water).

Enjoy!

 

 

A busy week

This week, I took on a freelance assignment – a big step forward after being downsized last summer – and I’ve been working more consistently on my book. I also had coffee with a former colleague, two lunches with friends, and a family dinner out. There are a couple of appointments on my calendar as well, and I’mΒ  fitting in three small projects that are, more or less, writing-related too.

Coincidentally, I came across an article yesterday – which I can’t locate now, groan! – that talks about getting more done by giving yourself less time.

I guess it’s another way to encourage people to focus, or to take advantage of the 80/20 rule (which I blogged about here last August). If 80 percent of the work gets done in 20 percent of the time… then just give yourself 20 percent of the time to start with.

When my kids were small, sometimes we’d have a “five-minute cleanup” after dinner. With three or four of us cleaning up, that was equivalent to 15 or 20 minutes of focused work. It always amazed me how much we could get done.

 

Blogs I read (about writing)

When I started blogging last summer, my main focus was writing, but I posted on the subject of food one day a week. (The balance has since shifted to 50-50, now that I’ve added “Chocolate Sunday” to the mix.)

But when it came to blogs I looked at, I found myself reading a lot more about food than writing. For one thing, there are probably twice as many food blogs than writing blogs (even though there must be a gazillion writing blogs – a recent online search yielded a nonuple-digit number of hits).

For another thing, I have a lot of experience writing, but less experience writing about food. I knew that some food blogs are very popular, and I was curious about what makes them work.

Lately, however, I’ve found more and more writing-about-writing that interests and inspires me. I thought it was worth sharing a few links:

Here’s one with a forgettable url, http://nhwn.wordpress.com/… but a much catchier name, “Live to Write – Write to Live.” The “nhwn” refers to the New Hampshire Writer’s Network. The blog has some interesting posts, and links to other writing sites.

I like this one too, http://francesmariebowens.wordpress.com/, with more good links, inspiration, and updates on the blogger’s novels-in-progress.

Writekidsbooks.blogspot.ca is a favourite as well, even though I don’t write children’s books. But much of it applies to any type of writing, and I happen to know the blogger, a talented writer.

Lastly (for now), here’s one I thought I was following, but apparently was only accessing through Twitter: www.writewithwarnimont.com. Lots of useful info.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Chocolate Sunday – Muffintashen!

When I blogged on Tuesday about baking Alice Medrich’s chocolate hamantashen, I had only used about half my dough and less than half of the chocolate filling.

hamantashen x2 close-up

“Muffintashen” and hamantashen – same ingredients, different dessert. Mmmm!

Two days later, the filling was still begging to be used, but the dough, if anything, was even harder to work with. I gave up after making seven little hamantashen. But it would have been a shame to let the chocolate filling go to waste.

Light bulb moment – I realized there was no need to roll the dough if I used it to sandwich the decadent filling in mini-muffin tins.

So easy! And I think the end result was even better than the hamantashen, partly because the filling-to-dough ratio was higher. Sometimes it’s all about the chocolate.

We sampled some hamantashen Friday night for dessert, and also the confection made from the same ingredients. My son dubbed them “muffintashen.” In terms of symbolism and a holiday food, they don’t replace hamantashen, but I was pleased that I could use up the ingredients, and enjoy a decadent bite-sized treat.

Chocolate “Muffintashen”

1 recipe for chocolate hamantashen filling

1 hamantashen cookie-dough recipe

1. Oil mini-muffin tins.

2. Put dough in muffin tins to cover bottoms, and press down.

3. Spoon generous amount of filling, and press down.

4. Sprinkle crumbled dough on top of filling, and press down.

5. Bake at 350 about 10-12 minutes, until done.

Enjoy, and Happy Purim!