So much for my well-laid surplus rice game plan; a babysitting mix-up left my sister with no one to take the kids after school and this evening during her school’s Christmas concert (she teaches grade 6) and so at around 4 I went to retrieve them, got stuck in particularly slow rush-hour traffic, took E to soccer and brought the boys back to her house to make dinner before going to pick her up again. I confess that the chaos of those few hours, compounded with a foreign kitchen and a broken dishwasher (meaning the counter space was nonexistent until I did some dishes – hey, it’s Christmas and she’s a single mum of 3 and more than full time teacher) drove B & W to grab a bag of whole wheat hot dog buns and devour almost the whole thing while playing motorcycles. Between us we ate Christmas oranges, frozen meatballs (I did cook them, but they wouldn’t touch the weird-shaped noodles that went with), granola bars and cheese. Before I left my house I mopped up some leftover daal dip I had made awhile ago with a couple thawed pitas from the freezer.
On my way out the door I spotted the surplus tart bottoms from my shows in Edmonton, and remembered the bowl of rice pudding in the fridge, and thought it best to pawn off the sum of their parts on my sister and her family rather than have a dozen chocolate-caramel tarts staring me down for the next week. (I become extremely selective with my calorie consumption over the holidays, which isn’t to say I don’t eat much, it’s more that I fear taking too much space with the things I could have any old time, instead of keeping my appetite open for fruitcake, mincemeat tarts, shortbread, Hello Dollies, Festive Specials and M&Ms. (A long long time ago my Mom used to bundle M&Ms in saran wrap and tie them with curly ribbon to hang on the tree, and on Christmas day we could eat them. Since then, we always had bowls of M&Ms and chocolate covered almonds out when we decorated the tree.) Then again, I do try to make regular meals more nutrient-dense during the holidays as a sort of nutritional ballast. My point, I think, is that if I’m going to eat high calorie-fat-sugar foods during the month of December they better fall into a decidedly festive category. The month is too short, and there is too much to eat.
I never would have thought to structure a tart this way: press graham crumbs moistened with butter into the bottom of paper muffin cups and bake for 7 minutes, until golden. The recipe then instructs to melt chocolate and drizzle it overtop, but sprinkling chocolate chips on top of each crust as it comes out of the oven and allowing it to melt with the heat of the crusts and then spreading it would save you an extra pot to wash. Chill and top with a spoonful of chilled rice pudding, then drizzle with caramel sauce. You can find the recipe here.
This daal dip is reminiscent of hummus, with a similar (legumey) texture. It gets better after a day or two in the fridge which makes it perfect for parties, and it’s great with fresh or toasted pita and baby carrots from the market that don’t even need peeling.
Curried Daal (Lentil) Dip
1 cup dried orange lentils
canola oil, for cooking
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp. curry paste or powder
1/2 cup tomato sauce or half a can of tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt, half & half, evaporated milk or light coconut milk
1 tsp. coconut extract (optional)
1/2 tsp. garam masala (optional)
a handful of cilantro, chopped (optional)
In a medium pot, cover the lentils with plenty of water and boil for 20 minutes, until very well done, even mushy. Drain them and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat and sauté the onions until golden. Add the garlic and curry paste cook for another minute. Add the tomato sauce sugar, chili powder and salt, then the lentils and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the yogurt or cream and cook until well blended and thick.
Remove from heat and stir in the garam masala, then sprinkle with cilantro, if you like.
It seems every day I meet or hear from someone who must stay gluten-free, and so here is a classic sugar cookie for all of you who are gluten-free or run with the gluten-free. It comes not from me but from Shauna, aka Gluten Free Girl, whose blog I recommend to anyone who comes to me with questions about baking without gluten. She has the years of experience eating and tweaking gluten-free flour combinations that I will likely never accumulate. And she’s a great writer, too.