Anti-Candida Friendly Tempeh "Bourguignon"*

*Well, it’s not really “bourguignon.”  But it is ACD friendly, sugar free, gluten free, and vegan.  And it tastes delicious. What more could you ask for?

I will never forget the first lecture I attended as a callow undergraduate at the University of Windsor: it was Modern American Drama, with a professor named Dr. John Ditksy. In his early forties, Dr. Ditsky appeared to be the quintessential “absent-minded professor,” with a demeanor like Columbo, a wit like Woody Allen, and a face like Jason Schwartzman.  True to appearances, the man was brilliant.  I discovered later that he was one of the foremost Steinbeck critics in the world and had published hundreds of academic papers.

His lecture was peppered with words I’d never even heard before (I scribbled furiously in the margins of my notebook so I could look them up later:  “adumbrate,” “hyperbole,” “interstices” –as the hour went on, I felt less and less equipped for university), and every female student in the class developed a crush on him.  Of course, I immediately joined that coterie.

I carried my crush around with me wherever I went that year, like a thermos tucked under my arm; on the outside, cool, smooth and unassuming; on the inside, steamy hot. The only person who knew of my amorous infatuation was my buddy Michelle, who was as outgoing as I was shy and introverted.  Michelle never had a problem striding over to Dr. Ditsky at the end of each class, joking with him or posing obvious questions just to hear his witty response; she even tapped him on the arm a few times as she spoke (my cheeks flushed red just watching her). 

One day, as a few students milled about the hall outside the classroom waiting for the lecture to begin, Dr. Ditsky approached Michelle and me. Immediately, Michelle launched into some lively chatter, asking our prof how he had spent the previous weekend; she possessed none of the typical student’s reserve when it came to posing personal questions of authority figures.  Ditsky muttered something innocuous and returned the question. 

“Oh, pretty good,” she responded. “I went to a party with my boyfriend and some of his friends.  You know, boring boys.” (She rolled her eyes at the last word).

He turned to me.  “Did you go, too, Heller?”  I could feel my face heat up, and shook my head. (Most likely, I had spent the majority of the weekend in residence or the library).

Suddenly, Michelle had an idea. “You know, I think Heller here needs a boyfriend,” she piped up. “But not one of the guys from university.  I mean, the guys here are all so childish.  She needs someone older, more mature.” She stared meaningfully at him, nodding her head as if to impress upon him the gravity of the statement.  

To his credit, Ditsky didn’t flinch.  Without even cracking a smile, he responded, “Well, you know, you may have to wait a while for that.  For most guys it usually takes until their forties before they even start acting mature.” 

I wanted to cram myself under one of the classroom desks, or slink behind the water fountain and melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West when she was doused with water.  But then–something magical happened.

“You know, a few colleagues and I are having lunch** today at the DH Tavern after class,” Ditsky went on.  Why don’t you two ladies join us?” I had heard about the legendary “lunches” at the DH, where profs and a few select students engaged in hours-long discussions about literature, philosophy, culture and life, all punctuated by pub fare and too many beers to count.

Well, that initial lunch evolved into a 28-year friendship, until my beloved mentor passed away in 2006.  And from that very first meal, he treated me as if I were already a colleague and intellectual equal despite my lack of experience or erudition. After a couple of years of lunches at the DH, I was fortunate enough to be invited to join a group of students who were asked to spend a weekend at Ditsky’s home. 

Before that time, all I knew about Mrs. Ditsky was (a) she’d been married to my crush since they were both teens, and (b) he always (always) stopped to buy her flowers after our pub lunches, before heading to the Ambassador Bridge on his way home. The moment I stepped out of the car in Detroit , Mrs. D greeted me with a warm hug and led me by the hand up to the guest room where I’d be staying.  The bed, topped with a pale blue down comforter and several plumped pillows, was surrounded by antique bookcases filled with novels and other works of famous American authors–all signed by the authors. 

“I hope you’ll be comfortable here,” she said as she placed my bag on the floor. “I thought you’d like to have the company of the writers you’ve been studying.”  How could you  not love such a woman as much as her husband?   

It was during that initial weekend when I first tasted beef bourguignon.  At the time, I had no idea that this French beef stew had been popularized by Julia Child, nor that it even contained wine.  All I knew was that I was served a rich, robust beef stew with tender chunks of meat, with a thick, buttery sauce that perfectly complemented the slippery noodles on which it rested.  I requested the recipe, fully expecting that Mrs. D wouldn’t reveal her secret. 

A few weeks later, I received a photocopy in the mail with a handwritten note detailing any changes she’d made (3 cloves of garlic instead of the one in the recipe; more onions; and the need for an electric knife to cut the meat into bite-sized chunks, though I never did use one).  She closed with, “You’re missed by both of us. Guest room is yours anytime you want. Hugs–Love, S &J.”  And with that, my girlish crush evaporated, and I gained not one, but two lifelong friends.

For years afterward, whenever I wanted to “wow” someone (read: a date) with a great homecooked meal, I made that beef bourguignon.  When I changed my diet back in 1999, the recipe was slipped into a file folder with other clippings and more or less forgotten.  Last week, it suddenly came back to mind.

Gemini I, her husband, and PR Queen and her husband were coming over for dinner. I knew the Geminis love beef; PR Queen, a vegan like me, mentioned that her husband won’t even consider eating a vegetarian meal.  As a result, the evening featured two parallel stews: beef bourguignon for them, and tempeh “bourguignon” for me and PR Queen.  And I daresay, PR Queen and I got the better deal.

In order to render the stew ACD friendly, I knew I’d have to eliminate the wine (*stifled sob*).  But what could I use in its stead? The obvious choice was vegetable broth, and of course I included it.  But what about the tart, tannic depth of the burgundy?  I was rummaging through the fridge when I spied it–my bottle of (unsweetened) cranberry juice.  Eureka!

Believe it or not, I think the juice is what made this dish so toothsome.  Tempered with a few drops of stevia, the sourness of the cranberries dissipates into the savory, sanguine broth. Redolent with parsley, thyme, marjoram and bay leaves, the stew was a perfect dish for an evening with good friends, old and new. It brought to mind that other one, long ago, shared with my mentor and his dear wife. Next time I speak to Mrs. D, I’ll be sure to offer her the recipe.  

**let’s face it, “having lunch” is a misnomer. “Getting sauced” is probably more accurate.


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Last Year at this Time: Parsnip Mini Loaves or Muffins with GF Option (ACD maintenance only)

Two Years Ago: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Warm Caramel Sauce (not ACD friendly; not GF)

Three Years Ago: Comfort from the Cold: Spiced Brown Basmati Rice Pudding (for ACD, use stevia instead of maple syrup)

© Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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  1. What a wonderful memory to go along with the beautiful stew. 🙂 I agree, using only vegetable broth for wine doesn’t produce the proper depth of flavor, so it is quite clever of you to include cranberry juice! Thanks for sharing, Ricki!

  2. What a great story — I loved reading about your wonderful mentor. When you mentioned the wine for the bourguignon, at first I thought you were going to use grape juice, but cranberry juice is such a good idea. I’ll bet unsweetened pomegranate juice would be good, too, but I have no idea if it’s ACD-OK.

    • You know, I’m not allowed grape juice (too sweet) and am not a huge fan anyway, so it never even occurred to me. Pom juice sounds great, though!

  3. Woohoo! A recipe I could make! Thanks Ricki!

  4. what a great story, and what a great mentor and friend. funny how things turn out!
    I miss wine, too. Not as something to drink, but something to cook with. I wish there was the perfect substitute.

    • Yes, he was a wonderful person, and is sorely missed! I would never have done a PhD if not for Dr. Ditsky. As for the wine, I must admit I do miss drinking it straight up! 😉

  5. the stew looks beautiful and tasty, but I find my tummy hates anything soy based, so tempeh is probably not a good choice.

  6. Oh you say you are shy and retiring but you should like one of the hip students going off on weekends and boozy lunches with the professors. I wish I had got memorable recipes from my tutors – I can’t say I did but I did meet some wonderful people in my studies. You stew sounds magnificent – though I would be tempted to use a bouquet garni because I prefer to have fresh herbs in the garden than dried in my pantry – mine always get too old and musty

    • Ha! If not for the beer, I don’t think I would have ever said anything during those lunches! 😉 I do think fresh herbs would work better as a bouquet garni, but I didn’t have any, unfortunately.

  7. What a wonderful story Ricki, you write so beautifully. And, I have two pkgs if tempe in the freezer I’ll thaw, go buy some cranberry juice and have a great Tempe bourguignon with some GF noodles tomorrow night. Thank you!

  8. I swear I “teared up” when I got to the part about losing your professor. Beautifully written, Ricki! I can only imagine how special your time was with the professor and his wife. I can totally visualize your room at their home. I’m a big fan of the traditional boeuf bourguignon, so I would have enjoyed that version for sure. But, hats off to you for your creativity (once again) and making something you and your girlfriend could enjoy! Cranberry juice is brilliant for the depth of flavor needed. I agree on the pom possibility, too. I’ve used that with meat and it worked very well, so it should work great in this dish, too.

    Thanks for another great post, Ricki! BTW, I was just talking about your Cinnamon Almond Fudge again because Lexie (Lexie’s Kitchen) was asking if anyone had used yacon syrup and could offer any insight on it.


    • Aw, thanks, Shirley. I do miss him! I felt very privileged to have been invited into their lives that way, and my graduate degree would never have happened without his encouragement. And thanks so much for mentioning the “fudge” to Lexie–curious to see what she does with the yacon! 🙂

  9. such a great story, Ricki! i always love the stories you tell to accompany your glorious eats. Dr. John Ditksy sounded like one awesome professor and his spouse sounded super lovely. i really thought you all were having lunch until i saw the **! ahahahahahaaa! love it! i wish i had a chance to hang out and have a few drinks with some of my professors, too – there were some characters, fo ‘sho!

    never did i have bourguignon, but your tempeh version sounds outstanding, and absolutely perfect for these wintry days, my friend. your story warmed my heart and your bourguignon shall warm our tummies. i cannot wait to give it a whirl (and we even have unsweetened cranberry juice in the house. yay!)!

    thanks so much for your thoughtfulness and kind words about Jasmine. we’re so thankful that she was in our lives for so long and filled our hearts with such wonderful memories. thanks again, Ricki!

    • They were both wonderful people, yes. 🙂 I think the “lunches” are a bit of a stereotype where professors are concerned, but I guess with good reason! 😉 Hope you like the stew if you do give it a try–very nice on a cold winter’s eve! And Jasmine sounded like such a sweet girl (loved that photo), I can only imagine how difficult it was to say goodbye!

  10. Awww what a beautiful story about mentorship! It makes me swoon with love for academia (which doesn’t happen often enough). And the recipe looks to die-for.

  11. What a great story Ricki. Sorry that you lost your mentor 🙁 I love this recipe – I adore tempeh. Will have to try it. xo

  12. Again your story made my day. You know, you tell the best stories! I am sorry he passed away.

    That tempeh looks mouthwatering!

  13. Your stories are always so fun to read … though I almost got lost in the characters on this one!

    I’ve used unsweetened cranberry juice in place of wine in recipes before and it really does work great. Thanks for reminding me, as I don’t want to cook with wine as much since learning how little the alcohol really cooks out in some dishes. I just wonder if the cranberry juice loses some of its antioxidant power when cooked. Just curious really.

    • I’ve never heard that the alcohol doesn’t all cook out–I thought it evaporated from the heat. I’m guessing that the juice does lose some of its antioxidants, but that’s the price we pay for wine substitutes. 😉

  14. I love Smitten Kitchen’s Mushroom Bourguignon and I love how you swapped the red wine for cranberry juice. I am so tempted to try this!! 🙂

  15. That looks delicious. When winter comes here again I am looking foward to trying out a few Bourguingnon recipes. I can never seem to find unsweetened cranberry juice here, only the Ocean Spray cranberry ‘drink’… somehow I don’t think it would be quite the same!

  16. Such a great story to accompany what looks like a great recipe! I’m a bit of a tempeh enthusiast, so it’s definitely going on my to-do. I’ve only come across either sweetened (i.e. Ocean Spray) cranberry or a concentrate. Do you think the latter would work diluted with a bit of water (I have no experience using it)?

    Thanks x

  17. Made this last night. OMG it was delicious! I was just in the fridge sneaking the cold leftovers. :O) I used wine because I had the rest of a bottle to use up. Served over brown rice, kale and roasted winter vegetables on the side. Absolutely the most delicious thing I have ever made with tempeh. Thanks for a fantastic recipe!

  18. Since I posted above on February 5th,I have made this dish twice more. I am making it right now! Serving tonight with collards and roasted vegetables. I literally crave it. Love it!

  19. Small world… Dr. Ditsky, the DH, UofW… I had the pleasure of sitting through many of Ditsky’s American Lit lectures during my Eng Lit undergrad. Thank-you for sharing such a wonderful story.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ricki Heller, Ricki Heller. Ricki Heller said: A great warming winter stew–my take on beef bourguignon, with neither beef nor bourguignon! […]

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  3. […] Tempeh Bourguignon is Ricki Heller‘s protein-laden version of the French beef dish. Considering that tempeh can contain around 40 grams of protein per package and this recipe uses two packages, it’s a top contender for protein-heavy dinners. […]

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