Monday, February 6, 2012

Malware, Maple Sap, Herbs and Spices, European Snow, Queen's Jubilee

I said on Saturday that my computer was sending out emails. It turned out that I had Malware on my laptop, luckily I did a virus scan and Avira picked it up straight away. I find that a very good programme.

Maple sapHeard on the news at the weekend that the sap is rising, the maple sap that is, its about 4 weeks early because of the mild winter we have been having. To tap the maple sap you need warm days and freezing nights. I wonder if that means they will be opening the farms early as well, you can often go thMaple candiesere and get pancakes and syrup – we took Matt’s oldest daughter to a maple syrup farm many years ago and I went and tasted the sap itself, doesn’t taste of anything. It takes a heck of a lot of sap to make the syrup, they boil it in a sugar shack for a long time to reduce it for syrup and of course even longer to make maple candies and butter. Deelicious. A lot of people don’t like the candies as they are very sweet, but I love them. Don’t get to eat them very often though. In fact maple candies are supposed not to be too harmful for a diabetic. Here’s some more pictures:MapleSyrupTap1
Boiling the sap

Its incredible that the clear water like sap shown in the bags above turns into a deep golden syrup.

I’m pleased to report our Saturday night dinner party went very well and the Chasseurbirthday boy was well and truly feted. We started with marinated gingered shrimp, for a main course we had Chicken Chasseur, shown in the picture, butter braised endives and twice cooked potatoes. For dessert one of my favourites, Almond Rice Pudding. I was a bit disappointed in the butter braised endives, they were OK but that’s about it. Just about everything got eaten and all the plates were clean, always a good sign. We consumed quite a bit of wine with the meal too. We figured several bottles weren’t breathing so needed mouth to mouth. (See Saturday’s blog).

I was thinking, over the weekend, about the herbs Matt had to buy for the Chicken Chasseur. He needed rosemary, tarragon and thyme which obviously are not Herbsavailable from Canadian sources at this time of year and have to be imported. It occurred to me that as kids, in the UK during war years, herbs were not available to us for various reasons and I have no actual remembrance of when we were able to get such things in the stores after the war. Gradually over the years, we have come to accept that whatever time of year, we can get things out of season, including our herbs. Only trouble is, today we are supposed to not buy imported foods, the 100 mile rule, and to put up with what is available in our neck of the woods. Its sort of come full circle. OK we’re bad, we do buy fresh herbs grown, oddly enough, in Colombia, along with things like coffee and chocolate which isn’t grown anywhere in Canada as far as I am aware. We do keep tea although we don’t drink it ourselves and of course that too isn’t locally grown. In the summer we grow herbs on our balcony, and really don’t want to go without them in the winter.

We’ve been hearing reports all weekend about the snow in Europe. Paris, London, and Rome for a start, have all had snow. Our grandson has been posting snow pictures on Facebook from his home in the UK. In the central States they had as much as 55 inches of snow, which is a lot of the white stuff. Meanwhile, here in our part of Ontario, not a drop of snow in sight.

QE2_JubileeToday, February 6, is the 60th anniversary of the day King George VI died and Elizabeth II ascended to the throne. I remember it very well, I was 14 at the time and was a weekly boarder at a school in Herne Bay, Kent. I was very annoyed at the time because I had a non uniform dress in George VI’s tartan and I wanted to wear it but was told I had to wear school uniform. Elizabeth and Philip were on a visit to Kenya when the King died so had to come screaming home. This year is, therefore, the Queen’s Jubilee and there are lots of celebrations taking place. There are lots of commemorative pictures on the web showing pictures of when she was a child with her mother and father, pictures of various occasions during her reign and now the official jubilee pictures. I keep wanting to spell jubilee with two l’s. In a way I would love to be there for some of the celebrations. Even Prince William isn’t there right now, he is in the Falklands for a tour of duty.

On Sunday I read it was National Chocolate Fondue Day which naturally made me sit up and take notice, I always enjoy fondues although funnily enough I have never made a chocolate one. Makes me think of Matt’s daughter’s chocolate fountain which we all enjoyed last time we were in the UK.

Chocolate Fondue chocolatefondue

Joy of
6 ounces (170 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream (contains 35-40% butterfat)
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk
2 1/2 tablespoons (35 grams) granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup Nutella (optional)
1 tablespoon liqueur (such as Frangelico, Grand Marnier, Kahlua, Tia Maria, Amaretto, or a brandy) (optional)

Chocolate Fondue: Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl and set aside.
Combine the cream, milk, sugar, and corn syrup in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring often.
Remove from heat and pour immediately over the chocolate. Let stand until the chocolate has melted, then whisk until smooth.
Whisk in vanilla extract, Nutella (if using), and the liqueur (if using).
Place the chocolate sauce in a fondue pot and serve with fresh fruits, chunks of pound, butter, sponge, or angel food cake and cookies (amaretti, ladyfingers, rolled wafer cookies, or biscotti). Reheat the sauce if it becomes too thick.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups. Preparation time 15 minutes.

Have a great day

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