Monday, June 30, 2008

Panic Over

The panic being over for a while at least, I can write a bit more of my blog. We spent several hours in Emergency whilst Matt had a battery of tests for his 2 TIAs (miniature strokes) last night and then this morning just after we got up, he had another one. Technically he is supposed to go back to the hospital, but by the time he had thrown on some clothes, it had gone away again. Having spent all that time and done all those tests plus another battery of tests he went through over the last 6 weeks with a cardiologist, added to all the tests from last year, we are getting a little ticked off with the whole business as they seem totally unable to find anything wrong. It also seems a tad pointless to go into Emergency in a rush when by the time he gets there, the whole episode is over. In case you are wondering TIA means transient ischemic attack.

Whilst we were in Emergency last night, they had several very rowdy patients, one woman was shouting and swearing constantly, she will have a sore throat today I think. I assume she finally was "put to sleep" whatever was wrong with her. At one point we heard her boyfriend shout "she's my girl, leave her alone". Matt surmised they had been drinking (holiday weekend) and were both blitzed out of their minds.
Which reminds me, happy Canada Day to all Canadians far and wide, today is the holiday although officially Canada Day is July 1. We missed any fireworks outside our window last night, maybe we will see more tonight.

For a recipe, I came across this typically North American Salad so thought I would share it with you.

Corn, Arugula & Tomato Salad
Source: © EatingWell Magazine
6 servings, 1 cup each

Fresh corn and tomatoes make an especially attractive and delicious summer salad. Sweet corn balances the peppery arugula and tart tomatoes.


3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons minced shallots
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
6 cups loosely packed arugula (about 6 ounces)
2 cups corn kernels (about 4 ears)
1 1/2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved


Combine vinegar and shallots in a large bowl and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Whisk oil into the vinegar mixture until blended. Season with salt and pepper. Add arugula and toss to coat. Arrange the arugula on serving plates. Add corn and tomatoes to the bowl, toss to coat with the dressing that remains, then spoon the mixture over the arugula and serve.

Have a great day.

Celtic Thunder

Dinner went well. The new chicken dish was delicious, I can thoroughly recommend it. They lent us a DVD and I lent them Celtic Thunder. If you haven't seen this group, we think they are fantastic. There are five of them four from Ireland and one from Scotland I think. They range from about 14 to 45 in age and are quite a sexy bunch of men with wonderful singing voices. That line about asking them questions won't work here, but there is a website you can visit to do so if you wish this is the biography page. We have seen their performance twice on WNED which is the Buffalo Public Broadcasting system, the second time I decided to buy the DVD. I have never really been a fan of Puppy Love until I saw young Damon sing it. Another singer in the group, Keith Harkin, writes and sings the most complicated songs which are very enjoyable. The other three are excellent performers with wonderful voices. If you get a chance to hear or see them, do take it.

I am sorry I won't be writing more today and no recipe. Matt has had 3 TIAs in the last 12 hours. Spent 4 hours in hospital last night and then he had another this morning. They still can't find anything wrong. A funny whilst in Emergency a girl came to take blood samples and on her uniform it said Blood Collection Team with a drop of blood, I said "What are you, a Vampire". Not the first time she had heard it of course.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bill, Bears and Bullwhipple

So Bill Gates is, to all intents and purposes, retiring, he wants to concentrate on charitable work. With $58 billion I guess he doesn't have to worry too much about his pensions. I am not sure though why the primary target for his charity is outside his home in underdeveloped countries when there are so many deserving poor in the States. People tend to think of the US as a wealthy country, but when you get idiots spending billions on wars, it doesn't help those who are sleeping on the streets, or schools which have to close down due to lack of funds. Whilst looking for this picture I saw a heading "the man who made it cool to be a geek" which I thought quite funny, I should be such a geek. I remember the first Windows, I hated it, I much preferred DOS. Windows was full of silly doors and windows which you had to click on to get anywhere, I resisted using it for a long time. Yes, it does just show you how far I go back.

There were some interesting pictures of polar bears on Good Morning America today. There is a new video clip which you can find here in fact if you check on the right, there is more than one video clip about them. The man who was making the film said they are very playful and would try and play tag with him whilst he was filming them. It is such a shame that because of global warming we are losing this wonderful bear. In the clip they say there used to be 1,200 bears in the Churchill, Manitoba area, now it is in the 900s. In fact they said they feel like historians recording scenes our descendants will never be able to witness. I often feel sorry that I won't be around to see some of the things of the future, space travel and the like, but when I hear about the loss of such wonderful creatures, I am not so sorry after all.

I've said it before and no doubt I will say it again, I do not understand American politics. Now Obama and Hillary Clinton are running mates. Having spent months and millions battling one another, they have now come together "for the good of the party". Hah! I personally will just be glad when November comes and the election is over and done with, then we can have a bit of peace for a while until they start campaigning again, which, I assure you, doesn't take long. You might wonder, if you don't live here, why I complain so much, unfortunately a lot of our news comes from the States so we see all this campaigning all flaming year or however long it is. Why they can't hold an election like Canada or the UK and get it all over and done with in a few weeks, I'm damned if I know. Now we get pictures of them being all palsy walsy with big toothy grins on their faces. Grrrrr.

Last night I was exploring our son-in-law's website (see link to Mike's Wildlife Art on this page) and he has a lot of new pictures posted, including some painted in quite a different way from his normal paintings which are usually very detailed. It is interesting to read what he has to say as well as to see his latest "looser" paintings. We love Mike's artwork but we are somewhat biased I know. He makes, what to me are, very mundane birds, look like something really special. I know he spends hours at the weekends and on vacations observing birds, sketching them in situ and taking pictures. So do click on the link and at least have a look at "What's New".

As I mentioned, we have friends joining us for dinner tonight and as I have also told you, we are doing the Asparagus Phyllo Bundles, the Greek Chicken with Capers and Raisins in Feta Sauce I posted the other day, followed by Minted Chocolate Freeze. We will be serving a Pinot Grigio - I think the one from Malivoire which we visited a couple of months ago.

Minted Chocolate Freeze

1 1/4 cups
graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup
sugar or Splenda
1/3 cup
margarine, melted
1 1 oz
square unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 8 oz pkg
Philadelphia cream cheese
3/4 cup
brown sugar, packed or Brown Splenda
1/4 tsp
peppermint extract
1 6 oz pkg
semi-sweet chocolate pieces, melted
eggs, separated
1 cup
heavy cream, whipped
1/2 cup
chopped pecans

Combine crumbs & sugar; stir in margarine & chocolate. Press onto bottom of 9" square pan; chill. Combine softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, & peppermint extract, mixing until well blended. Stir in chocolate & egg yolks. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar; fold in whipped cream & nuts. Freeze. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Servings: 8

Source: Recitopia UK

Have a great day.

Friday, June 27, 2008


OK, I'm slow. I have just discovered that there is a web site, provided by Google/Blogger, which has all the pictures I have ever posted on my blog. There are over 800 of them. I am quite astounded. I am also thinking I don't need to keep them on my PC - I wonder if it's safe to remove them. Hmmmm. Mind you all the pictures on Blogger are muddled up, I don't think I can be bothered to sort them all out, not 800 odd. On my PC I have at least got them sorted into Blog and Food albums.

Carpet, Books and Asparagus

We now have a nice clean carpet, I must admit it came up a lot better than I imagined. They tried to sell me Scotchguarding (kind of mark proofing) as well, but as its not actually my carpet even though I live with it, I decided I didn't want to spend the money. They accidentally blew a fuse for the kitchen light and I could not, for the life of me, remember where we kept spare fuses. Matt was out shopping so I had to call him and ask - felt an idiot. No comments please. One of the guys also offered to help us move furniture if we ever wanted to get new carpet. Left me his phone number. Nice of him. One of the young men was in the kitchen getting water and saw my jar of pickled bell peppers. He asked me about them and was quite interested. Maybe I have a convert.

For a change, we have nothing special to do today which means by the end of it I will probably be climbing walls. This is one of the disadvantages of being retired. I love to read of course, but that doesn't hold me 24 hours a day unless it is an exceptional book - oh, just reminded myself I have an Elizabeth Moon inter-library loan to collect. It's The Legacy of Gird, a book about Paksenarrion (I think that's how its spelt). Checking the library pages I see one of my requests is still 24 of 48 holds. A very popular book. It is the latest by J.D. Robb in her Death series. Strangers in Death. Just discovered it is number 26, I had no idea I had read 25 of them. I enjoy them, especially the characters.

I am actually reading an ebook on my Palm Zire at the moment, it is called The Meq by Steve Cash. Its pretty interesting - the premise is about a race who stop aging at 12 but who live virtually forever barring accidents etc. I We shall see. Otherwise they have to keep moving because obviously people will notice if they stay 12 yrs old for ever. I am only a short distance into the story at the moment but there is some ceremony they can partake of which allows them to become adults and have children, but I gather (I don't know yet) that it then makes you mortal. The story begins in the late 1800's and I gather goes up to relatively modern times.

We need 16 asparagus spears for our Phyllo Bundles tomorrow night, so we might have to go to Barrie's Asparagus farm earlier than planned. Whenever we do go, it will be our last visit this year. I am weeping and wailing. I suppose even I couldn't eat asparagus every day for a year or so. I suppose I will just have to make do with strawberries for a while!! Then peaches I presume, maybe a nectarine or two. Its a hard life.

This recipe from the Ontario Asparagus Growers' Marketing Board sounds very much like a Quiche by any other name. Mind you, I like quiche and I like asparagus, so where could I go wrong.

Mediterranean Asparagus Tart

frozen 9-inch (23 cm) deep-dish pie shell
3 eggs, well beaten
1 lb (500 g) Ontario asparagus
1/2 cup (125 mL) crumbled feta cheese
1 cup (250 mL) canned 2% evaporated milk
3 tbsp (50 mL) chopped fresh Ontario dill
1/2 tsp (2 mL) grated lemon rind
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

Line pie shell with double layer of foil; bake in 450º F (230º C) oven for 8 minutes. Remove foil and brush with some of the beatn eggs; bake 5 to 7 minutes longer or until lightly browned. Break tough ends from asparagus; steam or cook stalk in large skillet of boiling water for 2 minutes or just until tender-crisp. Rinse under cold running water; drain and pat dry with towel. Cut off 3-inch (8 cm) tips; slice remaining stalks into 1/4-inch (6 mm) pieces and spring 1 cup (250 mL) into baked crust. Sprinkle cheese on top. Arrange asparagus tips pointing outward in spoke-like fashion in shell. Whisk together egg, milk, dill, lemon rind, salt and peper; pour over asparagus. Bake in 375º F (190º C) oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until puffy and set. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: Serves 6

Recipe Courtesy of Foodland Ontario

Have a great day.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


This morning New York City turned on four waterfalls built alongside the river. If you go to the GMA website you can see the pictures. However, these pictures appear to have been taken before this morning, we saw the film on TV and they are really just a bunch of scaffolding with water pouring down. Very uninteresting to look at, not a bit beautiful which is what they are meant to be. Surely they could have done something with the scaffolding to make it look prettier somehow. In this picture you don't really see the scaffolding, but one certainly saw it on TV. The water is pumped up from the river and they have a dam in front so that fish can't get caught up in the pumped water.

Another story on GMA today was about an illegal migrant worker who used to pick tomatoes as a young Mexican and is, today, one of the top brain surgeons at John's Hopkins an eminent hospital in the States. There is a programme about it tonight I gather. That is quite a change in status for him, achieved over some 20 years I gather. If you would like to read the article it is here and maybe the programme on TV will be worth watching tonight.

Right now, I am waiting for carpet cleaners to come. Our living/dining room is showing all kinds of marks we didn't make. It isn't our carpet of course and in some respects I resent having to have it cleaned, I would actually like to get new carpet, but I don't think that is very likely. Even if the landlords agreed to it, we would have to move all the furniture ourselves and that is next to impossible. We need some strong young men to do it for us. Ru, do you want to come to Canada? We have four grandsons who could help, but they are in the UK as well. Even if we could move everything, where the heck do you put it all. We have moved a lot now, but still have a sofa, two armchairs, a dining table and the TV console and stereo set with all our CDs, and we have quite a few of those let me tell you. It nearly killed me moving what we did move.

We went to a local store on our way home yesterday and bought some sausages, they have the best. The store is predominantly European and they have some great food in there, including stuffed pickled bell peppers. They are stuffed with sauerkraut and absolutely delicious. Where Matt used to work years ago, there was a cook who gave him a case of these pickles because we loved them so much, but she would never give us the recipe. Funnily enough I was looking for a picture of these (I took my own in the end) and found a couple of recipes for these pickles, however, these days I don't think I would bother, just buy them, they are very good.

Yet another recipe from the Ontario Asparagus Growers' Marketing Board, they do have some good ones. I would like to think some of you are trying these out. They are really worth it. By minced sushi ginger, I am assuming they mean the thinly sliced pickled ginger always served with sushi. Delicious stuff, I often buy it anyway.

Ginger Asparagus Salad

1 lb Ontario asparagus, trimmed
1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp granulated sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp minced sushi ginger
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander
2 oz mesclun salad mix
1 small head radicchio, separated
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Steam or simmer asparagus until tender-crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Place in colander and refresh under cold running water; drain well and pat dry with paper towels. (Asparagus may be cooked several hours in advance.) Arrange in shallow dish large enough to hold it in single layer. In small bowl, whisk together vinegar and sugar until sugar dissolves. Add garlic and ginger; combine well. Slowly whisk in sesame and canola oils and soy sauce; whisk in coriander. (Dressing may be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days.) Pour over the asparagus and turn gently to coat well. Line serving platter with mesclun; arrange radicchio leaves round edge. Pile asparagus over top. Drizzle with any dressing left in dish. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Serve within 30 minutes or asparagus will discolour.

Yield: Serves 4

Have a great day.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cooking Day, More Asparagus

I got both my pesto and my tomato soup made. As I just replied to someone in comments for yesterday, the recipe didn't make a lot of pesto, so I may make some more when the basil plants have recovered from yesterday's depredations. I took two cups of leaves off for the pesto, plus another dozen or so for the tomato soup, so they are somewhat denuded at the moment. I also made a shrimp gumbo for supper and have some gumbo sauce in the freezer too. Can't add the shrimp until we are ready to eat it otherwise it will become quite nasty and rubbery. I really needed to use the okra we bought as I had forgotten to put it in a Green Bag and it was beginning to look a little tired. Except for gumbo we don't eat okra very much although a friend in the States cooked us some once and it was delicious. The starch can make it quite slimy if you don't cook it properly. The first time I ever ate it was in the Mediterranean, South of France I think, we enjoyed it in a sort of tomato stew and I remember my mother cooked some shortly after. You can also use filé to thicken gumbo which is powdered sassafras leaves. I only ever tried it once and it didn't seem very successful. I peel the shrimp as Matt is allergic to shrimp if he gets "stuck" by a leg or a feeler or something, very convenient, he is not allergic to eating them mind you.

These days for soups, I tend to use Campbell's chicken stocks. At one time I always used to make my own, boiling up chickens and then defatting the stock in the fridge and using the chicken meat for curries or something, but now Campbell's have come out with their packets of stock, I don't bother as they are, let's face it, very convenient. In the States I used to have two fridges which made it much easier to put things like a huge pot stock in one whilst it chilled and still have room for all one's usual fridge items in the other. These packets can be stored in a corner of any old cupboard until you are ready to use them. They contain 2 cups of stock - unless you buy the smaller size which I think is probably 1 cup - and I usually keep a couple in the kitchen.

We also had strawberries and cream for supper last night; after the gumbo, which is served over rice, made us feel very full. Delicious though. Not doing my dieting much good so I should knock it off. Well the cream anyway.

Anyway, time we had another asparagus recipe from the Ontario Asparagus Grower's Marketing Board. Only a few more days and the season will be over for another year. This one is done in a parcel, if you have never tried cooking this way, it is very good and keeps the oven nice and clean as well as all the juices in the parcel. The picture is not of the recipe but shows a piece of salmon cooked in a parcel.

Asparagus Dinner Parcels

1 lb and a bit white fish fillets(sole, orange roughy, haddock)
4 tsp lemon juice
16 medium Ontario asparagus spears, trimmed to 6 inches
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
2 green onions sliced
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill, cilantro or tarragon (or 2 tsp. dried dill weed or tarragon)

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Cut four 12 x 13-inch rectangles of parchment paper (foil may be substituted if cooking in a conventional oven). Fold in half lengthwise and crease. Open each one. Arrange fish fillets on one side of each rectangle. Drizzle evenly with lemon juice. Place four asparagus spears on top of each fillet. Sprinkle tomato, onion and herbs evenly over asparagus. Season with salt and pepper. Fold other half of paper over. Seal completely by making a double 1/2 inch fold on all cut edges. Place parcels on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven about 10 minutes or until fish flakes and asparagus is tender-crisp. (If using parchment paper you can microwave on full power 9 to 10 minutes. Allow to stand 5 minutes). Serve on individual plates.

Yield: Serves 4

NOTE: Recipe Courtesy of Foodland Ontario

Have a great day.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Busy Day

Today I plan to make my Basil Pesto and Tomato Soup which will mostly end up in the freezer. Our Basil plants are looking healthy enough to attack now, I need two cups of leaves for the Pesto. I shall also be making a shrimp gumbo for supper, so I will be doing a lot of cooking. I might make some asparagus soup for the freezer too, depending on how the time goes.

We went to Barrie's Asparagus farm yesterday and he tells me they are planning to open an additional business selling jars of homemade asparagus soup. This year they are getting a catering company to do it for them, but the plans are to have an additional building in which to make it themselves and then to market it at the same time as selling the fresh asparagus. I haven't tried Tim Barrie's mom's soup yet, but I plan to do so, Tim assures me it is very good. If you are interested in the recipe, it is on Tim's blog 1st Canadian Solar Farm, the link is on this page. It is apparently so good that they had some available but which wasn't labelled or priced and it sold before they could do that. Maybe I should have got a bigger bag of asparagus.

Having finished The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon which I found an excellent book although I was a little disappointed at the end, Elizabeth Moon assured me she was too, I have now started Havenstar by Glenda Noramly, that is Glenda Larke by another name. Glenda's blog is also linked on this page. The book is apparently out of print, but a very kind friend sent it to me from the UK and I am already enjoying it. Its a fascinating world and I can see why so many people are encouraging her to write more stories set in the same world.

I am enjoying reading the blogs of a number of authors and talking to them about their worlds and their works. It fascinates me that they really are not sure where their characters are going, the characters apparently tend to take on a life of their own. I am learning why I never managed to become an author myself.

This weekend we are having friends over for dinner again, so we have found a chicken recipe we think we will do. In case you wonder, we will be doing the Asparagus Phyllo Bundles to start, well, its the last weekend of the availability of Barrie's Asparagus after all!!

Greek Chicken with Capers
and Raisins in Feta Sauce

4 four ounce
Skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 tbs
All purpose flour
1 tsp
dried oregano
1 tbs
olive oil
1 cup
Thinly sliced onions
garlic cloves minced
1 1/2 Cups
Chicken broth, bouillon
1/3 cup
golden raisins
2 tbs
lemon juice
2 tbs
1 oz
feta cheese (crumbled)
thin lemon slices

1 Flatten chicken breasts. Combine flour and oregano and dredge chicken pieces in it
2 Heat oil in a nonstick pan. Med. high heat. Add chicken, cook 5 mins each side, remove from pan and keep warm.
3 Add onion and garlic to pan, sauté 2 mins. Sitr in broth, raisins and lemon juice. Cook 3 mins scraping pan to loosen browned bits.
4 Return chicken to pan. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 mins or until chicken is done. Remove chicken and keep warm.
5 Add capers and cheese to pan, stirring with a whisk. Top each chicken breast with 1/4 C sauce and 1 lemon slice.

Servings: 4

Recipe Source

Cooking Light July/Aug 1999

Have a great day.

Monday, June 23, 2008

PCs, Dutch Dinner Party, NC Fish Story.

Grr, just had trouble booting up. I haven't turned my PC off overnight in months although I reboot it every day, because it was giving me problems. Thought I would try it out last night and went to bed leaving it off. Big mistake, took me forever to get it to boot up this morning. I don't really understand why. It gives me a "no signal" message all the time. Then eventually it gets tired and gives in to me.

Saturday night we went to friends for dinner and had a great evening. Being Dutch she promised we would have a Dutch meal. Our main dish was liver which is not normally one of my favourites, but this was delicious. It didn't taste too "livery" at all if you know what I mean. We had a delicious Belgian Endive casserole which is also a Dutch recipe; I have asked for copies of both. The dessert was a little like carrot cake but wasn't, it was good, too good maybe. We had taken a bottle of Apricot Bols as that is a Dutch liqueur and we sat around the table til midnight discussing everything and anything. We have arranged to have a party on September 13th to celebrate the birthday's of three of us, mine in particular as I hit the big 70. You should worry ru!

I thought of another Carolina fish story this weekend. Matt and a friend went out fishing on the Carolina Princess which is a large boat which takes dozens of fishermen on board. If you are lucky and hit them when they aren't too, too busy, it can be quite fun. Anyway, when the two guys returned they had a stack of fish including some Trigger Fish which was a new one to us. Matt helped the friend with skinning and filleting and they had a heck of a job with the trigger fish and really worked hard at it. Matt was no weakling and he really had to fight to skin these things. We learned later that in fact to skin Trigger Fish you start from the other end. Also that the skin is so tough you can lay it directly on the barbecue coals to cook your fish. However, we didn't know this at the time and because it was such hard work, Matt decided to throw our Trigger Fish away and so he buried them in the back yard. Later, the friend and his wife got us to cook the fish for the four of us and it was absolutely delicious. White, firm wonderfully flavoured fish. I have never forgiven Matt for throwing ours away. Even though he went out on the Carolina Princess again he never caught any more.

We have to go get some more asparagus today and then there will only be one more trip I am thinking, a week tomorrow is Canada Day which is the day they close. Do you hear my tears. In the meantime, having spoken about liver, and not having the recipe for the dish we ate this weekend, I leave you with a Portuguese liver recipe which I like very much. Even if you don't like liver, I can highly recommend it, you can't taste the liverishness (new word) at all.

Marinated Liver with Red-Wine Sauce
Foods of the World by Time Life
Serves 4

1/4 pint dry red wine (UK pint or about 5 fl. oz)
1 1/2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1/2 bay leaf, crumbled
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. calf's or beef liver, cut into 1/8 in. thick slices
2 1/2 tbs olive oil
3 rashers bacon, coarsely chopped
2 tbs finely chopped parsley

Put the wine, vinegar, garlic, bay leaf, salt and a few grindings of pepper into a glass, enamelled or stainless steel bowl. Add the liver, turning the slices about with a spoon until they are evenly coated. Marinate at room temperature for about 2 hours.

Heat the olive oil over a moderate heat in a large, heavy frying pan until a light haze forms above it. Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and crisp. Drain on a double thickness of kitchen paper. Remove the liver slices from the marinade and pat them dry with paper towel. Reserve the marinade. Heat the remaining bacon fat in the pan until it splutters. Add the liver and cook the slices about 2 mins on each side, regulating the heat so they brown quickly and evenly without burning. Remove the liver to a heated dish. Quickly pour the reserved marinade into the pan and boil it uncovered over a high heat until it has reduced to about half, meanwhile scraping in any browned bits clinging to the bottom and sides of the pan. Taste for seasoning. Scatter the bacon pieces over the liver, pour the sauce over it and sprinkle with parsley. Serve at once.

Have a great day.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

North Carolina and its Seafood

Talking of gatherings we had in North Carolina, there was one occasion when for some reason everyone brought clams - one person went out and raked up some in the Sound, another person bought some and someone else gave us some. We ended up with something like 1,200 clams that weekend. The group of us ate them every which way, in chowders, raw, steamed, fried and so on. From that weekend on, Matt has never eaten another clam. It even put him off oysters which he used to love. I still ate clams all kinds of ways, except raw, it never put me off. A friend used to do clam bakes in a special steamer and the guys would go off shore at her place and rake up enough clams for supper.

Another time, we had what the locals would describe as a 'mess of blues', in other words a lot of bluefish caught in local waters. Matt cut them in strips, rolled them in seasoned flour and deep fried them. They were delicious. I'm not sure Matt ever got any though, everyone was eating them as fast as he could cook them. Another time when we had been out on the boat and gone to one of the islands where there were some guys fishing and catching bluefish as fast as they could throw their bait in the water. They gave us a cooler full of the fish which was really nice of them. For some reason, although Matt and a friend stood right next to them, they didn't catch any fish at all and these guys were still pulling them out as fast as they could. We took them home and kidded another friend that we had caught them. Matt actually told her hubby the truth, but to the day she died, she never knew we hadn't caught them ourselves. She was a fishing fool herself. Our boat was called Wake's Own (our last name being Wake) which was a play on words as everywhere you would see posts saying No Wake Zone. A boat joke.

As you can see, our lot of our fun came from eating parties of one kind or another, of course there was usually plenty of liquid refreshment of one kind or another. After the clam party, Matt was in the yard cleaning up the next morning, in those days everyone smoked, and there were usually cigarette buts and maybe a few cans, plastic glasses and bottles to clear up. He then went in and took a shower got dressed and went outside again. He kept smelling a nasty odour and finally realised it was his shorts from where the clam juices had run onto them through the picnic table the night before. They could almost walk on their own. We didn't have a washer and dryer in our mobile home so a friend used to do it for us. There was great laughter about those shorts I can tell you.

We had lots of wonderful friends in North Carolina, and lots of good memories of being with them.

The following is a recipe for clam chowder which is very similar to the one I used to make, of course I used fresh clams, not canned. The best chowder I ever ate was made by an Indian friend of a friend of ours, it was wonderful, it included some spiciness too, but I never did get the recipe unfortunately. There is also a Manhattan Clam Chowder which involves tomatoes, but the one mostly made in NC was the New England Clam Chowder.

Clam Chowder

Food Network.
  • 1 x can baby clams
  • 1 x small potato
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 2 tbsp chopped celery
  • 1 x clove garlic
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 300ml 2% milk
  • 200ml 35% cream
  1. Peel and cube potato in small pieces.
  2. Fine dice onions.
  3. In a pot saute onions ,celery, garlic and potato With a little butter. Add cream and milk.
  4. Open can of baby clams and reserve liquid.
  5. Boil soup till potatoes are almost tender add clam juice.
  6. Once potatoes are tender add clams and season remove from heat and serve.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Strawberries and North Carolina

When we got to the store yesterday, they were selling local strawberries - they looked pretty good so I bought some. We ate them for supper last night. They needed sweetening, I added Splenda to mine and we opened a pot of Double Devon Cream. It is not quite as good as the clotted cream served in the south west of England, but it is a good substitute. We both thoroughly enjoyed our dessert making thorough pigs of ourselves. Delicious. To counter the cream I just ate plain broiled chicken for supper. Not too many points at all. What did I have as a vegetable? Asparagus of course!! I haven't yet turned green, but I might well before the end of the season.

I have often mentioned North Carolina in my blog, a place we have a soft spot for. We first 'discovered' NC in the 70s when we drove south with our travel trailer (caravan in England) and visited Plymouth, Mass and Maryland and then headed further south. We used to have a big book which listed all the camp sites and their facilities, big as a telephone directory for a city. We found a campsite which sounded good and was near the coast, called Pender Park. It was located between Jacksonville, NC and Morehead City, NC and our camp site was right next to the pool so we thought we were well situated. I was irritated that we had been travelling that day, it was my birthday. I must confess when we had our first quick look at Morehead City my reaction was "what a dump". But I wasn't at my best that day for health reasons too. Within a day or two we were very taken with the area and a friend we made on the campsite (he lived in a mobile home there) told us all kinds of places to go for swimming, fishing, eating and so on.

Actually, it was quite funny the way we met Al, he came down in his car and parked by us. Said "how's the pool?", we said "great" he went and had a swim then came back and said "it's freezing", Matt replied "have a beer" and that was the beginning of a long friendship. We spent a few days there and then headed back north again stopping at various campsites on the way. This was in September and we were staggered to find that once the kids have gone back to school people start closing things down. We went on one campsite in Virginia which would have been gorgeous, but they hadn't cleaned the toilet/shower facilities and they had closed the pool because it was the end of the summer. The fact that the temps were in the high 80s had nothing to do with it. The scenery is pretty impressive in Virginia and we were camping in the hills.

When we got home, we wrote to Al but never heard back. Two years later we decided to go look him up again. We ended up on exactly the same site, next to the swimming pool (the connections were still loose) and when we knocked on his door, there he was. He had told us there was a mobile home for sale two years before and we had decided 'no', but this time we wanted to buy and buy we did. An old mobile which was right next door to Al's. We had to re-carpet and put in new curtains, beds, furniture, etc. but it was ours. Al did a lot of the work for us and we came down again in October and did all the buying of furniture and beds and so on. That all took place in 1980 and we continued to visit regularly for the next 8 years. We also used to lease the trailer to friends for their vacations. Al would mow the lot for us to keep the place clean and tidy. We had some really good times there and made some wonderful friends. With the result, when we decided to retire, early, we bought some land and a much bigger double wide mobile home to live in. They are called mobile homes, by the way, because they can be moved although it necessitates putting wheels back on them and a big truck to haul them around.

It was on the Pender Park campground that we were first introduced to a Carolina pig pickin' as a friend and neighbour across the road had a pig cooker and used to cook a pig quite often. Then once we lived down there for a while, Matt started doing pigs for himself. They have an annual tournament in nearby Newport for the best cooked pig, you can buy a plate of 'barbecue' once the judging is over. Unfortunately they shred the pork and we prefer to literally "pick" the pork off our pigs and eat chunks or slices of meat.

The first October we went back to the trailer, we found all kinds of joke signs, Furniture for Sale, Matt's Dog House, a big Sprite advertising clock (actually very useful as a yard light, we kept it for years) and lots of other stuff. The site owners took it all seriously and said we couldn't advertise on the site!!! Quite funny really.

We used to party hearty when we got down there and one time, we didn't get off the camp site for three or four days with people bringing stuff (we had already bought liquor and beer on the way in) and we didn't get any groceries to speak of. One day everyone brought a load of scallops and Matt made Scallops Parisiennes for a bunch of people. Bay Scallops were pretty inexpensive at the time. Later I used to buy a gallon for $8 which I would split into portion sizes and freeze. The picture is actually Coquilles St. Jacques, but it is very similar in final appearance.

Scallops Parisiennes

We have had this recipe for years, I have no idea what the source was.

Serves: 6

1 glass dry white wine
1/4 Pt water
pinch of salt
1 sprig parsley
6 peppercorns
few slices of carrot and celery
1 lb scallops
1-1/2 oz butter
1 green onion
1/4 lb mushrooms
1 oz flour
1/4 pt milk
1 tbs browned breadcrumbs
a little melted butter

Put wine, 1/4 pt water, salt, parsley, bayleaf, peppercorns, carrots and celery into a pan. Bring to a boil. Add scallops and poach for two mins. Take out scallops. Reserve the liquor.

Melt butter in a pan, add the green onion, finely sliced, and the mushrooms cut into quarters. Cover and cook for about 5 mins. Draw aside and add the flour and the strained liquor from the scallops. Stir until boiling, simmer a few mins, add the milk by degrees, then reduce to a creamy consistency. Stir in the scallops.

Fill cocottes. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and a little melted butter and brown quickly under the broiler. It is recommended that real butter be used.

Serves 2 as a main course, 6 as hors d'oeuvres

Have a great day

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Symbols, Weight, Books and Asparagus

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I have noticed, since I have been writing this blog, that many people don't know how to form certain signs and symbols or to show accents on letters. This can easily be rectified by downloading a free programme called AllChars which can be found here. I use it a lot - a couple of symbols I can remember, but mostly I have to look it up every time and it is very useful. You can leave the programme in your toolbar or "put it away" until next time you need it.

I have been on a Plateau with my weight for the last 6 or 7 weeks. It was getting very frustrating, however, I persevered and today I am delighted to report I have dropped another 2 lbs. Its odd because my clothes are definitely looser and yet nothing was shifting on the scales. So if you too are on a diet, hang in there. I have been recording all my food intake at Weight Watchers Online and today something has shifted. I hope and pray that I won't stop again now, but its possible. Asparagus is supposed to be a good food for helping to lose weight. There is somebody out there who sells asparagus pills. Strawberries too of course, but I haven't had any yet, maybe I will pick some up today when we go shopping. Oh damn, I can't have cream, well not lashings of it like I prefer.

I have just finished reading Island of Exiles by I.J. Parker which describes itself as a mystery of 11th Century Japan featuring Sugawara Akitada. I heard about the book from someone on Recipe du Jour which is one of the cookery ezines I receive. I understand there are other stories about the same person: a small time government official who is good at investigating. It wasn't fast paced, but I enjoyed it. Akitada is a good man if not the most brilliant detective in the world. I will certainly look for some of the other stories about him. Of course my favourite book about Japan is still Shogun written by James Clavell. I have read that so many times and find something new every time I do so.

I have also recently finished The Seventh Scroll by Wilbur Smith. The story is good, but I still find Wilbur Smith hard going. Not the kind of book I cannot put down. Last night I started a new Elizabeth Moon book, The Speed of Dark, which is about autism but in the future. There seems to have been a lot about autism lately, at least two different reports on TV plus someone recommending this book to me, which I already had, the first TV report was basically autistic people saying "we like who we are, leave us the hell alone". In the book, I gather, it involves an agonising decision by the main character as to whether to go through an operation to reverse his autism or not. He is pretty functional in his world, he can drive, communicate reasonably well, has a job which a non autistic person couldn't do, lives independently, why should he change when he is happy. Apparently Elizabeth Moon has an autistic son so she obviously has a good knowledge of what she is writing about.

I have been meaning to mention, whilst raving about asparagus as I have been lately, the Green Bags that I have been using to preserve those spears I buy. They are Debbie Meyer Green Bags and are sold on the internet at this site. I am very impressed with them, the other day I came across some mushrooms which I had bought a couple of weeks or so ago and forgotten I had, they were still in excellent condition and you know how mushrooms can spoil. I keep all my vegetables in these Green Bags, they are placed in them straight from the store each week. The biggest problem I have with these bags, you rinse them after each usage (you can use them up to 20 times) but in an apartment, setting them out to dry is a nuisance.

Here is yet another asparagus recipe for you from the Ontario Asparagus Growers' Marketing Board. I am really enjoying experimenting with these recipes. This one looks pretty good doesn't it?

Asparagus Strudel

12 oz (375 g) Ontario asparagus, trimmed
1 tbsp (15 mL) canola oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz (90 g) Swiss cheese, shredded
1/4 cup (50 mL) sour cream

salt and pepper
1/4 cup (50 mL) dry bread crumbs
1 tbsp (15 mL) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 sheets phyllo pastry
1/2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, melted

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
2 large roasted red peppers, seeded and peeled
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh basil

Cut asparagus into 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) pieces; steam or simmer just until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Place in large bowl. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat; cook shallots and garlic until softened, about 3 minutes. Cool slightly. Add to bowl. Add cheese, sour cream and salt and pepper to taste to bowl; mix well. In small bowl, combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese; set aside. Preheat oven to 350º F (180º C). Lightly grease baking sheet. Place one sheet of phyllo on clean work surface with long side closest to you, keeping remaining sheets covered with waxed paper and damp tea towel. Brush with melted butter; sprinkle with about 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the bread crumb mixture. Cover with another sheet of phyllo, butter and bread crumbs. Top with third sheet of phyllo; butter sheet. Cut in half crosswise to make 2 stacks. Place one-quarter of the filling along one short end of stack, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) uncovered at each end. Roll phyllo up and over filling to completely enclose it. Fold long ends over toward filling; continue rolling strudel. Brush all over with butter. Transfer to prepared baking sheet; brush with butter. Repeat with remaining stack. Make 2 more strudels with remaining ingredients. (The strudels may be prepared to this point and frozen for up to 1 month; bake frozen.) Bake strudels for 30 to 35 minutes or until filling is heated through and pastry is golden brown.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:
In food processor or blender, combine red peppers, basil and 1/4 cup (50 mL) of the vinegar; process until smooth. Taste and add more vinegar if desired. Pour into small saucepan and bring to simmer over low heat. Serve under or beside strudels.

Yield: Serves 4

Have a great day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More Asparagus followed by Strawberries

Last night we tried Asparagus in Bed and were both somewhat disappointed. I didn't like the prosciutto with it and Matt said the dish was generally not as good as it appeared from reading the recipe. However, Hrugaar tells me the dish Asparagus and Tomato Bake that I posted on June 13, was good so I will try that next. One thing I learned from the Asparagus in Bed recipe was how to "hold" poached eggs in water until I wanted to use them in the dish. I had never tried this before. I thought the combination of eggs, Parmesan and asparagus was very good but found the prosciutto made it too salt, for my taste anyway.

Now strawberries are becoming available locally, unfortunately I don't find strawberries over here to be anything like the one's we used to get in the Europe years ago. They are not as sweet. The best berries we ever tasted in North America were those we bought at a particular farm in North Carolina, just outside Morehead City. Now they were sweet. I don't think I will be posting lots of recipes for strawberries because basically I like mine 'au naturel' with good cream. I frequently serve them with the Double Devon cream which can be bought in glass jars here. Of course we usually have to sweeten them. The classic dish in North America is Strawberry Shortcake; shh, don't tell anyone, I hate it. Our new Superintendent's wife was telling me, yesterday, she likes strawberry and rhubarb pie which I have never eaten, but the season is so short, I like mine just plain. Rather like lobster, I get it so rarely, I don't want to "muck about" with it. I wanted to try a berry farm which is a fair distance from us, but Matt is beginning to complain about the gas costs to get there. We have been spending a fair bit on gas to get to Tim Barrie's for asparagus and the berry farm I found is even further away.

If you read the comments, Hrugaar said they spend £40 to fill up a small car with gasoline, well, being a Limey he said petrol as I would have done til I emigrated. That, my friends, is close to $90 and that is for, what I have no doubt, is a 4 cyl. vehicle. We are complaining bitterly over here, but Europeans are saying its about time we caught up with them. I do hope you read Elizabeth Moon's letter to her congressman, I feel she really hits the nail on the head. This morning the Americans are talking about offshore drilling in areas which have previously been protected. I don't want to go back to a horse and buggy, but that's really where we should be headed. I commented to Matt, the other day, that I bet the Mennonites and Amish are laughing at our gasoline problems. Let's face it, with a horse, its grass and oats in one end and fertilizer out of the other. Very economical. Yes I know, you need stabling and field space etc. but once you have all that, you don't have to keep buying it. Wherever the expression originated, the oil producers have certainly got us over a barrel at the moment. I know I am oversimplifying, but it is certainly something to think about.

We have to do our bowling on Friday this week as our regular Monday league game is cancelled as the bowling alley will be filled with youngsters. We could just bank our scores for a previous game, but its more fun to actually bowl them. We have a couple of dinner parties coming up, one at a friend's and another one here. I am thinking of doing the Phyllo Bundles again as we enjoyed them so much last time. I need to check our guests like asparagus, surprisingly there are people who don't. As you can imagine, I can't understand that.

I was just thinking about a recipe when I remembered there is one recipe made with strawberries, which I love, Strawberries Romanoff. Here is a recipe from the internet with a little bit of history:

Strawberries Romanoff

When he was the chef at the Carlton Hotel in London, Escoffier created Strawberries Americaine Style — strawberries in orange liqueur, blended into whipped cream and softened ice cream. Little did he know that it would one day be the star dessert of every posh dining spot in California. "Prince" Mike Romanoff "borrowed" the recipe and gave it a new moniker. Soon it was the hottest item on the West Coast. The L.A. Biltmore called it "Strawberries Biltmore." The Palace Hotel in San Francisco served it with anisette and maraschino.

Strawberries Romanoff

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

2 pints strawberries, washed and stemmed
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1 cup heavy cream

1. Slice the strawberries. In a large bowl, toss three-quarters of them with the sugar and orange liqueur. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to macerate.

2. Put the ice cream in the refrigerator to soften.

3. Put the cream and half the macerated strawberries in a cold mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, whip to soft peaks, about 12 minutes. Fold in the ice cream.

4. Distribute the cream among 6 chilled bowls. Mix the plain sliced berries with the remaining macerated berries and place on top of the cream.

Have a great day.