Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thursday and Friday, Lunch. Mumbai and Bangkok

Yesterday we went for our flu shots so we should be OK for another year. I hope everyone who can has got their shot. For some reason I get a bit of a reaction but Matt doesn't. The nurse told me to take a Tylenol when I got home, so I did. Its still a tad sore though. She also suggested I could give Matt a lump to match mine. She was quite a fun character. We both bowled lousy games yesterday too. Absolutely dreadful the pair of us. Me with my new bowling balls too. We went there before the flu shots and met the very few people who bowl for the Friday Senior League. One of the group was a guy we used to bowl with at our previous alley in Hespeler so we have known him for a while. He was with us on our Travel League last Thursday. The picture, by the way, is my new bowling bag which is actually lavender too, not blue. Well I never said I was a great photographer. I was thinking about lunch at the pub we went to on Thursday, they have a pretty extensive menu including a dish which, I believe, originated in Quebec called Poutine. It is basically chips or French Fries, dolloped with gravy and cheese curds. I, personally, cannot imagine anything more revolting, but it is a very popular dish in Canada. I do NOT like gravy on my fries in the first place. What made me think about it was the Bruschetta we had for lunch had some type of cheese curd on it and I imagined it was the same thing they would use for Poutine. They also had Calamari rings, most places it is too tough, I had one ring and found this to be no exception. Only one place I ever really enjoyed them and that was at an Italian restaurant in North Carolina and they, unfortunately, are no longer there. One of our group decided on fish and chips and chose to have one piece. It was a huge fillet of haddock. A lot of food for lunch. I really don't know why restaurants serve such large portions, I couldn't finish mine and nor could several of the others. Some took doggie bags, I didn't bother. I can't let the morning go by without some comment about both Mumbai and Bangkok. I am so glad the terrorists in Mumbai didn't achieve their ambition to make it like 9/11 but it was certainly bad enough. As for Bangkok, Glenda Larke of Tropic Temper (see link) has a husband stuck at the airport there. I do hope he can get away soon. It really is Black Friday (an expression I only recently picked up on) shoppers stampeding into a Wal-Mart trampled a store employee to death and in a Toys-R-Us store two customers shot each other. What a morning. At least it is all over in Mumbai now although the Taj Mahal hotel will need a lot of money spent on it. Browsing the Best Ever Christmas cookbook again, I decided I like the look of the Lemon and Almond Shortbread Wedges. I like shortbread although I didn't as a youngster. I didn't like mincemeat either in those days, but I do now. Lemon and Almond Shortbread Wedges Makes 12 wedges 250 g butter 1/3 cup caster sugar (North American regular sugar is fine enough) 2 tsp grated lemon rind 1 3/4 cups plain flour 1 3/4 cups rice flour 1/2 cup ground almonds sugar for sprinkling Preheat oven to moderately slow 160 °C. Brush an oven tray with melted butter or oil. Using electric beaters, beat butter, sugar and lemon rind until light and creamy. Add sifted plain and rice flour and almonds. Press together to form a soft dought. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead 5 minutes. Roll dough into a 23 cm round using a cake tin as a guide, place onto greased tray. Pinch a frill around the end of the round. Use a large knife to score into 12 wedges. Prick evenly with a fork, sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 40 minutes or until lightly golden. Cut again, cool on tray. Store in an airtight container for up to a month. Can be frozen for up to three months. Have a great weekend.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas Present. The Nature of Things. The Fox and the Fiddle.

Whooppee, I got my new bowling balls yesterday when we were at our Travel League game. I was so excited, they look absolutely great and I immediately started playing with them. Unfortunately we had nearly finished our game so I only got a few frames to use them. However, I got some good points using them so they made a good impression. The picture doesn't really do them justice, they are a lovely lavender colour and if you enlarge the picture, you can see my initials on them. Matt tells me that probably won't last though. I also got a new bowling bag which is also lavender although in the picture I took it looks blue. It takes my balls and my shoes. So Merry Christmas to me. I was hoping to find a picture of a car ad that is running these days, it amuses me, you see a car being bounced around to test its shocks (I think) it is on a platform, the camera pans back and you see a huge robot skipping on the platform to make the car bounce. I think it is quite funny seeing this very large robot skipping. Why skipping I wonder, why not just jumping up and down? The Nature of Things presented by David Suzuki last night was absolutely fascinating. It was all about the work they are doing with the brain talking to various scientists about their fields. People who have been blind all their lives can be taught to see in a different way. People who's balance has been shot to hell for one reason or another can be taught to balance themselves and ride bikes, etc. Others who have suffered paralysis through strokes or something similar are being taught to use other paths in their brains. This is basically what its is about. They have discovered the brain is able to make new paths to perform functions in a different way but to achieve the same results. I urge you to read The Brain that Changes Itself and see what I am talking about. There is also a 30 minute video segment. If you know anyone that is having problems they too should be made aware of this. I have written about similar subjects before and it is something I think is absolutely fascinating as it opens up the possibilities of new life conditions for so many. I think I mentioned we are going to join the Friday seniors bowling as well as the Monday league. So obviously today we are going to do just that. Then we have to go and have our flu shots. Sunday we are going with my young friend from Canadian Diabetes for Dim Sum. I have been looking forward to this for ages. Yesterday, we went to the Fox and the Fiddle for lunch, before bowling and they had pot stickers on the menu - I was tempted, but had their Mediterranean Bruschetta instead. I wasn't overly impressed although Matt had the same and thoroughly enjoyed his. There were a number of complaints about lunch which wasn't really warm enough. I think it may have been our fault for not telling the waitress right off that we were on a schedule. I think they maybe were trying to hurry too much and not warming stuff properly. For their web site click here. They call themselves an English pub so of course they have fish and chips, bangers and mash and shepherd's (which should really be cottage) pie on the menu but they had a great deal of other items yesterday. As some of you may have noticed earlier in the year, asparagus is one of my favourite foods. Looking through my Best Ever Christmas cookbook I found another recipe for the green delicacies. Asparagus with Tangy Herb Sauce Serves 8 6 x 250 g bunches asparagus 1/2 cup chopped chives Tangy Herb Sauce 1 cup watercress leaves, stalks removed 1/2 cup mint leaves 1½ cups mint leaves 1¼ cups sour cream 1 1/3 cups cream 1 Tbs lemon juice Add asparagus to a pan of boiling, salted, water cook over high heat for 4 minutes or until tender but not mushy, drain. Combine watercress and mint leaves in blender or food processor bowl, blend one minute or until finely chopped. Add sour cream, cream and lemon juice, blend 1 minute or until combined. Transfer mixture to medium pan, stir over medium heat for 3 minutes or until hot. Divide asparagus into eight portions and serve each with a spoonful of sauce sprinkled with chives. Sauce can be made a day ahead. Store covered in fridge covered with plastic wrap. Heat just before serving. Not suitable for freezing. Have a great day.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, Joke

Ugh, its cold, miserable and dull outside this morning. Even the snow kind of looks grey. However, to my American friends, Happy Thanksgiving and I hope the weather is better where you are. That's just about what this day calls for, a Thanksgiving dinner to cheer one up. A friend sent in the following joke to my cookery group which I thought I would pass on as it is an oldie but goodie and appropriate for today.

Recently I received a parrot as a gift. The parrot has had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird's mouth is rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. I've tried and tried to change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else I can think of to "clean up" the bird's vocabulary. Finally, fed up, I yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. I shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder. So, in desperation, I threw up my hands, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed.

Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute.

Fearing that I'd hurt the parrot, I quickly opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out into my outstretched arms and said, "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior."

I was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude. As I was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird continued, "May I ask what the turkey did?"

We spent last evening frantically searching for a recipe we used to make several years ago and cannot find anywhere. Usually I somehow remember just where recipes came from and can go straight to the source, but not this one. I have asked a couple of on line sources to see if anyone knows of it. We were going to prepare it for our get together on the 10th, but I guess we are out of luck. It is a recipe for lettuce bundles stuffed with a mixture which includes sardines. They were absolutely delicious. My cookery group periodically have a Dinner Around the World when the group basically cooks the same meal at the same time (allowing for time changes) and then posts pictures of what they cooked. Its fun to know if I am making a chocolate cake, several other people making the same cake and we are all going to serve it for the same meal that night. The next one coming up will be South African in theme, but it won't take place til January - I will post the recipes later. I thought I would post a Portuguese recipe this morning, its one we enjoy. Rojoes Cominho or Braised Pork with Cumin, Coriander and Lemons which comes from my Time Life Cookery of the World. Rojoes Cominho Serves 4 2 lb lean boneless pork, cut into 1 inch cubes 1/2 oz. lard 1/4 pt (UK measure) dry white wine 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic 1 tsp salt Freshly ground black pepper 5 thin lemon slices, qauartered 2 Tbs finely chopped fresh coriander Pat the pork cubes thoroughly dry with kitchen paper. Melt the lard in a large, heavy frying pan over a high heat until it splutters. Add the pork cubes and brown them, turning the cubes freqauently with a wooden spoon and regulating the heat so that they brown quickly and evenly without burning. Stir in 6 tbs. of wine, the cumin, garlic, salt and a liberal grinding of pepper. Bring to the boil, then cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 25 mins until the pork is tender and show no resistance when piereced with the tip of a small, sharp knife. Add the remaining 3 tbs of wine and the lemon slices and cook over a high heat, turning the meat and lemon pieces constantly, until the sauce thickens very slightly. Stir in the coriander and taste for seasoning. Pour the mixture into the centre of a large heated dish and surround it if you like, with Portuguese fried potatoes. Have a great day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Star Wars, Books,

I have been watching some Star Wars movies on TV, I had never seen the prequel ones before, I missed the first one but saw Part II Attack of the Clones and III Revenge of the Sith, over the last couple of nights showing how Annakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. I didn't think the movies were as good as the original Star Wars films which I thoroughly enjoyed but I loved Yoda, we saw a lot more of him than we did in the original movies. I tried a novel the other day which I ended up abandoning. I got about half way, but then just gave it up as a bad job. Its very rare this happens to me. It was called Juggler of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner. Maybe it was me, but I just couldn't get on with it. The story was good, but I found the writing didn't run smoothly. I am now reading Saturn's Children by Charles Stross. It looks like a sex book from the cover, but it isn't. The book is about robots. Man is extinct. The heroine is a robot who was originally designed for man's pleasure. Quite a good story and full of adventure. Some very interesting sci fi theories too. I was looking at my list of books from the library. It is split into two as Matt frequently picks up books for me so then the titles go down on his card. There are quite a lot of them. Have to go shopping today as we are bowling tomorrow. We are lunching in a different place so it will be interesting to see what its like. This is the travel league and we always have lunch before the game. Just looking for a recipe to share and I came across the following beef recipe in my Living Cookbook Files. I have no idea where it came from, but it sounds absolutely delicious if somewhat expensive. I have just discovered there is a restaurant called Cyrano so maybe the recipe came from there. Tenderloin of Beef Cyrano 1 kg of tenderloin. 250 g of " very large " Agen prunes. 3 spoonfuls of oil. 1 small tin of mousse de foie gras. 1.5 glasses of madeira wine. 1 spoon of flour. Salt, pepper, several leaves of watercress. - Slice the prunes lengthwise. - Remove the pit. - Replace the pits with a spoonful of mousse de foie gras. - 40 minutes before serving, heat the oil in a casserole and cook the roast. - Sprinkle with flour, moisten with the madeira wine and a half glass of water. - Add salt and pepper. Cover. - Cook for 20 minutes. - Gently place the stuffed prunes in the sauce around the roast and cook for another 10 minutes. - When ready to serve, slice the roast, place the slices on a warm serving dish, place the prunes around the roast and decorate with the watercress. Servings: 6 Have a great day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Warnings, Emeril, Gifts.

This morning on Good Morning America they mentioned an email which is currently circulating telling you not to buy gift cards from certain stores. Much to my surprise, when I opened up my emails, there it was. Apparently it is partly true - there are some stores which are in financial trouble, but not all the stores which are on the email list are unsound. It is true that Circuit City is already in bankruptcy although they say they are continuing in business. The recommendation was to buy sale products from them but not gift cards which might, or might not, be valid later on. There doesn't seem to be anything about it on the web site right now, but there should be later today or tomorrow. One comment about gift cards, there are something like 8 million cards which never get used every year. To me a gift card suggests you are not putting any thought into what that person would like. I believe a gift should be something you would love to have but would never buy for yourself. Of course as a couple getting older it becomes more difficult because you have probably given all the gifts, which are within your budget, to one another not to mention that one's budget has likely shrunk a little. They have had Emeril Lagasse (a very popular TV cook and restaurant owner) on Good Morning America for several shows giving recipes for must have Thanksgiving Dinner items. You can find his recipes here. Some of them appeal to us, others would be way too sweet for our pallets. It is a fact the Americans do love to eat such things. Today it was a recipe with sweet potatoes and marshmallows. I have eaten a dish like that, it did not appeal to me. I do like sweet food, but for dessert, not as a vegetable dish to go with turkey. That said, I sometimes eat cranberry with my turkey. A tip I read in World Wide Recipes yesterday, if you serve canned cranberry sauce, use a melon baller to make it look pretty in a dish and to disguise the can shape which is not attractive. I never really read this little book, Best Ever Christmas, which was sent to me years ago, and I am finding all kinds of delightful recipes which I think I will try. I love beetroot (known as beets here) and have just come across the following recipe which I shall be trying pretty soon. Beetroot and Ginger Relish Makes about 4 cups 6 medium beetroot (1 kg) 1 cup sugar 2 cups white wine vinegar 1 onion, chopped 1 green capsicum (bell pepper), chopped 2 green apples, peeled, chopped 2 tsp grated fresh ginger 1 tbs dry mustard. Place whole, unpeeled beets in a large pan, cover with water, bring to boil, cover, reduce heat to low, cook 45 minutes or until beetroot is tender, drain. Peel beets and cut into small cubes (1 cm). Combine sugar, vinegar, onion, capsicum, apple, ginger and mustard in large pan, bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until reduced by half. Add beets, cook 10 minutes. Spoon into hot, sterilised jars, seal while hot. Note: store relish in fridge for up to 1 month. Not suitable for freezing. Have a great day.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Saturday Night, Tom Jones

We had a good time on Saturday night eating pigtails and schnitzels. I ate rather too much, but it was good. I didn't have any potatoes but I had sauerkraut and ended up eating 3 pigtails and two schnitzels. I know, greedy. They were good. There were two dishes, one done in honey garlic and the other in barbecue sauce so I had to try both, right? Matt didn't touch the pigtails. One pair of our friends couldn't make it as she was sick, such a pity as we had such a good time. I didn't realise there would be dancing after and Matt actually danced with me a couple of times, getting him up on the dance floor isn't easy these days. I always say he danced his feet off when he was courting me and then he hasn't danced much since!! I haven't danced since I don't know when, so it was fun. We then went back to a friend's house and had another glass of wine and ended up getting home about 1 in the morning. Funny I just went to look for a picture and found a heading for a YouTube section "Where the Hell is Matt". I watched the video, its quite fun, click here to see it. Not that I would call that dancing. Right now, on TV, they have Tom Jones singing. Amazing to me he is still performing, not sure I want to see it mind you. He sports a beard these days. Matt says he is wearing pretty well. He is 68 according to Wikipedia. I wouldn't pay to go see him, but then I wouldn't have gone years ago when he was young either. Recently Elton John came to perform where we live and we wouldn't have wanted to see him and yet people went nuts to attend his concert. I do have one record of his, Candle in the Wind, the version he re-wrote for Princess Dianna. For supper last night we ate plain broiled chicken breasts cooked on the bone and I was thinking about brining. Doesn't seem to be any reason you couldn't brine chicken breasts except ours are in the freezer so I would have to figure out how to do that. I suppose you would have to plan ahead and defrost and brine a day or so in advance. Bearing in mind the improvement to the turkey last month, it might be worth doing. I will have to look into it. Christmas is rearing its head at us; I know lots of people like to do cookie exchanges or just make lots of cookies for their families (biscuits in the UK of course). These cookies are from Best Ever Christmas and might almost tempt me to make them except then they would tempt me to eat them. With all the goodies at Christmas, I do NOT need cookies as well. Chocolate Super Cookies 125 g butter 100 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped 1 cup brown sugar 2 eggs, lightly beaten 1 cup plain flour 1/2 cup cocoa powder 1/2 cup roughly chopped, unsalted, roasted, macadamia nuts 1/3 cup sultanas 100 g white chocolate, roughly chopped 100 g milk chocolate, roughly chopped Preheat oven to moderately hot 210°C. Brush oven trays with melted butter or oil. Melt butter in small pan, add dark chocolate, stir over low heat until melted, transer to a large bowl. Add sugar and eggs, stir until combined. Add sifted flour and cocoa, nuts, sultanas, white and milk chocolate, stir until combined. Drop tablespoons of mixture onto prepared tray, allowing room for spreading. Bake for 10 minutes or until just set. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Note: Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Can be frozen for up to 2 months. Hmmm, on second thoughts, maybe I will make some. Four sources of chocolate!!! Have a great day.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Paleontology and Cyberspace, Christmas

I watched some TV last night. The book I am reading has a good story line but it isn't very slick writing and isn't holding me too well. What I watched was the TV programme The Nature of Things which I have mentioned before. The first segment was about The Lost People of Baja California, Mexico who once were numerous and have disappeared completely. They are doing all kinds of interesting research on their bones and DNA including samples from some people living today. Following the microcondial DNA of various people. (Through the female line). This was part of the Adventurers Series I referred you to recently click here to see more about the Pericû of the Baja Peninsula. The second segment was all about hackers. We all know about hackers, we take our precautions and hope we will be OK. But after watching the programme Web Warriors, who cares about our little systems. It appears that we (as in our countries) are in considerable danger from Russian crime syndicates and now, more and more, from the Chinese military. If you click here you can see what I am talking about. They also talked about a 15 yr old from Montreal who shut down Yahoo and several other major networks and says he (now an adult) could do it again today because no-one has done anything about it, plus the suspicion, not confirmed, that a major blackout which took place in the States a few years ago was caused by a worm, this becomes very worrying technology. The Russian mafia hires hackers so does the Chinese government. There is another worm sitting out there controlling thousands, if not millions of computers, unknown to the owners, which, as yet, no-one knows what else it is meant to do. But the author of this particular worm has so much power at his fingertips that he could do more or less anything in the cyberworld. This programme was followed by the news which talked about the stock markets plunging yet more today and I couldn't help wondering if any of this current disaster could be contributed to by these virii and worms. One thing I was told - if you use a router (which I do) you are less vulnerable to attack. I don't know how true this is. On a lighter note, I think we may go bowling this afternoon. Just for the fun of it. Its a combination of fun, practice and exercise. I can't wait til I get my new bowling balls. I have no idea when that will be of course. I am so glad I don't live in the Buffalo area at the moment. They are expecting loads of snow in the next two days, something in the region of 1 - 2 ft. It will make the owners of ski runs ecstatic, but it won't be much fun for driving. I forgot to mention I bought some President's Choice Mini Mince Fruit Tarts to try. We had a couple each the other night, they are quite small, I quite liked them, Matt wasn't keen, he said there wasn't enough mince. However, if you want mince pies and don't have time to make your own, I think they would be very good. Of course if you don't live in Canada and have access to President's Choice products, I am afraid you are out of luck. Think I'll go have a mince pie. Looking through my Best Ever Christmas book, I found a recipe for a Mushroom and Thyme Pâté which I though sounded good and might be good for our shindig next month too. Mushroom and Thyme Pâté 60 g butter 1 sml onion, chopped 1 garlic clove, crushed 1 Tbs thyme leaves 250 g chicken livers, chopped 2 rashers bacon, chopped 60 g small mushroom caps 1/4 cup port 3/4 cup thickened cream Melt butter in medium pan, add onion, garlic and theyme, stir fry for 2 minutes or until onion is tender. Add livers and bacon, stir-fry for 3 minutes or until browned. Add mushrooms and port, stir fry 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Place mixture into a blender or food processor bowl, add cream, process to a smooth texture. Spoon into a serving dish. Store, covered with plastic wrap, in fridge until needed. Pâté can be made up to 1 week ahead. It is not suitable for freezing. Have a great day.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Snow, Salmon Sausage, Breakfast

Today the world is white although, admittedly, the roads are already back to normal. I understand we are due to get some more snow today, we certainly have been getting a lot of it. I love to see it in the park, but when one goes out and about and sees how dirty it can get alongside the roads, it seems so depressing. By the end of the winter though, we will have large piles of white snow everywhere we turn and that doesn't end up looking yukky until it starts melting. The skies here are loaded with the stuff, I'm not sure what it is about a snow sky but you can always tell snow clouds, they just have a different greyness somehow. I was thinking of the time we once headed for North Carolina for Christmas and Matt planned for us not to cross any mountains until we got to North Carolina believing we would then be clear of any snow, he was wrong. Just as we hit the Carolinas it started snowing as hard as it could, heavy wet stuff too and we ended up getting snowed in and having to put up in a motel, which didn't have any power, for the night. We used the icicles for ice in our drinks. Got the room at a discount though because of the lack of power. Last night for supper, we had salmon sausage. Matt decided to buy some to try. Sorry, I thought it was totally tasteless. Matt didn't dislike it though. It didn't even taste like salmon to me. I wouldn't recommend it, but I guess Matt would. He has my heartfelt permission to finish the other two sausages which are left. I guess I like good old pork sausages. I don't even like beef sausages much. I have mentioned before, I miss Jimmy Dean sausage which we used to get in NC - that was pretty good sausage. Not that its something I ever eat a lot of, calories and all that. Thinking of sausages made me think of a good old fashioned English breakfast - the kind where you had a sideboard full of chafing dishes with hot bacon, sausages, kidneys, mushrooms, eggs, kippers, porridge (oatmeal) and such. You came down to breakfast and helped yourself to things, maybe a nice bowl of porridge with sugar and cream (although my father always put salt on his, not sugar). Then you might eat some kippers and follow it up with a plate of all the other things followed by toast and marmalade once you had finished. People often used to drink ale for breakfast too or small beer. I have never really established what that was. OK so I googled. If you want to know what I read go to Wikipedia. But basically it is a very low alcohol beer. These days very few people eat lamb's kidneys for breakfast (or any other time) and a habit which came from the North of England is to load the plate with Heinz baked beans, horrible. Not something I had ever heard of when I lived in the UK, but it is everywhere today. A good baked bean with a barbecue, OK, but the sweet tomatoey (is there such a word?) stuff on my breakfast plate, no thank you. Of course, that would probably be OK in North America where pancakes with Maple Syrup are eaten with bacon and eggs. The picture shows them on different plates, but I have frequently seen everything on the same plate. Of course, for North America I forgot hash browns too and they eat baked beans as well. I see I wrote a lot about British Breakfasts on February 17 this year. There are many dishes I mentioned there which I haven't covered today. In the current issue of Food and Drink they have a recipe for Lamb and Feta Cigars which we are thinking of making for our dinner party in December. Lamb and Feta Cigars These cigars make for a superb start to the evening as each bite is filled with exotic flavour. They are simple enough to make; roll them ahead of time and fry them, once needed. Call ahead to your butcher and order the ground lamb in advance to ensure it will be available. 2 Tbs olive oil 1 cup white onion, finely chopped 1/4 tsp chili flakes 1/4 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp ground allspice 1 lb ground lamb 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 cup sweet potato, peeled and finely chopped 1 plum tomato, finely chopped 1½ cups chicken stock 1/2 cup sheep's milk feta cheese 2 Tbs fresh mint, finely chopped 1 package phyllo pastry, thawed 1 egg, lightly beaten 4 cups vegetable oil In a large sauté pan heat oil and cook onions until translucent, add chili flakes, cinnamon and allspice and cook for 30 seconds longer. Add lamb and cook over medium high heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Add salt, sweet potato, tomato and chicken stock. Cover and simmer over low heat until sweet potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook until all liquid has evaporated. While still hot mash large pieces of lamb and potatoes with a fork and stir in cheese and mint, refrigerate mixture until chilled. Lay sheet of phyllo on work surface, trim 1 edge from short end of sheet to form a perfect square, about 12 inches on each side. Place the extra strip diagonally across the square. Working with a corner in front of you, place a scarce 1/4 cup of lamb mixture 2 inches from corner of square, form mixture into a 4 inch log. Roll corner of pastry over top and continue to roll tightly halfway up the square. Fold side corners over top of log and continue rolling to form a cigar. With fingertip, seal the corner closed with the beaten egg. (If planning to fry cigars later in the day, place them on a plate, cover with a lightly dampened paper towel and wrap plate well with plastic wrap). In a large pot heat vegetable oil at medium high heat. Check temperature of oil by placing a few breadcrumbs into oil; if they sizzle it is ready. Once the oil is hot fry the cigars in batches until golden. Drain on paper towel and serve warm. Makes 16 cigars. Have a great day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Medical Profession,

We had a lovely afternoon yesterday. Matt went to the dentist who want to extract a tooth but.... he is on Plavix which is a major blood thinner so he needs to get permission to stop taking it for a while. We went to the doctor's office to discover that she is not prepared to take responsibility for it as she did not prescribe it plus he might have a stroke if he did stop (how likely is that for a couple of days?). We then went to the specialist's office who prescribed it originally, but he says Matt is no longer a patient since he stopped seeing him in June and should refer to his family doctor. Back we went to discover that she was now off duty (although I actually spoke to her in the next room) but the receptionist/nurse would talk to her and let us know. I also know her office won't be open again until Friday. What a run around. Matt, meanwhile has a fairly severe toothache. I am not too happy with the medics at the moment. In Canada it is almost impossible to get a doctor anyway, there just aren't enough to go around so you can't just pick and choose. Once you have a doctor, you stick like glue. I suppose that's one good thing about the system in the US, if you are dissatisfied you can say 'nuts to you' and go somewhere else. In fact we did just that, once. I do like my foot nurse though and am off to see her this morning. So not much time. I get an ezine regularly which is aimed at people with diabetes, its called dLife and the latest one had a good recipe for a flourless cake which would also be pretty good for anyone with celiac disease. Flourless Chocolate Cake 1 butter flavored cooking spray 5 egg whites 4 oz Baking Chocolate, bar, bittersweet, chopped 3 Tbs Cocoa Powder, unsweetened 1/2 cup Nuts, walnuts, English, dried, ground (also try almonds or hazelnuts) 1/2 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, granulated 1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream 4 oz liquid egg substitute 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 1 Preheat oven to 350°F. 2 Coat a 9-inch springform pan with butter-flavored cooking spray. 3 In bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites on high until stiff, glossy peaks form. 4 Microwave chocolate in microwave-safe bowl on high for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. 5 Scrape into a mixing bowl. Stir in cocoa, nuts, Splenda, sour cream, egg substitute, and vanilla extract. With a spatula, fold in egg whites. 6 Spoon batter into prepared pan and gently smooth top. Bake for 30 minutes and cool. 7 Loosen edges of pan and remove cake. Cake will deflate. 8 Additional Information 9 Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream, or simply dust with icing sugar. Servings: 8 Have a great day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Yul Brynner, Bowling Successes, Christmas

There hasn't been a lot on TV lately, so last night I watched an old movie which I have on video, one of my favourites, The King and I. I cried a lot. I always loved Yul Brynner; read about him at Wikipedia. Quite a talented man and certainly an attractive man. I loved him in Anastasia too, of which I also have a copy. He died of cancer in his early 60's which is such a shame as that wasn't very old. He won awards for all his stage performances of The King and I as well as for the film version. Monday was bowling day and I was pleased to discover I had won a shot glass for bowling 100 pins above my average. Also, my partner and I won the High Low Doubles with some 660 pins above our combined average (over several weeks) which means we go on to another round although we are not sure where yet. We kind of collect shot glasses. We had one or two so someone decided we collected them and started buying them for us, then I bought one or two when we were travelling, now we have maybe a dozen. We have ordered me some bowling balls too - I bought some for Matt, one year, for a Christmas present, he is returning the favour. Not sure when I will get them though. Talking of Christmas, having got all my Christmas cards ready, I discovered I could order my Christmas stamps on line, so I did that. No delivery charges. When I was down in the lobby of this building, they were decorating trees and hanging things for Christmas decorations. I think its too soon, we will probably be doing it at the beginning of December, but its only the middle of November for goodness sake. Some of the streets are already decorated and a lot of the stores are. Maybe its earlier because they are hoping to attract buyers. They are expecting low sales this year due to the economic crisis. North Americans buy their kids far too many presents anyway, although I think they are doing the same in the UK these days too. I guess next week they will be having the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. Not my favourite parade as it mostly consists of giant balloons which may be impressive if you are there, but not when you see it on TV. However, it spawned one of my favourite old films, in fact there are now two versions of Miracle on 34th Street. I make sure I see one of them every year, wouldn't be Christmas to me without it. A lot of people feel the same about Its a Wonderful Life which doesn't mean a lot to me. Christmas Carol is another one people enjoy at Christmas time. We haven't made a hard and fast decision, but I think we are going to be staying home for Christmas this year. One year we went to Rushes which is a local restaurant. They did a wonderful buffet with a turkey, a ham and a roast of beef being the centrepieces. There was stacks of food from starters to desserts, but, for us, being on our own, it wasn't so much fun. It really needs a party of people. We went to a similar "do" in England a few years ago and it was a lot better. They had a performance, following the meal, by the staff, which was great. They had a Santa giving out little gifts and then they played music for dancing. We had a great time, although still just the two of us. At Rushes its gobble, gobble, gobble and go home. I will probably get another turkey breast and brine it, the same as I did for Thanksgiving (Canadian one). I already have some home made pudding in the freezer so I think I will defrost it and moisten it with rum or brandy for a week or two. I like my pudding with Rum Butter which not many serve any more as it is very rich. One very often finds people serving it with cream. Or just rum flavoured sauce. Maybe I should go mad and make some mince tarts too, just what I need for my diet. I don't make cakes any more as Matt doesn't like them and I don't need them. I have just come across a Lemon Mascarpone Custard to serve with a Christmas Pudding. Something I have never come across before but just might try instead of Rum Butter. It comes from a little book I was sent called Best Christmas Ever. Lemon Mascarpone Custard Serves 6 2 Tbs custard powder 1/3 cup sugar 1/2 cup orange juice 1 cup water 1/3 cup mascarpone 1/3 cup lemon butter (basically unsalted butter, lemon juice and sugar) 2 Tbs cointreau Combine custard powder and sugar in medium pan, add orange juice and water, stir until combined. Stir constantly over medium heat for 3 minutes or until mixture boils and thickens, boil for a further one minute. Add mascarpone, lemon butter and Cointreau, stir until heated through. Unsuitable to freeze. Have a great day.

Monday, November 17, 2008

From Snow to Fire

It's white, it's white, its very, very white. When I got up this morning the roads were white too, however, I am glad to say an hour or so later they are already beginning to clear on their own. I don't mind the snow (we garage our car in our underground parking lot) but I am not keen on driving in the stuff if I don't have to. When we had to go to work and spend an age cleaning off the car before we could drive it used to be a pain, but now we are spoilt and can just get in the car and go. We don't often get cars covered like the picture, although I remember one occasion close to 30 years ago when my car ended up like that because conditions were so bad Matt collected me from work and we left my car in the parking lot there. Even Matt's car, which was our 'main' vehicle and a big 8 cylinder, had trouble travelling the short distance home, it was a bit silly of him to come and get me. At work we were ready to hunker down for the night. The car conked out a few times but luckily re-started. When we got home, we lifted the hood and the engine was packed solid with snow. Incredible that it ran at all. What I don't understand and am sure I have said before, is how people forget every year (some of them may never have known) how to drive in snow. They end up spinning their wheels and getting nowhere instead of letting the engine do the work on its own. One of my pet peeves. We have a TV programme here called Mythbusters where they take a statement that everyone makes and test out whether there is any truth in it. Last night one of the things they tested was whether it was true that cockroaches would survive radiation after atomic blasts. I have certainly heard that they would be the only critters left. I didn't watch the whole thing as I have a strong aversion to cockroaches. They decided to test roaches, fruit flies and flour beetles (unfamiliar with those) the ones that survived the irradiation were the flour beetles - I googled them and they called them grain beetles. Apparently they can infest stored grain. Never heard of them before. Not sure I want to hear of them again. Cockroaches are, to me, the most revolting things. They are supposed to live everywhere but I personally never came across them in England and have never done so in Canada which doesn't mean to say they are not here. However, I came across them in the Mediterranean when my parents took their boat there to live and we certainly came across them in the States. We had to spray for them regularly to keep them out of the house. A friend of mine once ate fried cockroach when he was touring an Asian country, I forget where. I would have starved to death rather than eat one. Just saw a young man on TV who had lost 248 lbs by changing his diet and walking around the office. His company had to buy him two tickets to fly somewhere because he wouldn't fit into one airline seat. Not that I am very surprised about that, some of them are really small seats. Matt has just lost 15 lbs (not sure in what time period) which worried us as he hasn't been trying to lose. Turns out everything OK. I, on the other hand, have been trying to lose and its taken me all year to lose 18 lbs where I have stayed for ages. Men can lose so much more easily than women. Discrimination!!! The wildfires are still raging in California although last night they said the Santa Ana winds, which had been making them so much worse, had died down so there was more hope they could be controlled. I believe the tally was something like 800 homes at last count. A mobile home park was totally wiped out. That could have happened to us so easily when we lived in the States, we were surrounded by trees, lots of which were pine trees which burn so easily. Watched The Godfather on Saturday, hadn't seen it in years. Matt swears he still has the bruises from when we saw it the first time in a movie theatre in England over 30 years ago and I clutched his arm at the horse scene. We then saw a documentary last night about the 10 commandments of the Mafia. Apparently the Mafia today is not the "secret society" it was in the old days, family doesn't mean as much and there is no loyalty to families, now it is all about money and nothing else. I gave you an egg dish from Food and Drink last week, here is another which I think sounds good and will try in the near future. Baked Eggs with Mushroom Sauce I (the author)had this dish in Paris at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, one of the best restaurants in Paris. L'Atelier has since become a mini chain with outposts in London, New York, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Tokyo and soon Tel Aviv. Robuchon served this appetizer in a Martini glass but he cooked it sous vide which is not available to home cooks. We used ramekins. Be sure to measure the size of your ramekins. You will need a 1 cup capacity to hold both the egg and the sauce. Timing is important here. You can make the sauce well ahead and bring back to a boil just before pouring over the hot eggs. This will cook the yolk slightly more. When you eat it, the egg breaks and mixes with the rich sauce. Serve as a luxurious first course. 2 Tbs butter 4 eggs 8 oz sliced mixed mushrooms, including shiitake and oyster 4 packed cups baby spinach 3/4 cup whipping cream salt and freshly ground pepper 4 drops truffle oil or to taste (there are no substitutes and I suspect most of us would have to omit this ingredient) Preheat oven to 300°F. Butter four 1-cup ramekins or glass dishes. Break an egg into each one and top each egg with a tiny knob of butter Place ramekins into a baking dish and fill dish with boiling water halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Place in oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until egg whites are opaque and yolk is just set but still runny. It will continue to cook once the sauce is spooned over it. Remove ramekins from water bath. While the eggs are cooking, heat the remaining butter in a skillet over high heat and add mushrooms. Sauté for 2 minutes or until mushrooms are just cooked. Add spinach and cook 1 minute longer or until spinach wilts. Add cream and bring to boil and boil for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper and add truffle oil. Divide sauce between ramekins and spoon over eggs. Serve at once with some crusty bread to sop up the sauce. Serves 4. My note: Obviously if you have truffle oil (which you make yourself) it is supposed to enrich the sauce, but, Philistine that I am, I personally have never found truffles to do anything much for me. However if you really feel the need for truffle oil, you slice up a dry fresh truffle in olive oil and let it sit for a while to infuse then keep it in the fridge. Have a great day.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fires, Books, Chocolate

I am so glad I don't live in California, they are having really bad problems right now with fires. Yesterday it was raging around Montecito and a lot of multi million dollar homes were destroyed. Oprah Winfrey has a palace home there, but that is no doubt one of several and it wasn't destroyed, but there were others who lost everything as it was their only home. The fires are spreading and people in Santa Barbara are being asked to evacuate. We get fires all over North America, it is in fact a natural thing, but when people build their homes in amongst the trees, these kinds of disasters are bound to happen. I remember many years ago visiting North Carolina, before we lived there, driving along a road with trees alight on both sides of us - the men in the car wanted to stop and take pictures, the women wouldn't let them!! On our return trip we saw someone barbecuing a steak in his yard with burning trees all around him. He didn't need to fire up his barbecue at all he could have walked to the nearest tree. Me, I would have been out of there. They are using fire planes in California, but although I am sure they carry a lot of liquid, it looks such a tiny drop when they release it over the fires. They need rain which, at the moment, we are having quite enough of. It has been dull, wet and miserable for a couple of days or so, enough to depress the happiest of natures. I have just finished reading the ebook of Dragon Champion by E.E. Knight. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a book written from the POV of the dragon and describes his adventures and his feelings. As you know, I love dragons. This is the first in a series (Age of Fire) apparently, so I will look forward to reading more. I picked up three books in the library yesterday as I was running out of reading materials and found a book II that looked good, so ordered book I and will get the second one once I have read it. Matt was watching Everyday Italian with Giada di Laurentis yesterday and I came in the room at the tail end when she was making what looked like a scrumptious dessert (well it was chocolate!). I immediately checked on the internet and got the recipe which I am passing on to you. Chocolate Sformato with Amaretto Whipped Cream 2 cups whole milk, divided 1 cup sugar 1 tsp vanilla 1 packet gelatin 4 eggs, lightly beaten 1 (12-ounce) bag bittersweet chocolate chips 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds 1 cup whipping cream 1 Tbs powdered sugar 1 Tbs almond liqueur (recommended: Amaretto) 1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 2 In a small saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of the milk, the sugar, and vanilla. Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat. Sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining 1/2 cup cold milk and let dissolve for 2 minutes. Combine the cold milk and gelatin with the hot milk and sugar. Stir to dissolve the gelatin, about 5 minutes. (Heat the milk gently if the gelatin is not dissolving easily.) When the gelatin is dissolved add a little of the hot milk to the eggs to temper them then pour the egg mixture back to combine the eggs with the warm milk, whisking constantly to avoid scrambling the eggs. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a large measuring cup or small pitcher. 3 Meanwhile, melt the chocolate over a double boiler. When the chocolate is melted gradually combine the milk and egg mixture with the melted chocolate, stirring between each addition to create a smooth chocolate mixture. 4 Pour the mixture into a buttered 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with the almonds. Place the casserole dish in a larger dish or roasting pan. Add hot water to the outer pan until the water comes halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake until the sides are firm and the center jiggles slightly, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes. 5 Just before serving, whip the cream to soft peaks in a medium bowl using a whisk or electric hand mixer. Add the sugar first and bwhip then add the almond liqueur and whip more to combine. Spoon the sformato into individual serving bowls and dollop the top with the almond liqueur whipped cream. Servings: 4 - 6 My Note: On the TV Giada put all the milk in the pan with the sugar and vanilla extract then sprinkled on the gelatin as it warmed in the pan. Have a great weekend.