Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year

For my Australian friends, it is already New Year's Day, so I wish you all a wonderful New Year with everything you wish for yourselves with health, wealth and prosperity. Of course I wish everyone else the same thing and I promise I won't phone my UK family and friends at 5 a.m. their time. I think its fun, but most of them don't. If anyone phoned me at that time on New Year's Morning, I would just laugh at it. We aren't doing anything special, just having a nice supper treating ourselves to a Chateaubriand, some asparagus and Portabella mushrooms and probably some Borgonzola cheese as a dessert. I might manage a mince pie later in the evening, I will have to see. Around midnight I will drink a glass of champagne (or two) and then I just might eat some black eyed peas. Black-eyed peas you say? That is a tradition I picked up in NC. Early on New Year's day they served black eyed peas cooked up with some onion, peppers and celery. Very tasty actually. During NY Day they eat pigs feet and collards. This is supposed to ensure you a happy New Year. In the UK the old tradition was to eat 12 mince pies between Christmas and New Year. I forgot to buy collards; sorry, pigs feet I only eat when roasted crispy and you don't see them like that here very often. Yes, I could do them myself but I suspect Matt wouldn't eat them. Also at midnight we will watch the crystal ball descend in Times Square, New York City. That has become something of a tradition with us. Although when we first started watching it wasn't a crystal ball. Now it is made of Waterford Crystal and in fact there is a new one this year. If you click here you can see more pictures and read about the changes they have made including the ability to make all kinds of colour patterns. It is also more eco friendly as it has LED lights. The article says it is watched all over the world, but I would have thought a lot of the world would be fast asleep by the time it is dropped. I am not going to post a recipe today, I don't think anyone will be interested in recipes and anyway, will have cooked anything they want to eat today. I haven't yet made my bean dish with the cilantro I promised to write about. Sorry, will probably do so later this week. To every one of my readers, I wish you the very best for 2009 and hope everything will turn out the way you would like and that you will "suffer" good health throughout the year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Shopping and Authors, Herbs

I can't believe it, just gone 9:30 a.m. and we are home having completed our weekly shopping. Couldn't do it on our regular day, Thursday, 'cos its New Year's Eve of course. It was kind of a shopping and a half, same as last week, as it has to last a bit longer than usual. Still have to go back out as we have a prescription to collect and need some champagne (New Year's again). The store was virtually empty which is surprising as Matt had to pop down to that mall yesterday and the place was jam packed around 11 a.m. He did get gas for 63¢ yesterday which was great. So much for the doom and gloomers who said it would never come back down below the dollar again. I don't know how many read the comments on this blog, but I was sorry to hear that Sara Douglass, about whom I wrote yesterday, is seriously ill with ovarian cancer. I wondered why none of the information I was getting was up to date. I just found her "newsletter" of November and read all about it and her Rake Squad read here which is a support group. I wrote and wished her well, maybe some of you would like to do that too. I don't know what it is about Australians, but they seem to produce many Speculative Fiction writers, Sara being one. Glenda Larke and Karen Miller are both Australian in origin and both fantastic writers and every time I read their blogs, I hear of more and more SF writers from Oz. Must be something in the air. Tonight I am going to make the South Western Bean Salad which I posted yesterday. I couldn't get fresh cilantro so I am trying a new thing (to me anyway) a tube of chopped cilantro. It will have the flavour if not the decorative ability of the herb. I just checked their website Gourmet Garden and see they have a lot of different products. I will have to look out for them. I will try the cilantro today and let you know what we think tomorrow. Here is another recipe which uses cilantro and which is also a vegetarian dish for those who like to try different things or for those who like vegetarian foods anyway. I think I got this one from my recipe group, but am not totally sure. Aloo Chole - Potato & Chickpea Curry 250 g (9 oz) whole chick peas 2 Tbs butter ghee (clarified butter) 1 large onion, chopped 4 green chillies 1 dessertspoon tomato purée 1 dessertspoon tomato ketchup 6-8 small potatoes, peeled and boiled 4 firm tomatoes salt to taste 2 Tbs fresh coriander leaves, chopped For the MASALA: My Note: You can also by Masalas pre-made. Lot easier. 1 teaspoon cumin, ground 1 teaspoon chilli powder 1 teaspoon mango powder ½ teaspoon coriander, ground ½ teaspoon turmeric ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ground cloves, ground bay leaves ½ teaspoon pomegranate seeds, ground GARNISH fresh coriander leaves Soak the chick peas overnight to allow them to swell and soften. Drain and rinse well. In a 3.5 litre ( 6 pint) saucepan, boil at least 2 litres (3½ pints water. Add the chick peas and simmer until soft, about 45 minutes. Drain and set aside. Mix the masala ingredients with enough water to make a pourable paste. Heat the ghee in a karahi or wok. Add the masala and stir-fry for about a minute. Add the onion and the chillies, and continue to stir-fry for a further 3-4 minutes. Add the tomato purée and ketchup, the potatoes and tomatoes, and, when well mixed in, add the chick peas. Stir carefully until everything is hot; salt to taste, garnish and serve hot or cold. ** A quicker alternative is to use a can of pre-cooked chick peas. If you are serving the Chole cold, it is not necessary to heat the canned chick peas when adding to the vegetable mixture** Servings: 4 Have a great day.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Weekend Weather and Books I Read

What a weekend, weatherwise, first we had a lot of rain, then thick fog followed by gale force winds. Trees were bending almost double. The winds did a lot of damage throughout Southern Ontario and I think in the Northern States too. A lot of trees down and a lot of people without power. It sounded almost like hurricane force winds. They sure were howling around our building, made me cold just listening to them. The winds found all the tiny cracks in the windows and blew the curtains around. Brrrr. However, today is sunny and there is almost no snow left except where it was piled after being shovelled. The result being we just "hunkered" down and read or watched TV and didn't do much of anything at all. I got through a couple more books, one being The Twisted Citadel by Sara Douglass which I finished last night. I thought it was the final book in the current "set" (Dark Glass Mountain) but it turned out I was wrong. The first was The Serpent Bride which I found fairly hard going, however, this book I raced through and enjoyed much better. It turns out there is at least one more book to be published, some time next year. I shall have to remember to look out for it. The other book I read was Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott, her first novel in the Crossroads Series. Trouble is, it was written in 2006 and there are supposed to be 7 books in the series. At this rate, I may not be around for the remainder. I really prefer to come across a book which is new to me, but where the series is all but completed. This applies to another series, Winds of the Forelands, I am reading, I mentioned the first one a week or two ago which was called Rules of Ascension and now have book two which is Seeds of Betrayal. This is one of the series recently recommended to me by Glenda Larke of Tropic Temper (see link this page). It seems I not only enjoy Glenda's books, but also the books Glenda herself likes to read. No league bowling today although we did think of going along anyway, see how we feel later. At least Friday's league is running. I need to practice as I have a tournament on Sunday morning. No Canadian Diabetes volunteering either, they are closed for a week. Going to be a bit of a boring week especially as we are not doing anything for New Year. I was checking my vegetarian cookbook for something different to serve as a vegetable and came across a recipe which I haven't yet made, but plan to do so as soon as I can buy some bell peppers. In fact the other night I suddenly thought of braised celery which we enjoy, so served that with the remains of our turkey. I did cook the bones up with some veg and made a very good soup into which I added a can of lentils and we had that for supper last night - it was yummy. Meanwhile: South-Western Bean Salad The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook My comment: This recipe calls for dried beans, however, I would certainly use cans of beans rather than mess with soaking beans for hours first. Do use fresh coriander if you can, it tastes so much better. Serves 4-6 1 cup dried black beans 1 cup white cannelini (navy) beans 1 medium red onion 1 medium red (bell, capsicum) pepper 8 2/3 oz canned corn, drained 3 tbs chopped fresh coriander 1 clove garlic crushed 1/2 tsp ground cumin 1/2 tsp French mustard 2 tbs red wine vinegar 1/4 cup olive oil salt and pepper If you are using dried beans: soak in separate bowls in cold water overnight. Drain, place in separate pans, cover with water. Bring both pans to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 mins or until tender. Drain, rinse and allow to cool. Alternatively, use a couple of cans of prepared beans, drained and rinsed. Chop the onion and red pepper. Place in a bowl and add the beans, corn and coriander. Stir until well combined. Combine the garlic, cumin, mustard and vinegar in a small jug: gradually whisk in the oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour over the bean mixture and toss lightly to combine. This salad can be made up to a day in advance and is a great dish to serve at a barbecue or take on a picnic as it carries well. Have a great day.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rain and Fog, Fruit Cake and Turkey Soup

Its like being back in the UK this morning, it rained heavily during the night, the temps are going up and the fog is hanging around so you can't see much at all. There is still some snow on the ground. However, we are expecting 12°C tonight plus continuous rain today. By Monday we will be back to snow. All very strange weather. Rain is not bad, freezing rain is the worst. I don't remember that in the UK, but if you leave your car out all night and you get freezing rain, it is extremely difficult to get rid of plus the roads are like ice rinks. Luckily I, personally, have never experienced it as thick as in the picture. This looks a bit like Niagara does most winters. Thanks to Glenda, (Tropic Temper, link on this page) I now have a new food to try, tempe. If you check out her blog today you will be able to read about it and see pictures. Whether I can get hold of it here, or not, I have no idea. I forgot to tell you about the Christmas Cake I bought, yes bought, Matt does not like Christmas Cake for some reason, I do but really don't need it, both for my hips and my sugar levels. However, I was tempted in the store a few weeks ago by a small can of Scottish cake with single malt whisky. It purports to have been made in the Scottish Highlands from a traditional recipe. It is deliciously moist; my one criticism, too many cherries. But that's not enough to spoil it. I will be buying it again in future years if its still available. I'd buy more now, but it really isn't too good for me. Why is it, I wonder, that so many delicious foods aren't really good for one? I am struggling with my sugar readings a bit right now. Matt did try a small piece of the cake but still doesn't like it. Odd, because he does like my Christmas plum pudding which is also packed with fruit. On TV this morning they were talking about people with the winter blahs, there is an actual name for the syndrome now, Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. They were recommending getting out into the snow and skiing, sledding, snow shoeing, etc. you name it, you do it, dressing warmly and enjoying the weather. I do so agree. When we were younger and fitter, we used to cross country ski and couldn't wait for the next snow fall. Winter activities can be great fun, especially on a really lovely day with the sun sparkling on the pure white snow. These days I guess I am limited to a one horse open sleigh, if I can find one. I believe there are places where you can go for a ride, never come across them. I am debating whether to turn the small turkey carcass I have into some soup. If you have a whole bird, its so easy to make a really delicious soup. I used to put my leftover turkey, remove any meat which is usable for sandwiches or adding back into the soup, stuffing and gravy into a large pan (I have one which will take a 25 lbs carcass even) together with any leftover veg (not potatoes) and maybe a fresh onion. Boil it for an hour or two then strain it, let it chill so you can remove all the fat. Once it is clear you can re-heat it and add lots of fresh vegetables, carrots, onions and celery for a start. Season to your taste and heat long enough to cook the veg. when the vegetables are cooked, add in any turkey meat you have saved. Deeeelicious. I don't put noodles in mine but there is no reason why you shouldn't do so. Have a great weekend.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas, Boxing Day, Food,

We ended up with a white Christmas, but as they are forecasting lots of rain I am not sure how much will remain. It is the first time, in four decades, that the whole of Canada had a white Christmas. I guess they don't get much snow out west in Vancouver, etc. Which means they may not be really prepared for it so could be really cursing it. The brined turkey breast turned out beautifully moist again, I really do like doing that recipe. I also had forgotten to check on packets of bread sauce which I like with turkey, a fairly old fashioned sauce which not too many people seem to eat any more. I honestly don't remember if you can buy it here or whether I imported it from Britain. Anyway, I can't do without my bread sauce, so I grabbed my Mrs. Beeton (circa 1935) checked the recipe, shoved a few whole cloves into an onion and then sweated that onion for several hours in milk. Just before supper I added dried breadcrumbs (didn't have any fresh white) and stirred it til it was thick enough, at which time I added a knob of butter and a dollop of thick cream. It was delicious. Probably better than the packet if not as easy. Traditionally we eat Brussels Sprouts with turkey; a lot of people in Ontario seem to add rutabaga (Swede) as well. However, although we both like it, we don't add it to our Christmas meal. I can't remember if I have commented about rutabaga and/or Swede here, it seems to be a much harder vegetable than the one we had in the UK. As a boy, Matt would buy a Swede on his way to school, get the greengrocer to cut off the top then spoon out the flesh and eat it. You couldn't do that with the ones we get here, you would break the spoon. However, when cooked, they taste the same, so I really don't know what the difference is. According to Wikipedia there isn't any difference, but if you have ever tried to prepare one in this neck of the woods having been used to preparing them in the UK, I assure you the Canadian one is much tougher. I can't handle them, Matt has to do the cutting. I didn't mention, on Chrismas Eve Matt bought me a live lobster as an extra present. For some reason, I turned squeamish and wouldn't cook it, I made him do it. I wasn't squeamish about eating it though, it was delicious. He also bought some Borgonzola cheese which is a Canadian version of Cambazola which is a German combination of French Brie and Italian Gorgonzola. Funnily enough, we neither of us like Cambazola, but we do like Borgonzola click here which is less sharp and more creamy. In fact, I think I might have some for lunch. I mentioned, in my last blog, about daughter #2's chocolate fountain, I asked her if she had used it again, she said she had once, but that you really needed a bunch of people to make proper use of it. I didn't get the impression they would be using it this Christmas. Apart from which, she said they had been given so many chocolates, or chocolate cookies at school, they had had a surfeit of chocolate (is that possible?) Both she and her oldest son are teachers. I figure no-body needs recipes right at the moment, unless its for using up leftovers and my favourite leftover turkey recipe can't be made any more without a lot of work. It included a packet of Bird's Eye white onions in cream sauce which are certainly not available round here and I am not sure if they are still available in the UK. One could always make them from scratch, but that is the kind of thing one should have done before Christmas. I just Googled and they are still available somewhere, but not in Kitchener. So, if you live somewhere where these are available, here is the recipe.
Turkey With Creamed Onions
8 oz pkg Birds Eye Creamed Onions
8 oz Cooked chicken or turkey
1 Tbs medium sherry
1 oz grated cheese (cheddar)
pinch Nutmeg
Prepare onions as directed on packet. Add poultry in slivers, together with the other ingredients. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add chopped parsley and serve on a bed of rice.
Servings: 2
Have a great Boxing day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snow and Water, Christmas and Chocolate

We have lots of snow at the moment but.... they are talking rain today, so do we get a white or a green Christmas? I do hope it doesn't rain too much. Most incredible pictures on TV in the last 24 hours, a burst water main flooding a street. There is a video here which shows some pictures and gives details. I couldn't understand why a water main would flood so badly but apparently the main was 66 inches in circumference and pumping out 150,000 gals a minute, an incredible amount of water. Luckily everyone was rescued. Glenda Larke (Tropic Temper this page) was talking about Christmases past this morning which made me think about my past Christmases which I have also celebrated in different parts of the world. One of my fondest memories was in Malta, funnily enough, where we spent a lot of the holiday playing Twister which was absolutely hilarious. My mother was a big "Christmas" person and used to do everything possible to make Christmas special with lots of little presents under the tree from Santa, the dog and anyone else she could think of. We always started our day with thinly shaved ham and hot Coleman's mustard together with champagne. This was about 11 a.m. Of course presents had all been opened by then. We would then eat our Turkey late in the afternoon and follow it with Christmas pudding and Rum Butter. The pudding was always decorated with a piece of holly and all the lights were turned off and the pudding set alight with burning brandy when it was brought into the dining room. As Glenda mentioned, there always used to be money in the pudding, in England it was silver threepenny bits. Nobody died of any kind of poisoning but nobody does that any more. Admittedly you can't get silver threepenny bits either. Some people put silver charms in their puddings which I guess could be more dangerous if swallowed. I have made puddings for years, but nowadays no coins or charms, plus I keep them in the freezer and as we often don't finish a whole pudding, I save them from year to year. For instance, this year we have a half a pudding for just Matt and I. It has been absorbing extra brandy for the last week or so and should be really good. Last Christmas I wrote how good our son-in-law's pudding was, I still haven't tried his recipe because I have puds already made. One thing I will miss from last year's visit to the UK was daughter #2's chocolate fountain. I remember that with extreme fondness. It was delicious. I wonder and haven't asked, if she has used it since, or plans to this year. Something I can do great damage to, it, of course, returns the compliment. So Merry Christmas to all of you and I hope you have a wonderful day - don't eat too much of all those goodies, save some for the next day. I wish you every joy of the season and a successful and Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


A lot of my e-friends have shut down their blogs for Christmas, they have gone away in some cases. I have no doubt a lot of people won't have much time to read blogs anyway, so I am thinking of taking a break as well. At least it is going to be hit and miss for a day or so. Just in case, I wish you all a very merry Christmas, or if you are celebrating it, a happy Hannukah with many blessings to come for the year 2009. Yesterday, we had our Christmas lunch at the bowling alley - we received a number of small gifts including a mug with all the fixings for hot chocolate from our team captain, really nice of her. A number of draws were held and small prizes given out. We eventually came home laden with goodies, I had to get a shopping bag from the alley to carry everything home with us. We will not be bowling again until January 2 for our Friday league or the following Monday for the other group. We will miss it. In the middle of that, on January 4, I am bowling in a tournament, so wish me luck. We actually went shopping around 4:30 a.m. last night and much to my surprise, the store was not that crowded. We picked up our turkey breast. It turns out to be about 4 lbs. I was offered a breast weighing about 8 lbs but as they wanted $42 we were somewhat horrified and settled for a smaller one. In North Carolina I used to buy them at 7 lbs for about $10. Not sure if I still can, but certainly not that expensive. I will be popping it in brine tomorrow. We have friends coming for dinner tonight so have a bit of preparation to do. It now appears I won't be volunteering this afternoon, so that allows me more time to cook, Matt won't have to do the bulk of it. He has to go have his ears lowered (haircut) this afternoon and to pick up a couple of things we forgot. Silly us. I sometimes think we would forget our heads etc. etc. To complement all the fattening and rich foods a lot of us are going to be eating in the next few days, here is a Citrus Salad from Best Ever Christmas. Citrus Salad 2 large oranges 2 large grapefruit 2 large tangelos 12 radishes, sliced 1 Spanish onion, thinly sliced 1 telegraph (? English, seedless) cucumber, sliced 1/2 cup coriander leaves Dressing 1/2 cup olive oil 1 tbs rice wine vinegar 1 tsp soy sauce 1 tsp sambal oelek Peel rind and pith from oranges, grapefruit and tangelos, cut fruit into 3 mm slices, remove seeds. Combine fruit slices in a large bowl with radish, onion, cucumber and coriander. To make dressing, place oil, vinegar, soy sauce and sambal oelek in a small jar. Shake vigorously for 20 seconds, or until combined. Pour over salad before serving. Have a great day.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Good Deeds, Snow, Boxing Day

Every now and again you hear of someone who does something which restores your faith in human kind. This morning on Good Morning America they had a story about lay offs. One man with a family, including an autistic child who's medication and treatments cost a lot of money, another without such problems. Lay offs occur and the man with the family is laid off. His friend, Ralph, says "pick me instead" and the company did so. What a wonderful thing to do. Hopefully, after the exposure, someone will hire Ralph anyway. We managed to go out to dinner OK on Saturday night, the roads were not too bad so we had a delightful evening with friends. The food was also very good and we both enjoyed ourselves very much. Another friend drove us as there isn't a lot of parking space there so one car was preferable. The side roads are still white and people are slipping and sliding whilst driving on them. SLOW DOWN. Better to get there late than dead. Today we have our Bowling League Christmas Lunch at the alley and then we bowl "fun games" not quite sure what, I expect one game will be bowling bingo which is surprisingly difficult to win. Its fun to play though so I guess winning doesn't matter that much. We then won't be bowling again til next week as our Friday bowling is postponed - Boxing Day. For anyone in the States, that is the day after Christmas which we have as a holiday in both Canada and the UK. There are various explanations for the name, one being that it was originally the day people gave presents. Another that it was the day the 3 Wise Men arrived to give their gifts to baby Jesus. It is also the day when they have sales, sales and more sales. Here's a short recipe from Irish Food: Fast and Modern which I was sent recently. I gather some of my readers found Saturday's recipe too long. Smoked Trout With Butterhead Lettuce salad, Cucumber and Scallions A dish that can be enjoyed morning or night. Ready to go in three minutes. West Cork Smokehouse produce a good smoked trout. Salad dressing 4 Tbs cream 2 Tbs red wine vinegar salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar 1 full head butterhead lettuce (Boston, Bibb) handful of purslane lettuce (optional) 2 shallots, finely sliced 1/4 cucumber, sliced and quartered 4 smoked trout fillets, skinned and flaked Make dressing by beating together the cream and vinegar, seasoning and sugar. Wash and spin the lettuce leaves. Turn the lettuce in dressing and arrange on four plates. Scatter over the shallots and cucumber and top with flaked trout. Have a great day.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Mekong, The Arctic, Snow,

The Mekong has apparently produced 1,000 newly discovered species in the last few years, I receive an e-letter from World Wildlife Fund on a regular basis and this was their headliner yesterday. One of the critters found was a rat which was thought to have gone extinct 11 million years ago. This snake's colour really appealed to me, what a brilliant green. If you would like to read about the discoveries click here to see the WWF article and play a video. Glenda Larke (Tropic Temper) told me first, but if you go to WWF website you will see details of the new rules and changes introduced by George W. Bush - below is a excerpt from the e-letter.
Akutan Island © Kevin Schafer/WWF-Canada
DO YOU KNOW? Last week, the Bush administration announced substantial rule changes that would seriously undermine the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These changes would:
a. expedite oil and gas exploration in the habitat of the polar bear. b. eliminate key environmental review process that ensures federal development projects do not cause additional harm to species that are at risk of extinction. c. weaken ESA protections across the country. d. have a particularly harmful impact in the Alaskan Arctic, which is home to many at-risk species, including the polar bear, as well as the nation's most productive fisheries.
This is his parting shot - and the main reason I personally have always intensely disliked the man because his ecological concerns were apparently non existent. So yesterday it snowed solidly all day and didn't stop til the evening. A lot of people were sent home from work early because it was so bad and there were a lot of accidents. People never learn. If you have to be out, drive carefully. We just never went out. Many flights were cancelled resulting in congestion at the airports. The picture appears to have been taken earlier in the day. We certainly got 15 cm to 20 cm. Needless to say we didn't go bowling, nor did we go to dinner at our friends' home. Hopefully we will be going to dinner at another friends' home tonight with no problem and lets hope the expected snow tomorrow won't affect our bowling Christmas lunch on Monday, nor our dinner guests on Tuesday. Even if you don't live in the snow areas, here is a nice warming recipe for a cold night. Once again from the LCBO's Food and Drink. This was more work typing than it actually would be making although it sounds quite a lot. Rich Beef Pot Pie with a Cheddar Crust Jerusalem artichokes take a little less time to cook than other vegetables so cut them slightly larger. You could also use frozen puff pastry for the pie, but the cheddar crust does add to the taste. Serve with a salad of mixed greens and Belgian endive. 2 tbs olive oil, plus extra if needed 2 lbs stewing beef salt and freshly ground pepper 1 cup chopped onions 1/2 cup shopped arrots 1 tsp chopped garlic 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary 1 cup red wine 1 cups beef stock (homemade is good) otherwise watch the salt 1 cup drained canned tomatoes, chopped 1 bay leaf Root Vegetables 1 cup diced parsnip 1/2 inch dice 1 cup diced rutabaga (swede) 1/2 inch dice 1 cup diced carrots, 1/2 inch dice 1 cup diced Jerusalem artichokes. (My note: this will give a nice earthy flavour to the pie) Sauce 2 Tbs olive oil 1 Tbs flour Cheddar Crust - recipe follows 1 tsp Dijon mustard Egg Wash 1 egg yolk 1 Tbs milk Preheat oven to 325°F. Heat 1 tbs oil in a Dutch oven or skillet over medium-high heat. Pat beef dry using paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add beef to Dutch oven, adding more as needed. Sear beef until browned on each side, about 4 minutes total. Removed to a plate and reserve. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add remaining 1 tbs oil to pan. Add onions and carrots and cook for 2 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook 1 more mintue. Stir in rosemary. Add red wine and bring to boil, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add stock, tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to boil. Return meat to Dutch oven (if you have not been using a Dutch oven, tranfer contents to an ovenproof, heavy baking dish), cover and bake for 1 1/2 hrs. Add root vegetables and bake for 45 minutes longer or until meat is tender and vegetables are cooked. Cool and skim off any fat. Strain cooking liquid into a large measuring cup, (you should have about 2 cups). Reserve meat and vegetables separately. Discard bay leaf. For sauce, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add flour and cook until flour turns a nut brown colour, about 4 to 5 minutes. Slowly add reserved cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until strongly flavoured and thick. Sauce needs to be thick enough to coat the meat. Toss meat and veg. with sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reserve. Preheat oven to 400 °F. Divide Cheddar Crust pastry almost in half (You will need a slightly larger piece for the bottom crust than the top). Roll out the larger piece of pastry to fit a deep 9 inch pie plate. Brush the bootom inside crust with Dijon mustard. Fill with meat and veg mixture. Roll out remaining pastry and centre on top of pie. Use a little cold water to seal top and bottom crust together. Trim and crimp in a decorative fashion. For egg wash, combine egg yolk and milk in a small bowl and brush exposed pastry with the wash. Use a sharp knife to cut a few vents in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Place pie on a baking sheet and bake in the lower third of the oven for 40 minutes or until crust is deeply gold and filling is bubbling. Serve hot. Serves 6. Cheddar Crust Using cheddar cheese and mustard in a crust gives extra flakiness and adds to a slightly tangy taste to the pastry. 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour 1/2 tsp salt 1 cup cold unsalted butter cut into cubes, 1 cup grated cheddar chees 1 tsp dry mustard 1 to 4 tbs cold water Combine flour, salt, butter, cheese and mustard in a food processor to make pastry. Pulse until butter is the size of small peas. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with just enough water to bring pastry together. Knead into a ball, wrap with plastic and chill for 30 minutes. Makes enough pastry for a double crust as above. Have a great weekend.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Nutcracker, Snow, Marley and Me,

Last night I watched a superb production of The Nutcracker ballet by the San Francisco Ballet Company. The setting was based on the 1915 San Francisco World Fair so instead of getting various dances like the Sugar Plum Fairy, all the characters were from different countries, China, Russia, Arabia and so on. I also learned a little history, apparently it was the San Francisco Ballet Company who first brought the ballet from Russia to America in 1944 prior to which time it had never been performed in the States. The Nutcracker/Prince was danced by Davit Karapetyan an Armenian who started his life in sports, transferred to folk dancing and then decided he liked all the leaps the dancers performed so he became a ballet dancer. He was very good. The picture shows one of his leaps which were pretty spectacular. This is an article about him as the Nutcracker and something about his origins. I was particularly fascinated by the snow scene at the end of the first act, the stage was absolutely covered in snow as were the dancers. Must have taken a while to get rid of the stuff before the next act. Not being real snow it stuck to the faces of the dancers who must have found it a nuisance, however, scenically it was absolutely beautiful. I love the ballet and would have enjoyed going to the actual theatre to see this although apparently tickets were $126 a pop. However, live theatre cannot be beaten. I have seen quite a few ballets in London and had the pleasure of seeing Margot Fonteyn dance at Sadlers Wells. She was absolutely wonderful although I suspect, unless you are an aficionado, most people don't remember her today. One of the last ballets I saw on stage was at Kitchener's Centre in the Square (the town where I live). Unfortunately, the acoustics of which they are so proud, ruined the performance as all you could really hear were thumping feet. I am told something has been done about this since, but I am reluctant to go to another ballet to find out. I should learn to keep my mouth shut. I have been rabbiting on about lack of snow and green Christmases and what do we get today, snow, snow and more snow. We are supposed to get something like 15 cm before the day is over which probably means we will not be going bowling this afternoon and maybe not even out to dinner this evening. It is supposed to be quite a storm today with high winds (so far they have not materialised). In Buffalo, NY there are lots of school closings this morning, not sure if that's happening here as Matt wasn't watching a local TV channel. Not only that, there is supposed to be another dollop arriving on Sunday, so I think - unless we suddenly get summer - there will be no doubt about a white Christmas. We have another problem this morning, the lowest string of lights on our tree has decided just to light the red bulbs and nothing else. Weird. Matt is going to "mess" with them in a while to see if there is anything he can do. They look quite pretty but..... There is a new movie, Marley and Me, recently on the circuits and today Good Morning America had one of the Marleys as a guest. They actually used 22 dogs (some of them puppies) to make the movie. A very well trained dog of course, but the TV picture decided to break up so we couldn't see everything that was happening. Actually we had about three pictures happening at once. We are obviously having a bad morning with snow, red lights and lousy TV. Yesterday they interviewed Jennifer Aniston who is in the movie and showed a clip about taking the dog, Marley, to the vet for surgery which the dog obviously didn't want to have and ends up climbing out of the driver's window running his front paws on the road beside the car and his rear end being held by Owen Wilson who is also still trying to drive whilst hanging on to the dog. Pretty funny scene. Here's another recipe from the LCBO's Food and Drink magazine. It looks as though it would be pretty spicy (hot) so tread warily. When I try it I will let you know. The picture shows the tails left on, I personally hate that, but it is entirely up to you. Indian-Spiced Shrimp Spoon over basmati rice or serve with good-quality naan (bread). This fast stir-fry is quicker than takeout. Taste the jalapeño beforehand, as spiciness varies One 340 g package frozen uncooked large shrimp (or fresh of course) 1 tbs vegetable oil 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced 1/2 to 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced 1-inch piece peeled ginger, minced 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 tsp garam masala 1/2 tsp chili powder 1/4 tsp salt 1/2 lemon 1/3 cup chopped coriander. Thaw shrimp and peel. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add onion and stir fry 2 to 3 minutes. Add jalapeño, ginger and garlic and continue to cook until onion is soft, 1 to 2 minutes, adjust heat as necessary. Add shrimp and seasonings and stir-fry until shrimp are pink and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes. If pan starts to look dry, squeeze in a little lemon juice. Stir in coriander and a little more lemon juice if needed. Serves 2 to 3. Have a great day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Myths, Purple Poinsettias, Christmas Pud

On one of my favourite sources, Good Morning America, they reported on the work scientists have been doing to debunk popular myths, one of which is that eating candy, or any kind of sugar, makes children hyperactive. Apparently this isn't true even though parents perceive their children to be more active, it isn't actually so. Another myth is wearing a cover for your head in the cold. I have believed this for years, but apparently you lose no more heat through your head than anywhere else on your body which might be exposed. A third myth is about Poinsettias, they are NOT poisonous although many people persist in believing they are. There are six myths "busted" in this article. I was looking at the picture and I couldn't figure out what the plant was, I then realised it was Poinsettias. I have never seen them in those colours. Not very Christmassy but very unusual. We often see whites, pinks and variations of those colours and this year a kind of rusty red, but never in blues or purples. The roads being clear I went for my blood tests this morning. First of all I overslept, I like to get there before they open at 7, then when I got to the garage the car wouldn't start. It has been doing this to us intermittently despite having had a new starter motor. I was on the point of giving up when it decided to start. I arrived at the clinic to discover, to my amazment, the place was totally empty. Normally it is packed - it was by the time I left. I was very glad though, walked straight in and straight out. We are supposed to get a big storm tomorrow, they have been talking 13-15 cm. of snow and maybe freezing rain along with it. I hope none of it will happen as we are going to dinner at a friend's home tomorrow. Have another dinner to go to on Saturday too. Monday is the bowling league lunch and Tuesday we have friends coming here for dinner. Then of course, its Christmas with lots more things to eat. I figure I will look just like this picture by the end of it. I had some Christmas pudding in the freezer which I have defrosted and am now trying to induce it to absorb some brandy to moisten it up nicely. When it comes down to it, I will probably have eaten too much turkey to want Christmas pudding anyway. It is traditional though and I do enjoy it when I have room. We usually eat ours with rum butter, although I might try the sauce I posted the other day. The Lemon Mascarpone Custard. Although I suspect that will be even more rich. I have ordered another fresh turkey breast like I had at Thanksgiving and will be brining it again as that was so very successful. In fact I will post that recipe again for those of you who didn't see it last time. I actually didn't follow the whole recipe. I just brined my turkey breast and then ended up cooking it in an oven bag which I think is a great way to do large roasts. Best Brined Turkey Breast Source: Betty Crocker You've heard about it, now give it a try. This turkey breast is flavorful, moist and delicious! Makes:8 servings 9 cups hot water 3/4 cup salt 1/2 cup sugar 1 bone-in whole turkey breast (4 to 6 pounds), thawed if frozen 1 onion, cut into eighths 2 fresh rosemary sprigs 4 fresh thyme sprigs 3 dried bay leaves 6 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted 1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth (from 32-oz carton) 1. In 6-quart container or stockpot, mix water, salt and sugar; stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add turkey. Cover; refrigerate at least 12 hours but no longer than 24 hours. 2. Heat oven to 325ºF. Remove turkey from brine, rinse thoroughly under cool running water and pat dry. 3. Place onion on center of rack in large shallow roasting pan; top with rosemary, thyme and bay leaves. Place turkey, skin side up, over onion and herbs. 4. In small bowl, mix butter and wine. Soak 16-inch square of cheesecloth in butter mixture until completely saturated; cover turkey completely with cheesecloth. Roast 1 hour 30 minutes. 5. Remove cheesecloth. Place onion and herbs in pan with drippings if using drippings to make gravy (or discard). Insert meat thermometer horizontally so tip is in thickest part of turkey and does not touch bone. Turn turkey skin side down. Roast 30 to 60 minutes longer or until thermometer reads 170ºF and juice of turkey is clear when center is cut. Have a great day.