Tuesday, March 31, 2009

David's Gourmet Store

I have been meaning to check out David's Gourmet, a store I have seen in passing several times. This last few days two friends have recommended the place to me so finally, on our way back from bowling, we decided to go look. What a super store, this branch is newly opened, it is full of gourmet foods as well as health foods with a fresh meat and fish department too. They are not inexpensive, but what a selection. Having posted a recipe on Saturday (28th) calling for Toulouse sausages, blow me if they weren't selling them. They have a variety of sausages including two British kinds. You can buy sandwiches there to eat in or take out which I am assured are very good. If you would like to see their web page click here. Despite advertising 250 varieties, I don't think their cheese selection is quite as good as Vincenzo's which is another excellent delicatessen store in the area, but in our fairly short visit I think they otherwise have them beat. They sell both lamb and rabbit in the butcher's together with very expensive beef which looks like it would be very good and a lot of organic fresh products. We only went in to look and came out $33 poorer. There is a statue of Michelangelo's David in the store too about the size of the original. We decided to have one of our picnic suppers which is why we ended up buying things. We bought Brie and Sopressata a garlicky Italian salami which we tasted and is delicious. Also some salad which was made with tiny tomatoes and Bocconcini (can't remember the name or the rest of the ingredients, but also delicious) and a loaf of Foccacia. We hummed and hawed about several other dishes for sale, but decided that was enough. We ate this accompanied by a glass or two of red wine. We also bought Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) which are not readily available and some Mediterranean Yoghurt (plain) which I hope will be better than the usual yoghurt one can buy here which is generally way too sweet for me although admittedly if you go to Turkey, they dollop loads of honey into their yoghurt. Also a honey mango for me - one I tried to eat on Sunday was rotten inside. I have discovered a recipe for the salad which, in this case, shows sliced tomatoes, but ours is made with tiny grape tomatoes. Tomato and Bocconcini Salad Source - Kitchen Connoisseur This is a very popular summer salad. It takes only minutes to prepare and requires no cooking. It can be made with either fresh mozzarella or bocconcini cheese, and any variety of fresh tomato. Just make sure that the tomatoes - be they cherry, roman or beefsteak - are vine ripened and full of natural flavour. 3 large Tomatoes- fresh, cut in ½ inch slices 8 oz. Bocconcini- cut in ½ inch slices 12 Basil leaves, fresh - washed and patted dry 1/4 cup Roasted Garlic Olive Oil 1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar (Modena) To taste Sea salt To taste Pepper - black, freshly ground 1. Arrange the tomato and bocconcini on a serving dish. This can be done in individual servings (as shown in our photograph) or on one large serving platter. 2. Drizzle with Roasted Garlic Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar. Garnish with fresh basil and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with fresh bread and wine.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Earth Hour, Ruby Anniversary, A Couple of Rants

Earth Hour was apparently very successful once again. The Phillippines were the best participants apparently and Canada was fifth on the list. I am delighted to hear it although looking out of our windows, there didn't seem to be that many with lights turned out. Maybe we will get them next year. It occurred to me, too late, to run a campaign in our apartment building. Will make a note of that for next year too. Had a delightful afternoon on Sunday, some friends were celebrating their 40th (Ruby) Wedding Anniversary. They had a lot of visitors and everyone seemed to be having fun. Good food, good wine, good folks. Interesting looking at their wedding albums, lovely pictures; how we all change in 40 years! I guess its only 3 1/2 years before Matt and I celebrate our Ruby Wedding Anniversary. Glenda Larke of Tropic Temper (see link this page) was asking about what turns people off about book covers: right now I am thinking what turns me off about books themselves. Basically it is a preponderance of religion or history especially when its invented anyway. The book I am presently reading has a good story if you can find it under all the pseudo religious information and the presence of so many religious leaders all with pseudo titles like biscops and fraters. If I want to read a religious book I will do so, same with a history book. I know some stories need some historical background or their particular religious observances are important to the story, but enough is enough. Endless descriptions of towns which don't exist drive me up the wall too. There again, it can be done properly as part of the story, or it can be very much overdone. I have read lyrical descriptions of towns built by elves which were extremely well done and displayed contrast to human towns, but to go on and on about an area without any real need as far as the story is concerned, is totally unnecessary and can be very boring. Whilst I am complaining, an over abundance of 'foreign language' used to convey the otherness of characters is another thing which irritates me. These things spoil the flow of the story and tend to make one stop reading with a jolt and you then have to get back into the flow. I started by talking about Glenda Larke, her books flow beautifully and having read six of them, I was not brought up with a jerk at any time. I thoroughly enjoyed them all and am looking forward to her next trilogy, currently known as Stormlord Rising. I have another peeve which I was reminded of this morning. Peter, Paul and Mary, the singers, have had to issue a statement that the song Puff the Magic Dragon was about a little boy's (Jackie Paper) transition to adulthood. People have been saying its about drug use - they just have to spoil it don't they? There are a number of things like that, another being the implications read into the relationship of Lewis Carroll with young Alice for whom he wrote the stories Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. Some people have such nasty minds, or they think they are being clever I suppose. Something slightly different today, another recipe picked up from the LCBO's Food and Drink. These would be good nibbles to serve at a party. I have only tried edamame once and didn't know you were not supposed to eat the pods - no wonder I wasn't so keen. However, I have a number of friends in the UK who rave about them, so I will try them again. Sesame Ginger Edamame These hands-on nibbles are zesty, flavourful and healthy too. Edamame are the whole pods of young soybeans and are often found frozen in health food or Asian grocery stores. The trick to eating them is to use your teeth to squeeze the tender beans out of the pods into your mouth while getting all of the sensation of the seasoning from the outer, inedible pod. Be sure to place an empty bowl beside the serving dish or hand out small plates for the empty pods. 1 lb edamame in the pod (fresh or frozen) 1 Tbs canola oil 1 tsp dark sesame oil 1 tsp packed brown sugar 1 tsp grated ginger 1 Tbs sesame seeds Coarse sea salt or kosher salt. Add edamame to a pot of boiling salted water and return to a boil. Boil for 3 to 4 minutes or until pods are easy to split and beans are tender. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Cover with cold water and let stand, refreshing water as necessary, until beans are chilled. Drain well and spread onto a towel-lined baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, for up to 1 day. Heat canola and sesame oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add sugar and ginger and sauté for 30 seconds. Add edamame pods and sesame seeds and sauté for about 5 minutes or until beans are heated through and starting to brown. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot or warm. Serves 6 Have a great day.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour, Mansion for Sale,

I am sorry so few of my readers and friends have signed in to Commit 2 1 which is in support of Earth Hour. If you want to do so you can still sign on at this site to make a commitment to turn off your lights this evening between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The more people who turn off their lights tonight, the more it makes the world consider the plight of the home we all share and what we have been doing to make a mess of it. Please take a minute to do this and remember to take part this evening. Marilyn of French Marilyn's Blog (see link this page) has written now and again about mansions in the south of France which are for sale for stupendous amounts of money. The Americans now have one of their own for sale, the mansion which belonged to the late Aaron Spelling is being sold for $150 million by his wife Candy. Hell, why not, people are losing houses in all directions because of the economic situation!!! There is an article about it here if you would like to read more about it. It has a 'gift wrapping room' - why on earth would you want that? What's wrong with the dining table that most of us make use of for gift wrapping? Apparently the property used to belong to singer Bing Crosby but Spelling demolished Bing's house and built his own French Chateau style. I guess the Spellings would sympathise with the Countess wanting more than $53,000 to live on per week. See yesterday's blog. To me some of this is pretty obscene when you consider all the folk who are out of work and out of their homes at the moment. I know some of these gazillionaires contribute to charity, but then they get whacking great tax cuts on their donations. I don't quibble with people making lots of money, but I think people don't want wealth flashed around under their noses at the moment. As Satima said in the comments section yesterday, the Swedish Countess should try living on the meagre pensions paid to senior citizens and see how she gets on. That is one of the things bugging me at the moment. General Motors has been negotiating with its employees in order to qualify for a hand out from the Government. The latest I heard was the white collar workers have agreed to salary cuts, the pensioners are going to have to pay $15 towards their health benefits, but the workers who are pulling down something like $75 an hour don't have to pay anything, but they will forego increases for the next year or so. How very generous of them. Meanwhile, car sales companies are bending over backwards to dispose of cars with huge discounts and cash back options. There are way more new cars than anyone needs or can afford to buy. The car lots are full. OK, something a bit different today from the light recipes I have been adding. This one is from The Best Three and Four Ingredient Cookbook. Caramelized Onion and Sausage Tarte Tatin Toulouse sausages have a garlicky flavour and meaty texture that is delicious with fried onions. Serve with a green salad of bitter greens. Serves 4 1 lbs Toulouse sausage (I am unfamiliar with this, but any good garlic sausage would do I imagine). 2 large onions sliced 9 oz. ready made puff pastry, thawed if frozen From the store cupboard 3 Tbs sunflower (vegetable) oil salt and ground black pepper Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan with an ovenproof handle and add the sausages. Cook over a gentle heat, turning occasionally for 7-10 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Pour the remaining oil in the frying pan and add the onions. Season with salt and pepper and cook over a gentle heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and tender. Slice each sausage in four or five chunks and stir into the onions. Remove from the heat and set aside. Roll out the puff pastry and cut a circle slightly larger than the frying pan. Lay the pastry over the sausages and onions, tucking the edges in all the way around. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is risen and golden. Turn out onto a board, pastry side down, cut into wedges and serve. My Note: If you don't have a pan with an ovenproof handle, you can wrap the handle in foil to protect it in the oven. Have a great weekend.

Friday, March 27, 2009

How Much a Week? Hematoma, Nessie

There has been a story on the news this week about a Swedish Countess who is divorcing her husband and saying the $43 million agreed to in their prenuptial agreement isn't enough. She says she needs $53,000 per week to live. How disgusting is this? In these times when people are losing their jobs and a lot of households don't get more than $53,000 a year, she is claiming she needs that much a week. Get real. She is also claiming she was forced to sign the prenup. Oh yeah!! There was a nice story on GMA today as a result of the tragic death of Natasha Richardson last week. A little girl banged her head and had quite a lump, her parents iced it and she was fine for two days. She then started getting headaches. The upshot being she ended up having surgery for the hematoma in her brain cavity and she is now fine. The parents ended up reacting quickly because of the story about Natasha. As the surgeon said, anything which raises awareness is a good thing. In fact there is a lot on their web page this morning about brain injury. Another segment today was about the Loch Ness Monster. Since Nessie was first reported 1,500 years ago, no-one has ever definitively decided if she is there. At the end of this morning's report, they said there have been no sightings for a while and the theory now is that she could be dead; so they want to search the bottom of the loch to see if they can find her skeleton. Jacques Cousteau searched Loch Ness some years ago and came to the definite conclusion there was no such thing as a monster in the lake. No-one believed him. Bowling went fairly well yesterday. Before that we had lunch in The Old Country Restaurant. Not a bad spot to eat, this is about the 3rd or 4th time we have been there. Their food is good, their service is very good they seem to be busy every time we go. Yesterday I had a Monte Cristo sandwich. I had one last month for the first time, previously I had never heard of a Monte Cristo. Basically its French toast (eggy bread) surrounding ham and Swiss cheese. Not bad at all. Although I doubt I would ever make them, I like the originals too much and shouldn't really eat those either, I just have to share with you the recipe from Food and Drink for Chocolate Cranberry Hot Cross Buns. I must say I think they look pretty good and having typed the recipe, I think they sound good too. Maybe......! Chocolate Cranberry Hot Cross Buns Chocolate cake meets bread and you can eat it for breakfast. These hot cross buns, decadent and rich, are inspired by my family recipe for Easter paska which combines a yeast starter with what is essentially a cake batter Starter 3/4 cup 2% milk, room temperature 2 Tbs sugar 1 Tbs dry instant yeast 1/4 cup regular cocoa powder (not Dutch processed) 1/4 cup all purpose flour. Base 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 1/2 cup sugar 3 large eggs, room temperature 2 tsp pure vanilla extract 4 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup regular cocoa powder (not Dutch processed) 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp salt 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temp. 1 cup dried cranberries 1 cup dark chocolate chips 1 egg whisked with 2 tbs water for brushing. Icing 10 Tbs icing sugar, sifted 2 Tbs cocoa powser, sifted 1 Tbs water For starter, stir all ingredients together and set aside while preparing base. For base, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture alternatively with buttermilk, blending well and scraping the bowl after each addition. Stir in started and add dried cranberries and chocolate chips (dough will be wet and sticky). Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise, refrigerated, over night. On a lightly floured surface, turn out dough and divide into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round and place 4 into each of 2 greased 8 inch cake pans. Cover lightly and let rise 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350°F Brush buns with egg mixture and bake for 50 minutes (as the buns bake they will create a cross shape as they rise and press against each other). Let buns cool completely in the pan. For icing, beat icing sugar, cocoa powder and water until thick. Pipe a cross over each bun (or over the cross seam that has been created) and store buns in the pan. Makes 8 large buns. MY NOTE: I am not sure I would use the cranberries but that is my personal taste. They do sound good though. Have a great day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Hamburg, Bowling

Today is another of our Travel League Bowling days and we will be in New Hamburg for lunch and then the game. New Hamburg is the proud possessor of a well known restaurant, The Waterlot. We had thought of booking a room there tomorrow night and then having dinner. However, it does add up to a lot of shekels for just one night. To just stay in town for dinner would mean hanging around town for a few hours which wouldn't be a lot of fun, especially at this time of the year when it isn't very warm yet. Matt tells me they are talking of snow again next week. Round here we have got rid of all of it except a few patches where it was piled up after snow clearing. I really don't want to see any more. There are problems with ice jams on the Red River north of Winnipeg, plus other areas such as in North Dakota where they have been trying to break up the ice. The trouble is these jams cause flooding and once they melt the flooding can get worse. Lots of people have been evacuated and lots more are on stand by. I am not sure whether in fact that will affect the river in New Hamburg - they had bad flooding from that a few months back. Right now, there is a pretty thick fog everywhere which we are hoping will dissipate before we leave. Here is another lightened recipe from Food and Drink which is recommended for Easter. If I cook a special meal for Easter I tend to cook a leg of lamb which to us is typical Easter fare. I have mentioned before the street barbecues you see in Greece where people are cooking whole Pascal lambs all together. When grocery shopping yesterday I forgot to get yeast which I will need if I am going to make Hot Cross Buns, traditional English ones that is. Stilton Scalloped Potatoes Scalloped potatoes are the standard accompaniment at the table with the Easter ham. This side can be rich and decadent especially when made with lots of cheese flavour. So this recipe has reduced fat and includes more nutrition vitamins with sweet potatoes added to the mix. 2 Tbs vegetable oil 1/4 cup all purpose flour 3 cups skim milk, warmed 1/2 cup crumbled Stilton cheese 1 tsp Dijon mustard 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced 1 small onion, thinly sliced Heat oil over medium-high heat in saucepan, add flour and cook, stirring for one minute. Whisk in milk slowly and continue whisking gently for about five minutes or until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and add Stilton cheese, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk until smooth, set aside. Preheat oven to 375°F. Alternately layer Yukon Gold potatoes and sweet potatoes with onion in lightly greased or sprayed 13 x 9 inch casserole dish. Pour milk mixture evenly over potatoes. Bake in oven, uncovered for about 1 hour or until potatoes are golden brown and tender when pierced with a knice. Serves 6 to 8. Have a great day.

No Worries, Asparagus, Sugar Shack

Well, after all the fuss and fear, I got my injection yesterday and hardly felt a thing. OK, I'm a big baby, but I have remembered the pain of the one I had in my knuckle for 40 years or so, so you realise it must have been bad. Now all I have to worry about is whether it will work. As I have to call the surgeon in 3 weeks, I assume it will take a week or so to find out. One thing I am teed about, I forgot to ask him about using adhesives instead of staples for his incisions. Oh well. As it appears I won't be having an op just yet, I guess I don't need to worry. I have just 'lifted' a picture from the blog Canada's 1st Solar Farm which is written by Tim Barrie who runs the asparagus farm where I spend a lot of time in May/June/July. Right now I am counting the days until the asparagus is ready. Usually around Mother's Day which is on May 10 this year, often there is some available before that date. So I am collecting recipes for the delicious green spears. I could just dive into that picture and eat my way through it. Matt enjoys asparagus but he isn't the freak about it that I am. What a pity asparagus and chocolate don't go together - or maybe they do - perhapswith a Mole sauce from Mexico, I must investigate. I have been eating asparagus now and again through the rest of the year, but I promise you, it isn't the same vegetable as that picked fresh from the farm. For those of you who are local and have never been there, the farm is on the outskirts of Cambridge, Ontario - you can check his blog with the link from this page. As you will see, reading his blog, he is very much into solar farms at the moment. A great energy saving project. Later yesterday morning we went to Costco which is a wholesaling business where we like to buy meat in particular. We bought quite a lot to stock up our freezer including chicken and sirloin roasts plus some fish and especially some lamb chops. We had some of them for supper tonight. They have excellent lamb chops there, roasts too - apologies to some of my readers who don't like the stuff. Having broken the bank, we came home and packed it all away. We also bought a big box of Ferrero Rocher which some of you may remember is one of my favourite chocolates. I in fact discovered, the box we bought in Costco held over over 1 1/2 times as many chocolates as the ones we get at our local store for about the same price. We maybe saved a couple of dollars, but its all savings nevertheless. Unfortunately some of the things they sell are in such large quantities that we would never use them up. Great blocks of cheese for instance. Everything is in bulk. I'm not sure if I mentioned that we booked the cottage in North Carolina after all, it turns out that the insurance offered with the booking will cover us for pre-existing conditions so long as they are more than 60 days old, they will also cover us for our trip to and from the cottage. This is marvellous so we are thrilled to bits about it. There are some slides of the cottage at this site if you are interested. You can actually see the ocean from the upper deck, but it is a short walk across the road and then over the dunes onto the beach. Most, if not all, the properties actually right by the beach are either too large or too expensive for us. OK if you have a bunch of people travelling with you. In the LCBO's Food and Drink magazine, they have a section on lightening up food. Usually their recipes are pretty rich and decadent. The pork chop recipe I posted on Monday was one of them. I thought I should follow that up with a recipe for lighter Brownies. The first time I ever ate a brownie was in Canterbury, Kent at a restaurant owned by a young American who had been at University there. Don't know if the restaurant is still there, the food was excellent. Fudgey Brownies Pick up a jar of baby food for this recipe next time you are at the grocery store. Yes, baby food! Prune that is. It adds a rich texture to the brownies without the fat. And a little extra fibre, too. These special brownies have an intense chocolate flavour. 3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped 1 Tbs butter 3/4 cup granulated sugar 1 egg 1 egg white 1 jar strained prunes (see Tip) 1 Tbs vanilla 1/2 cup each all-purpose flour and unsweetened cocoa powder 1/2 tsp baking powder Place chocolate and butter in heatproof bowl set over hot (not boiling) water and stir occasionally until melted. Remove bowl from heat. Stir in sugar, egg, egg white, prunes and vanilla until smooth. Place flour, cocoa powder and baking pwder into a fine mesh sieve and sift into chocolate mixture. Stir until combined well. Heat oven to 350°F. Scrape into parchment or foil-lined baking pan and bake in oven for about 20 minutes or until tester inserted in centre comes out with moist crumbs. Yield 16 pieces Tip: Substitute bean or date purée for the baby food if desired. You will need 1/2 cup. To make bean purée, drain and rinse 1 cup of canned kidney, pinto or black beans. Purée in the processor until smooth, adding water or fruit juice to thin out slightly if needed. My Comment: Food and Drink recommend a good port with this dessert or a nice cognac. Works for me. Have a great day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


No post this morning, I am being jabbed with a needle and cannot think of anything to write.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Latest Books, Saturday's Dinner

On Friday I finished my Peter F. Hamilton Book, The Dreaming Void and was disappointed to discover the next book is not yet available at my library. They are 'big' books and take a lot of reading. Quite a bit of science in them too which I don't understand very well I'm afraid, concepts but not principles. My next venture was two Catherine Asaro books about the Skolian Empire. I am very fond of her books and have been devouring these two. The Schism and The Last Key. I have read one and am over half way into the second. I think I have read all the Skolia books and have enjoyed every one of them. Again, there is a lot of science in the stories; Catherine Asaro is a scientist after all, so its not surprising. If you have never read either of these two authors and you like science fiction, I highly recommend them. I first came across Peter Hamilton in his Reality Dysfunction series which had a fascinating concept - due to an accident in space, the souls of the departed were able to come back and take over the bodies of living people. Al Capone returned, so did Fletcher Christian and many others of course. Bowling again today of course and this week is also our Travel League when we go to New Hamburg to bowl, I hope I can. Tomorrow I go for my injection at the crack of dawn *g* and I am NOT looking forward to it. Matt is laughing at me, he has no sympathy. He doesn't even remember when he had a similar injection a few years ago, but then he swore having staples removed after a hip replacement didn't hurt, I was in agony and my friend (same day same place) was in tears. They still don't seem to have caught on to the concept of glueing instead of stapling a wound. They do that in the UK and apparently you can shower straight away, you don't have to wait for days doing a PTA bath. No, if you don't know what that means, I am not going to translate. Saturday afternoon, Matt suddenly left the apartment mumbling about Cremini mushrooms. The upshot of this was a delicious dinner, the recipe for which he had found in Food and Drink. As he served two recipes together from the same source, you are benefiting by getting both of them at once. We drank a bottle of Dancing Bull Zinfandel with this meal. Pork Chops in Exotic Mushroom Sauce Serves 4 This classic is usually made with a cream sauce or cream soup base. By using a variety of mushrooms and sodium reduced chicken stock, the flavour remains high but the sodium and fat are reduced. A winning main course served with tender crisp green beans or snap peas. 1 tsp dried thyme 1/4 tsp pepper 4 lean boneless pork chops 2 tsp canola oil 1 lb exotic mushrooms, (a variety such as shiitake, oyster and cremini) 1 small red pepper, chopped 2 Tbs dry sherry 1 Tbs all purpose flour 1 1/2 cups sodium reduced chicken stock 2 Tbs fresh Italian parsley Sprinkle thyme and pepper over pork chops. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Brown pork chops on both sides and remove to plate. Return skilled to medium high heat and cook mushrooms and red pepper, stirring for about 8 minutes or until no liquid remains. Add sherry and cook, stirring for 1 minute until evaporated. Sprinkle with flour and stir until combined. Pour in stock and bring to boil. Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes or until beginning to thicken. Add browned pork chops and cook, turning once, for about 8 minutes or until slight hint of pink remains in pork. Sprinkle with parsley before serving. With it Matt served the following Green Beans with Browned Butter and Pine Nuts Serves 6 to 8 Plump and brightly coloured green beans only need a trim at the stem end. 1 to 1 1/2 lbs green beans 2 Tbs butter 1 clove garlic 1/4 cup pine nuts 1/4 cup water 1/4 tsp salt several grindings of black pepper 1 small lemon Cut off stem end of bean leaving thin point intact. Diagonally slice into pieces about an inch long. Heat butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until hot. Meanwhile crush garlic clove with the side of a chef's knife; do not mince. Add to butter. Cook until garlic is browned and butter is bubbly and browning. Add pine nuts; stir frequently for 30 seconds. Add water and beans. Cover and stir occasionally for 5 to 7 minutes or until hot, tender and most of thew water is evaporated. Toss with salt and pepper. Remove and discard the garlic clove. Turn into a warmed serving dish. Using a zesting tool or rasp, scatter lemon zest over top of beans. Serve right away. Have a great day.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Song, Mediterranean Travels

For many years I identified with this song, not all the words, but because the one verse says:

Oh I've been to Nice And the Isles of Greece While I sipped champagne on a yacht I moved liked Harlow in Monte Carlo And showed 'em what I've got

I heard this on the radio yesterday morning and it made me think of the times I did spend in the Mediterranean on my parent's yacht. I used to spend my vacations with them - they were based in Malta and I would join them either there or wherever else they happened to be. Well here's a not very clear photo of me sipping champagne on a yacht with one of the Greek Islands in the background. I'm afraid I don't remember which one. The reason we were drinking bubbly was either my mother's birthday, August, or mine in September.

Here's a clearer one, ready to go ashore for dinner - looking at the surrounding photos, I think this must have been in Corfu. One year we sailed from Athens through the Gulf of Corinth and out the other side as it were. Visiting all kinds of towns and villages on the way, not the least of which was Delphi, one of the homes of the gods. The next photo is definitely in Corfu as I recognise the bay where Pamara (our yacht) is moored. For those of you who haven't been reading this blog for very long, my parents lived on a boat from shortly after World War II and when he retired, my father sailed to Malta to live. I spent my teen years living on a boat and being dragged all over the place in all kinds of weather. Originally my mother and I spent most of our trips lying on our bunks feeling sorry for ourselves. Eventually we got more used to it - on a five hour trip I used to tell myself 'its not worth getting sick'. However, I loved it when we arrived wherever it was, be it France, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway and later various ports of call in the Mediterranean. Like I said, I have been to Nice and the Isles of Greece. When I think now of those leisurely days in the Mediterranean sun, I am wallowing in nostalgia. We picked up a current copy of Food and Drink from the liquor store this week and with it came a little pamphlet about beef. I thought this ground beef recipe would appeal.

Asian Beef Bites with Speedy Slaw Source Canadian Beef

Kids love ground beef, especially when served as these brochette-style Beef Bites with plum sauce for dipping and some crunchy slaw on the side. Or if you'd rather, serve as burgers with slaw as a topper. Make the slaw first to allow time for flavours to blend.

1 lb Extra Lean ground beef sirloin 1/4 cup wheat germ 2 green onions, thinly sliced 2 Tbs soy sauce 1 Tbs finely grated gingerroot 1 egg lightly beaten 1/4 tsp pepper Speedy slaw (recipe follows)

Lightly combine beef, wheat germ, onions, soy sauce, gingerroot, egg and pepper. Gently for into about 30 1 inch meatballs.

Bake on lightly oiled foil-lined baking tray in 400°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until internal temp is 160°F.

Thread 3 or 4 meatballs on each skewer and serve with speedy slaw. Makes about 7 servings.

Speedy Slaw

Whisk together 1/4 cup each rice vinegar and granulated sugar, 2 Tbs vegetable oil, 1-1/2 tsp Dijon mustard and 1 tsp sesame oil. Toss with half a bag coleslaw salad mix, 1 green onion and 1/2 cup each snow peas (halved lengththwise), canned, sliced water chestnuts (drained and halved) and roasted shelled peanuts (optional). Can be made up to a day in advance. Makes about 4 cups.

By the way, that damned song is stuck in my head now. Grrrrrr.

Have a great day.

Hip, Natasha Richardson, Fruit and Food

After my bone scan a couple of weeks ago, I spoke to the surgeon yesterday and he told me that there didn't seem to be much wrong looking at the new pictures either. He now thinks its probably bursitis and wants me to have an injection (cortisone I assume) next Wednesday - not something I am looking forward to as I had a similar injection in my hand once, many years ago and it was excessively painful and I do mean EXCESSIVELY. Just to add insult to injury I have to be at the hospital at 8 a.m. and as it is a good 3/4 of an hour away, that means I will be up before the crack of dawn. Sigh. What a tragedy - the death of Natasha Richardson. On the news report last night they explained that a doctor might have been able to recognise the symptoms right away. Apparently she laughed off her fall at the beginning and only later complained of a headache. One thing that puzzles me, the accident took place in Québec, I am not sure why she was flown to an American hospital. There was quite a segment about wearing protective helmets, in particular they talked to skate boarders who do the most dangerous things without wearing them. Heads are so fragile. Even if an accident doesn't kill you, you can have severe mental illnesses caused by trauma to the head. Today we were tossing up about going to bowl or not because the bowling alley is likely to be very crowded with people on holiday this week, particularly kids, who tend to be somewhat noisy and inconsiderate. I think we have decided to go. Monday was better as we bowled in the morning for the same reasons. This may surprise you, but I have discovered mangoes. It is not a fruit I was familiar with in the UK although my father used to talk about eating them when he was in, what was then, Rhodesia and I have been eating Mango Chutney for years. However, recently a friend, who had received fruit baskets, had more fruit than they could manage and kindly shared some with us, including a mango. I have seen mangoes in the stores but was never sure what to do with them. Some seemed to be green skinned with a touch of blush and others were orange. This was an orange one, so I decided to give it a go. I peeled it and ate it, I wasn't sure about peeling but after much Googling, I discover the skin can be an irritant and should NOT be eaten. Bliss, nectar, you name it, what a delicious fruit. I am now crazy about mangoes and bought some more when shopping this week. I just came across a video how to cut a mango on YouTube. I also discovered that, like peaches, there are cling free and clingstone varieties. However, I am still not sure about the green fruit. In the grocery store, they have Dragon Fruit or Pitaya which is another exotic I am interested to try. I hear they are somewhat similar to pears to taste. There was a very interesting programme on TV in The Doc Zone last night about food and marketing in grocery stores. I learned a lot I didn't know. It was partly a dissertation on how people (North Americans anyway) had progressed from meat and potatoes to more exotic food. Dragon Fruit was mentioned incidentally. One thing I didn't know, companies pay grocery stores for shelf space and the amount is a closely guarded secret. I had never heard that before. I knew the profit margin on groceries was very small, around 2%, which I was told many years ago, it makes you wonder why they bother. Of course it is a trade that never runs out of customers, people always have to buy food. Apparently it is an extremely competitive trade. There was a fascinating section on our local food company Loblaws (owners of many well known grocery chains) and how they devise new foods to be sold under their own label. Another section showed the awarding of Michelin stars to a Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong. There was a lot about chefs and their training in various ways and it mentioned a lot of TV stars such as Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and others. There is supposed to be another episode, I shall be sure to watch. Grilled Shrimp and Mango Salad By Diana Rattray, About.com Serve this grilled shrimp salad on a bed of mixed greens. Ingredients: * 2 large firm mangoes, peeled & shredded * 3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions * 1/3 cup lime juice * 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or use soy sauce if necessary * 1 teaspoon sugar * 1 small clove garlic, minced * 1 small hot chile, such as serrano, seeded, minced * 1 pound shrimp, (25 to 30 per pound) * 2 cups greens * lime slices, for garnish Preparation: Combine green onions, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and chile in a bowl. Mix in shredded mango. Chill while preparing shrimp. Shell and devein shrimp and rinse well; divide into 4 portions. Thread 1 portion onto a slender metal skewer. Run a second skewer through shrimp 1/2 to 1 inch from the first skewer, to keep them flat. Repeat with remaining shrimp. Grill shrimp on a medium hot grill, covered, for about 3 minutes on each side, or until opaque but still a bit moist in the center of thickest parts. Place greens on a platter; mound mango mixture onto the greens using a slotted spoon. Place shrimp over the mango salad and garnish with lime slices, if desired. Serves 4. Have a great day.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Earth Hour, On Being Green

I have already mentioned the fast approaching Earth Hour which is on March 28, 2009 from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm. I have also joined a web site called Commit21 and started my own group. If I can persuade you to commit to my page I will feel I have achieved something. Just go to this link and sign up under my commitment. Then be sure to turn off your power on the 28th. Its only for one hour. Reader's Digest this month is a very 'green' issue and full of stories of people making a difference. Not particularly special people, but just everyday people like you and me. In fact they have a number of tips on green activities which you can check out and maybe adopt. There is one story in the magazine of a young woman in Romania who having seen images of a devastating flood which deforested part of her country, started collecting waste paper from big companies, selling it to recyclers and buying saplings with the proceeds. The first year she planted 1,120 saplings with the help of volunteers last year she ended up with 4,000 saplings. She calls it The Paper Tree project. Here is a very similar recipe to yesterday's, basically a version of eggs and mushrooms with a nod to Eggs Florentine. We just came across it in the current issue of Reader's Digest and liked the sound of it. There is another egg recipe which I will save for Asparagus season.
Poached Eggs in Portobello Mushroom Caps.
4 large portobello mushrooms about 4 in. across, cleaned
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 300g pkg frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup grated cheddar or Swiss cheese
4 eggs
1 Tbs white vinegar
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper.
For mushrooms, carefully remove stems so as not to break the caps. Chop stems and reserve. With a small spoon, gently clean out and discard the gills from the mushroom caps. Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thyme and salt. Brush over both sides of the mushroom caps and arrange rounded side up on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 10 minutes, until cooked through.
Meanwhile for filling, heat remaining olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and onions and cook 5 minutes, or until tender but not brown. Add chopped mushroom stalks and cook until liquid evaporates and pan is dry. Add spinach, salt and dill.
Turn mushrooms cup side up ad fill with the spinach mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 5 minutes.
Bring a skillet of water to a boil. Add vinegar. Crack in eggs. Poach gently 3 to 4 minutes until whites are set and yolks are a little runny. Remove eggs from water to a plate lined with paper towels or a tea towel. Trim away excess whites. Place eggs on mushrooms. Dust with pepper.
Makes 4 servings. Have a great (green) day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Monster, Deepak Chopra, Technology and Space

I see Fritzl, the Austrian ogre, pleaded guilty yesterday. What a terrible man. I saw pictures on TV of him on vacation, lying on a beach being massaged with suntan oil while all the time his daughter was imprisoned in the basement. Trouble is, whatever sentence he is given, will not help his badly abused family one bit. If only it were possible to make the perpetrators suffer what their victims went through. Also on the TV, everywhere he went he was hiding behind a folder. How stupid, we have all seen his photo. This morning GMA had Deepak Chopra on the 'hot seat' giving advice about coping with the recession. He advocated being happy and then said other things would follow but, as Matt said, if you have no job, no money and are about to lose your house, it is very difficult to be happy. I generally enjoy listening to Deepak Chopra and find a lot of wisdom in what he says. These days it is the main theme of Good Morning America - coping with the recession or loss of jobs. I cannot believe the women who are telling GMA that they have lost respect for their husbands because said husbands have lost their jobs. How about love and honour which is part of the wedding vows. How about all the support for your husband - Chopra said your husband is not his job he is himself. If you lose respect for your husband and don't support him at such a time, there is a word for you which I can't write here. A propos, RIM which makes the Blackberry are still hiring. I sometimes wish I was still in the job market, I would so love to work for one of the technology companies it is right up my street. That reminds me, saw a report on the news about the dangers of space junk. There is a lot of it up there and they have to keep an eye on its travels to ensure it doesn't damage the space lab. It seems to me someone is going to have to figure out a way of either destroying the stuff in space or retrieving it and bringing it back to earth. Matt's solution is to stop going into space!!! No interest in the future, my old man. Space holds no allure for him whatsoever. Now me, if I got a chance, I would be up in space like a shot. The endless possibilities of space exploration are absolutely fascinating and I envy those who will partake in this great adventure. My current read is The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton, I struggle a bit with some of the science, but his imagination is fascinating. I've read a lot of his books and thoroughly enjoy them. This particular trilogy is set in the same world as Judas Unchained and Pandora's Star, but 1,500 years later in the area of 3,500 or so. He has an interesting concept of what life will be like although, of course, humans haven't changed one bit. I was up good and early this morning to have my quarterly bloodwork done. I was at the clinic at 6:45 and there were still four people in front of me. One woman really shook me, she was dressed as if she was going to a party. I personally just throw my clothes on, nip down there, and then come back for breakfast and my shower. Even if this woman was going to work, she looked a tad over dressed. This is what we had for supper last night. Nothing Irish for us either. Baked Eggs with Mushrooms Source Mushrooms Canada No need to boil, poach or scramble just bake eggs in the oven on a tasty mushroom sauté. If you don’t have ramekins try using gratin dishes, oven –proof soup, dessert or cereal dishes, coffee mugs or custard cups. Ingredients 1 tbsp vegetable oil 8 oz fresh sliced fresh Mushrooms 1 tbsp minced fresh parsley (optional) 1/4 tsp Each salt and pepper 1/2 tsp dried thyme, tarragon or basil (optional) 4 large eggs 1/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese Method Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 ºF (180ºC). In a medium skillet heat oil over medium – high heat, sauté mushrooms 5-7 minutes or until lightly browned and moisture is released. Add red pepper, parsley, salt, pepper and herb if using; sauté 1 minute. Spoon evenly into 4 lightly greased (6 oz/ 90 mL) ramekins. Crack one egg into each ramekin and sprinkle cheese evenly on top. Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes (baked eggs are done when whites are set and puffy but yolks are just starting to set). Serve with toast to dip in the soft yolk. Makes 4 servings Tip: If using wide gratin dishes in place of ramekins make a well in the middle of the mushrooms and crack eggs into the well; increase cheese to ½ cup (125 mL). For brunch bake herbed tomato halves in the oven with the eggs. Variations: 1. Substitute Swiss or havarti with jalapeno cheese for Cheddar. 2. Substitute diced cooked ham for red pepper. 3. Substitute ½ cup (125 mL) salsa or chili sauce for the red pepper, salt pepper and herbs. 4. French Style: for a softer texture eggs may be baked in a water bath. Place the filled ramekins in a roasting pan or baking pan (large enough so they are not touching each other). Place the pan on the oven shelf and pour in enough boiling water into the pan to reach ½ -2/3 up the side of the ramekin. Bake as directed 12- 15 minutes. Have a great day.