Monday, August 3, 2009

Books, Civic Holiday, Vitamin D.

I finished Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer last week, her third book in the Twilight series. I enjoyed it but I did get a little tired of all the agonising being done by Bella, the heroine. However, it was still a good story and I can recommend the series to anyone. I gave up reading vampire stories many years ago because I was getting bad dreams at night, however, the vampires in these stories are mostly quite nice vampires, if you know what I mean. Bella is in love with one, Edward Cullen, and he returns her love and will do anything to protect her even to the point of being very reluctant to turn her into a vampire despite her entreaties. I know the first book has been made into a movie, but I haven't heard anything about it. Be a bit difficult to portray the vampires as they are described as being the most gorgeous looking people. One of the worst examples of books made into movies was The Clan of the Cave Bear. A fantastic book, but the movie bore very little relationship to the book which was a great shame. I know the author was horrified and, I believe, sued the film company. If you've never read the book, you should, its a brilliant story. The following books weren't nearly as good and appeared to degenerate as she, Jean M. Auel, wrote them. The supposedly last book in the series has never been written. Right now, I am continuing my re-reads of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar novels and still enjoying them very much. Trouble is, they are quite old and therefore fairly difficult to get hold of. Today is a holiday, in Ontario it is called Civic Holiday, but having been asked about it, I looked it up on Wikipedia and discovered that in fact many of Canada's provinces call it by a different name. Even in Ontario various areas have different names for it. Click here for more about all the different names by which this holiday is known. There were certainly lots of fireworks outside our windows last night even though the holiday is today. Probably get more fireworks tonight. Sadly holidays don't mean much to us any more - you could say we are on holiday all the time. We are even somewhat blasé about the fireworks. Well, it wasn't warm enough to sit out last night and watch them. There was a segment about Vitamin D on GMA this morning, emphasising its importance to one's health. They gave a list of 5 ways it can help you and how most people, even those who think they do, are not getting enough. The sources were listed, one of which is the sun, but these days we are usually advised not to spend a lot of time in the sun due to the risks of skin cancer: salmon and cod liver oil are good sources, other sources, milk and eggs, you would have to have 4 large glasses of milk or 8 egg yolks (its not in the whites) to get enough each day. Or there are supplements of course. If you would like to read the article its here. One thing that made me sit up was its recommendation for assistance in weight loss and diabetes management. We have friends coming for dinner soon and I was thinking about making the following dessert. I made it several times in the States, but I haven't done so since we came back to Canada. If you really want to cheat, you can buy ready made crêpes. Last time I served these I decorated them with pansies, being an edible flower. We did them for dessert at one of our Adventures in Dining Dinners in North Carolina. Gundel's Crêpes For the crêpes: 2 large eggs 1/2 cup cold milk 1/2 cup cold sparkling water; more as needed 1/2 tsp salt 6 3/4 oz (1-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour Melted butter for frying the crêpes For the filling: 1/2 cup dark rum 1/2 cup golden raisins 1/2 cup heavy cream 1/2 cup sugar 1- 1/4 cups walnut halves, coarsely chopped 2 Tbs chopped candied orange peel or 1/2 tsp. grated orange zest 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 1 Tbs cocoa powder pinch salt For the sauce: 1/4 cup cocoa powder 1/3 cup sugar 2 tsp all-purpose flour pinch salt 1 cup milk 3 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped 1/2 cup heavy cream 1 To make the crêpes: Whisk the eggs with the cold milk, sparkling water, and salt. Whisking steadily, sift the flour over the egg mixture in a gradual but steady "rain" to make a smooth batter. Let sit for 20 min. and then add more sparkling water if necessary to get the consistency of heavy cream. 2 Heat a 6- to 8-inch crêpe or omelet pan (nonstick is fine but not necessary). Brush the pan with melted butter. Tilting and turning the pan with one hand, pour in just enough batter to cover the pan's surface, about 1 Tbs. Let the crêpe cook until golden on the underside, 1 to 2 min. (don't undercook them) and then flip or turn the crêpe with a small spatula or your fingers to cook the other side until just set, about 30 seconds more. The side cooked first will be prettier and should be the outer side when filling the crêpes. 3 Adjust the heat so you get a definite sizzle when adding the batter, and thin the batter if the crêpes are too thick and flabby. Stack the finished crêpes on a plate as you go. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until using, up to three days ahead. You can also wrap the crêpes tightly and freeze them (put a piece of waxed paper between each one for easier separation). 4 To make the filling: Heat the rum and soak the raisins in it while assembling the other ingredients. In a small saucepan, bring the cream and sugar to a boil, stirring, and add the walnuts, candied orange peel (or zest), cinnamon, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring back to a boil, stirring, and cook until the liquid has reduced almost completely but the nuts are still well coated and glossy, about 3 min. Stir in the raisins and rum and cool. You can make this filling a day or two ahead and refrigerate it until time to use. 5 For the chocolate sauce: In a medium saucepan, combine the cocoa powder, sugar, flour, and salt. Whisking steadily, slowly pour in the milk to make a smooth paste. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook about 30 seconds to cook off the raw floury taste, and then remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir until smooth, cover loosely with plastic, and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to help it cool and prevent a skin from forming. Just before serving the crêpes, whip the cream until it just forms soft peaks. Stir about one-quarter of the whipped cream into the chocolate to lighten it, and then carefully fold the rest of the whipped cream into the sauce until well blended. 6 To finish: Spread about 2 Tbs. of the filling on the underside of a crêpe (reheat the filling slightly if it's cold from the refrigerator). Fold the crêpe in half, and then in half again to make a quarter circle. (You can also roll the crêpe as shown in the picture). Repeat with the remaining crêpes, dividing the filling evenly. You can do this early on the day of serving and just keep the filled crêpes covered at room temperature. 7 In a large frying pan, heat 2 Tbs. of butter over medium heat until sizzling. Add the filled crêpes to the pan without crowding them (do this in batches if you need to). Cook the crêpes until warmed through and browned on each side, about 1 min. per side. Add more butter if necessary to the pan during cooking. 8 Arrange 3 crêpes on each plate and drizzle a generous ribbon of chocolate sauce on top, passing more sauce at the table. Serve immediately. 9 Yield: about 20 crêpes, with filling for 18, and 2 cups sauce Servings: 6

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