Saturday, May 31, 2008

Spelling Bee, Vacations, The Lady Chablis

Have you ever watched the International Spelling Bee? We did yesterday, we have watched it before, it takes several hours of TV (for the kids to get to the finals it takes a lot more than several hours) they are on during the day and then the final dozen are on prime time in the evening. It really is great to watch these kids, they are really clever and some can be quite funny. One youngster asked if she could have an easier word, she spelled the one she was given correctly anyway. Then in the evening, one youngster thought he heard "numbnut" it was quite funny, the whole audience was laughing, he eventually realised it was numnah and he was relieved - when interviewed he said numbnut could have several different spellings, it can? What is numnah you ask? Its the padding under a saddle for a horse. He, 13 yr old Sameer Mishra from Indiana, ended up being the winner last night. The rest of the group were absolutely brilliant though and it was so sad when they missed a word, especially one young man who obviously knew the word, but "got lost" whilst he was spelling it. These kids know such a lot about language and the derivations - they eat dictionaries in their sleep. I've always been good at spelling but I'm not a patch on these kids.

There is more and more talk of people taking their vacations closer to home this year, the price of gas is getting horrendous, especially for people with big gas guzzling vehicles. Mind you our 6 cyl. car is considered a gas guzzler by European standards. I don't know who are the biggest consumers, the private sector or the business sector, but if the private sector is cutting down drastically it might make the oil companies and oil producers sit up and take notice and hopefully reduce their charges. Have you ever heard of an oil company not making a profit? We were talking Portugal earlier on, but we are having something of a re-think now. If you'd all click on the ads on this page, maybe I could go away, *g*. Hotels and other tourist places are trying to attract business - I suggested maybe we could go back to Savannah, a town we are very fond of, but of course it would cost us a fortune to drive there compared with what we used to pay.

We love Savannah which, considering it is a city, is somewhat surprising for us. It is a gorgeous place though, with lots of interesting things to see and do. Just to sit in busy Market Square sipping a glass of wine and watching the world go by is a fascinating passtime. If you ever read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, there are lots of characters just like that, the first time we went there, I was told, by a local, Savannah wasn't anything like the book, we thought it was. The character called The Lady Chablis exists anyway and she/he is making a fortune these days. If and when The Lady Chablis performs at the nightclub Club One in Savannah, the queues (line-ups) stretch for miles. That was the real Lady Chablis in the movie, if you saw it. Then there is Paula Deen's restaurant, The Lady and Sons, where we ate before the country had ever heard of her, I understand you can't get near the place any more, we didn't even try last time. How often have you had a waitress sing a rendition, beautifully I might add, from Porgy and Bess? We did at The Lady and Sons.

Last night, for supper, we had my father's version of Kedgeree. I used to make it with lashings of butter, but have cut that down in this day and age of watching what we eat. Its made with smoked haddock (a rarity round here) and rice mixed with butter and served with hard boiled eggs which have been sliced. I take out the yolk and spread the rings on the rice, then grate the yolk over the top. Delicious. All of the pictures I can find show the eggs just quartered, or chopped up, but the way I do it is much better in my opinion. I've posted this before, but it is a dish Matt and I both enjoy if we can get hold of some reasonable smoked haddock. Nigella Larson makes it with salmon, but that doesn't sound the same somehow.

Name: Rhubarb and Kirsch Clafouti
Source: RecitopiaUK
Serves: 6

400 ml/¾ pt milk, warmed
3 eggs
45 ml/3tbsp caster sugar
45 ml/3tbsp plain flour
30-45 ml/2-3tbsp butter, melted

450 g/1lb rhubarb, sliced thumb thickness and macerated in kirsch and sugar for at least an hour.
30 ml/2tbsp kirsch
30 ml/2tbsp sugar

Instructions: Preheat oven temperature to 190C/375F/gas 5.
2. Whisk all batter ingredients together.
3. Place macerated rhubarb into a buttered ovenproof serving dish
30 cm x 23 cm/12 in x 9 in. Pour over the batter. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes.
4. When cooked, remove from the oven, dust with icing (confectioner's) sugar and serve immediately.

Have a great day

Friday, May 30, 2008

Paddington Bear, Balloons,

There are celebrations in the UK at the moment because Paddington Bear is 50 years old. Michael Bond, the author, has written a new book to mark the occasion and apparently was interviewed this morning on British TV. Quite an achievement to make a bear so famous. I knew Michael Bond had written a series of detective stories about Monsieur Pamplemousse, but recently learned he has written a number of other things too including a children's series which was on TV quite a few years ago. There was a big brouhaha when Paddington recently appeared on TV eating a Marmite sandwich instead of his usual marmalade. I thought it was a great ad, but I hadn't bought into the Paddington mystique I suppose. Lots of people were outraged to see him eating Marmite. Don't know what Marmite is? I know its not readily available in the States although it can certainly be bought in Canada. It is actually a yeast extract, but it tastes like a beef extract and is generally spread on bread. There are different versions, for instance in Australia there is a similar product called Vegemite which they swear is better. However, Paddington's choice is normally marmalade, I am not sure where he would have acquired a taste for that, coming from deepest, darkest Peru. When he first came to London I suppose. Anyway, Happy Birthday Paddington.

This morning I have to go and get my locks shorn, a haircut if you prefer. I hate having it done mainly because of all the hair that ends up down the back of my neck. I always used to cut my own hair, did it for years, but I got lazy and now I pay for it. Its a bit of a nuisance as our Superintendent's wife used to cut our hair, but now they have left, so I have to go back to the hairdresser we used to use. She is very good, but its not so convenient.

Actually, talking of Superintendents, we are awaiting a new one. The assistant was filling in, but now he has broken his hand, so the previous Super who is retired, is helping out. I assume the property management people are looking for someone, but you don't find good Superintendents over night.

We saw our first balloon of the year this morning, in fact, unusually, it went right overhead. Normally they fly past us some distance away, but depends on the wind, obviously. I would have thought it would have been pretty chilly up there this morning, summer came and went one day about a week ago. Funnily enough on GMA this morning they were inteviewing Kent Couch who has been floating around in a lawn chair held up with helium balloons. He is planning to try another trip this summer and wants to go further than last time, 193 miles it was.All it needs is some idiot to take pot shots at him. If you want to read all about him, click here. I gather his wife wasn't too happy with his experiments, not sure I blame her.

Here's another rhubarb recipe for you:

Chocolate Purses with Rhubarb Raspberry Mousse
Serves: 4

Source: RecitopiaUK

Rhubarb-Raspberry Mouse:
1 1/2 c Fresh or frozen rhubarb about 1/2 lb. finely diced
1/3 c Sugar
1 tsp. Unflavoured gelatine
1/4 c Sour cream
1/2 c Fresh raspberries
1/2 c Heavy cream, well chilled

Raspberry Sauce:
2 c Fresh raspberries
5 tbs. Confectioner's sugar

Moulding Chocolate:
7 oz Semisweet chocolate, grated
2 oz Unsweetened chocolate, grated
1/4 c Light corn syrup
1 1/2 tsp. Rum or cognac
Confectioner's sugar, for kneading and rolling

Place a medium mixing bowl and the beaters of your electric mixer in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Make The Mousse: Combine the rhubarb and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb is very soft. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and puree. Transfer the puree to a medium non-reactive mixing bowl and set aside.

Put 2 tablespoons cold water in a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatine over. Set aside and let soften for 5 minutes. Heat the mixture over low heat, swirling until the gelatine is completely dissolved and no grains remain. Stir the gelatine into the pureed rhubarb and allow to cool. Then fold the sour cream and berries into the puree.

In the chilled bowl, whip the cream with an electric mixer at high speed until it holds soft peaks. Do not over beat. Gently fold the whipped cream into the fruit mixture with a rubber spatula. Cover the mousse and refrigerate until it sets, about 4 hours, or overnight.

Make The Sauce: Combine the raspberries and confectioner's sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until the berries are soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a food processor blender and puree. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a small bowl and discard the seeds. Stir 2 tablespoons of cold water into the sauce to thin. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate.

Prepare The Moulding Chocolate: Put both chocolates in the top of a small double boiler over simmering water. Melt over low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or wooden spoon until the chocolate is very smooth and shiny. Remove from the heat and add the corn syrup and liquor. Using a wooden spoon, mix the chocolate vigorously (the chocolate will start to "seize"; don't worry, be happy, you're doing just fine) until the chocolate gradually thickens and leaves the sides of the bowl to form a loose, soft mass. The stirring should take no longer than a minute; do not overwork the chocolate or its oils may separate.

Divide the chocolate into 2 equal portions. Place one portion in the centre of an 11 by 16 inch long sheet of plastic wrap on a cool flat surface. Level the chocolate with a spatula. Cover the chocolate with a second sheet of plastic wrap the same size as the first sheet. Using a rolling pin, gently roll the chocolate into a rectangle about 10 by 15 inches and 1/16 inch thick. Leaving the chocolate still covered, set aside at room temperature away from any heat source for 30 to 45 minutes to partially set. Repeat with remaining chocolate. When the chocolate is partially set, it should be no longer wet by still very pliable. If at first it's still too wet to handle, let it sit for about 5 minutes more but do not allow it to harden or it will become difficult to knead.

Remove the plastic wrap from one sheet of chocolate. Generously dust a work surface with confectioner's sugar. Gather the chocolate into a ball. If the chocolate has dried out and cracks or crumbles a little, don't be concerned, the chocolate will soften and come together again after kneading. Knead it briefly, pressing it into the confectioner's sugar as you knead, until soft and no longer sticky. If it feels sticky, knead in a little more confectioner's sugar. The moulding chocolate should feel very soft and smooth.

Divide the chocolate in half and shape each half into a ball. Cover the balls with plastic wrap and set aside. Knead and shape the remaining sheet of chocolate in the same manner, for a total of 4 chocolate balls.

Assemble The Purses: Brush off any chocolate crumbs left on the work surface; the surface should be dry, or the chocolate will stick. Lightly dust the work surface and a rolling pin with confectioner's sugar. Slightly flatten one chocolate ball and gently roll it out into a circle about 9 inches in diameter. As you roll the chocolate, be sure to lift it from time to time and dust the surface underneath with a little more confectioner's sugar to prevent the chocolate from sticking.

Place one quarter (about 1/3 cup) of the mousse in the centre of the chocolate circle. Gather the sides up to enclose the filling. Pinch the purse at the neck to seal in the mousse, allowing the top edges of the purse to fan out. Transfer the purse to a large platter, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Repeat rolling and filling the remaining balls of chocolate to make 3 more purses. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To Serve: Place a chocolate purse on each chilled dessert plate and spoon some raspberry sauce around it.

Have a great day.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Prince Caspian, Kung Fu Panda and Rhubarb Soup

I loved it, it was very well done. It is long enough ago that I don't remember where Prince Caspian differed from the book although I had been told it did. Maybe I will read the book again so I can see. My friend also loved it, so I wasn't alone in my impression. It was running in two theatres, I am not sure how busy the other one was, but there were only a handful in ours. I would have thought running it in two at once was not very sensible, except at weekends when the kids are around I suppose. The theatre was also showing Indiana Jones and I suspect that was pretty busy, there were a lot of cars in the parking lot. The four Pevensie kids are beautifully portrayed and Reepicheep, the fighting mouse, was wonderful. I could be wrong, but I do not remember Minotaurs in the book, however, they worked OK in the movie. If you like this kind of movie at all, I can thoroughly recommend it. I wonder if they are going to make films of all of the books, I do hope so. I will certainly be in the front of the line to see them.

There were previews of some of the upcoming movies and I would love to see Kungfu Panda, it looks pretty funny. I will have to watch out for it, I will probably have to find another friend to go with as last night's companion is off to visit family for a while and it will be in theatres on June 6. There were several other previews of movies which are upcoming and which looked as though they would be worth seeing. Don't remember them all now, but if I can find someone to go with me, it is great to see them shown on the big screen. The surround sound is quite impressive too. Matt won't go to the movies because he says the sound is too loud. He is right, but I find you get used to it very quickly.

Here's an unusual rhubarb recipe which I got through Recitopia UK.

Rhubarb Soup
Serves: 4

4 stalks rhubarbs
1 qt water
3 cooked beets
1 cucumber
3 hard boiled eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp dill
salt for taste

Cut up rhubarb and boil in water for about half an hour. Put through sieve and add finely cut beets, finely cut cucumber and hard boiled eggs. Add salt and dill. Put in the refrigerator. Serve cold.

We are off grocery shopping now, this afternoon Matt has another appointment with Let It Heal. Have a great day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Transportation - Rhubarb

Well Matt just took our car to the 'doctors' for what, apparently, will not be an inexpensive repair. They never are unfortunately. We have a friend who swears his present vehicle will be his last. We don't believe that will last once he is without one for a while. I know in this day and age of fuel prices and ecological concerns, they are looked on somewhat askance, but I would hate to manage without one. I haven't ridden a bike since I was a kid - I tell a lie, I rode one once in a trailer park when I had had a couple. I was actually surprised I stayed on, its one of those things they say you never forget, but I have always been scared of trying again. The trouble is, riding bikes is a summertime passtime here, you couldn't ride one in the winter - too cold, too much snow and ice, etc. I say that, but as I have mentioned before, the Mennonites drive a horse and buggy all though the winter. They must find that excessively cold, at least on the bike you would keep warm pedalling. The buggy shown here is enclosed, but I have seen some that aren't. I am not sure the driver in this one is totally enclosed either, couldn't be really.

We are lucky in the area where we live, there is a pretty good bus service, but even then, in the winter you have to hang around in the cold waiting for one to arrive. Some bus shelters are partially enclosed, but that only helps with the wind, not with the sub zero temps. I hope the picture can give you some idea, it was one of the best I could find. Not all bus stops have them either, so you have to hope you live close to one. When we first came to Canada, there was a service called 'dial-a-bus' which picked you up at your front door, that was great. Before I had a car here, I used to travel on the 'dial-a-bus' to the bus depot down town and then the driver of my regular bus would let me sit in the warmth until it was time to leave for our destination. Then I got a car. For many years we had one each, but these days we have just the one. Very rare that we are not able to travel together especially since I quit my part time job. When we were both working part time it could sometimes be a problem, but it was easy for me to take the occasional cab.

However, without a car, I couldn't go to Barrie's Asparagus Farm, it is quite a drive and probably isn't on a bus route anyway. We went there yesterday and ended my one day's deprivation. Got myself some more rhubarb - I am quite enjoying it and am glad I decided to start this. Apart from all the pounds of Splenda I have to use up *g*. Matt doesn't know what he is missing.

The cookery group I belong to, on the internet at Yahoo Groups, has made something of a specialty of rhubarb recipes, I figured it was time I shared one. I have never made this myself, I would be the only person to eat it and there would be too much, pity, it sounds good doesn't it?:

Cheese Filled Rhubarb Coffee Cake
Source: RecitopiaUK

Fruit Filling:
1 pound fresh rhubarb, approximately 4 cups chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1 can crushed pineapple in juice, (16 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, approximately
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter
4 eggs

Cheese Filling:
24 ounces cream cheese, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla

1 cup unbleached all-purpose Flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled, cut into chunks

For fruit filling: Clean the rhubarb and chop it into 1/2 inch pieces. Put in a bowl, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar, and let sit several hours or overnight, till the rhubarb releases some of its juice.

Place the undrained rhubarb in a heavy saucepan, add the 1/2 cup sugar and undrained pineapple, and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is like thick applesauce. Stir more frequently toward the end of the cooking time, so filling doesn't burn. This will take about 1 hour. Remove from heat and set aside. When cool, stir in vanilla.

For crust: Heat milk and butter, cut in pieces, in a saucepan over medium heat until mixture reaches about 120F. Combine 1 cup flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a bowl. Pour milk mixture over dry ingredients, stirring to mix well. Beat in eggs one at a time, then add an additional 3 1/2 cups of flour, mixing to combine. Turn the dough onto a well floured work surface and knead, adding additional flour as necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat all surfaces, cover bowl, and set in a warm spot to rise until dough is doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

For cheese filling: Beat the cream cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

For topping: Mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Cut in the butter, as you would for pie crust, working it in until mixture is coarse and crumbly.

To assemble: Butter a 12x18x1 inch rimmed baking sheet (a half-sheet pan). Punch dough down, and divide into two pieces. On a large, well floured surface, roll one piece of dough into a 12x18 inch rectangle. Fit into pan. Spread cheese filling on dough in pan to within 1/2 inch of edge, then top evenly with fruit filling. Roll the second piece of dough into a 14x18 inch rectangle, to stretch over filling. Place it on top of the filling, then seal edges, trimming off any extra dough. Brush top crust with melted butter, and sprinkle with topping. Let rise in a warm place for about 15 minutes, while you preheat the oven to 350F.

Bake cake for 45 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 24 3x3 inch pieces.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fantastic Machine, Cost of Food, Herbs, Prince Caspian

This is quite an incredible piece of musical apparatus all built from farm machinery and which took 13,029 hours to set up. The pictures come from a company called Animusic and you can see more of their animations here. A friend sent me this today and I was very impressed. I just got Matt to look at this and he figured it was boring. Amazing the difference between us.

This morning GMA were talking about the rising costs of food and what people are doing about it. Some are going to considerable lengths to decrease their grocery bills. A lot of people are growing their own food so they don't have to go to the store at all. There was one couple who had filled in their swimming pool with dirt in order to grow food instead. I thought this was rather extreme, it must have cost a fortune for all that dirt anyway. If you are an apartment dweller, it isn't possible to grow very much, at least we have a balcony which a lot of apartments don't. We haven't yet been to get our herbs for the summer, we like to have basil, thyme, sage and rosemary. I particularly need to make some basil pesto to put in the freezer. I ran out a couple of months ago. Plus I like basil for my homemade tomato soup. It is so nice to have fresh herbs available when you are cooking. I would also like to grow cilantro, but for some reason we have never had any success with it. We tried several times when we lived in North Carolina. We could grow all kinds of herbs, but the cilantro went to seed almost immediately.

Talking of food costs, we popped into our local store yesterday for a rotisserie chicken for supper as we hadn't done anything about supper earlier. They were selling local asaparagus quite cheaply, but when we looked at it, it had stems which needed the ends removed - if it's local, why is that do you suppose? The asparagus I buy, every bit can be used. Tough ends are supposed to indicate how long the asparagus has been picked, but if its local, it can't have been that long surely? We will be heading out to Barrie's Asparagus today, I still had some asparagus left on Sunday and no time yesterday because of bowling. I will be suffering from withdrawal symptoms soon *g*. Can you imagine what I go through once the season has ended? I live til next Mother's Day when the season begins once more.

Tomorrow night I am going to see Prince Caspian with a friend. I have heard some good reports of the movie so am looking forward to it. I will probably end up buying the DVD. I want to get the Spiderwyck Chronicles too, haven't seen that movie, but will rent it when the DVD comes out. I have somewhat forgotten the story of Prince Caspian, but I understand there are bits in it which didn't happen in the book, so I had better not re-read it before I see the movie. I see its rated PG as well which, considering its a children's story, seems a bit stupid.

Having talked about Basil Pesto, here is an original Italian recipe that I use. There are hundreds of versions out there, but I like this one very much.


Source: Great Italian Cooking

1 Cup fresh basil leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
6 sprigs parsley
3 sprigs marjoram
1/2 cup pine nuts
3 cloves garlic, crushed in the press
1/3 cup Parmesan, grated
1/3 cup Romano
3 tbs olive oil
2 tbs softened butter
1/4 tsp salt

Blend everything in blender briefly. Makes 1 cup. By leaving out cheese and adding another 1/4 cup pignole makes a good sauce for hot boiled fish. Use the regular recipe and add to hot consommé or tomato soup.

Have a great day.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Raymond Burr, Clambakes and Barbecues

I don't actually sit down to watch Good Morning America in the mornings, but it is on, so of course it attracts my notice. This morning I learned that a book has been written about Raymond Burr of Perry Mason fame called Hiding in Plain Sight. Apparently he told the world he had two wives who died and a son who also died. I believe there was something about a military career too - it all turns out to be false and he was gay. I guess at the time he was famous, being gay was not a good thing to admit so he invented a fictional biography for himself; if you want to read more click here, there is also an excerpt from the book. I remember when we first discovered Rock Hudson was gay, it was quite a shock as we had all regarded him as such a "hunk" in his day.

Another thing on GMA this morning, they were having a clambake. The weatherman, Sam Champion, was at a beach where they were grilling seafood. Sorry, a genuine clambake should be cooked in the sand with lots of seaweed packed around it. They actually had what I would call a pig cooker which to my mind spoiled the whole idea of a clambake. They were serving lobsters, clams, chicken and corn to name a few things. However, even I, with my love of lobster, didn't really fancy it at breakfast time. Maybe if I had been up long enough and was down at the beach, I might have changed my mind. The best demonstration of a clambake was in the movie Carousel, but as that is a very old movie, not many people will have seen it these days. I have a friend in North Carolina who used to do a clambake for us, hers was in a special cooker which steamed everything. Never did have lobsters, but we certainly had clams, shrimp, corn, chicken and potatoes which were all delicious. That was one of the beauties of living at the coast in NC, you could walk into the water almost anywhere and get yourself enough clams for supper. We used to borrow pig cookers like the one in the picture and have a party with a whole cooked pig which took quite a few hours to cook. I am not sure why that necessitated drinking beer as well, but it always did. We never shredded our pork, but that is the traditional way to do it and is what is referred to as barbecue in restaurants. We much preferred to carve lumps of meat off the pig. I used to make up a barbecue baste, the recipe was given to me by a friend who actually owned one of the cookers we borrowed. It was made with a lot of bottles of other sauces, but it tasted pretty fabulous and could be used as a sauce once the meat was done. Usually a friend would help with the barbecue and this picture shows his hat decorating the pig. Matt got so good at cooking pigs, he was asked to do it for company parties and weddings, etc. and our friend would often go with him. If the pig was big enough, they sometimes had to cook it all night. For our own parties, everyone else would bring a dish of food and once when #1 daughter's family visited, her husband was absolutely stunned at the amount of food available. Mind you, we thought he would never stop eating. Unfortunately when #2 daughter visited with her family, her husband, Mike the wildlife artist (see link on this page), was too sick to enjoy much of it at all. We had one wow of a Pig pickin', as they were called, for my 60th birthday and all had a fabulous time.

You can guarantee someone would always make a Pig Pickin's Cake. This too was made with pre prepared foods, but it was delicious. We got the recipe from a local paper, The Tideland News, I don't think they publish it any more. I don't generally publish recipes which are not made from scratch, but this really does work out well.

Pig Pickin' Cake
Serves: 6

1 pkg Duncan Hines yellow cake mix (or any other cake mix available to you)
4 eggs
1/4 c veg oil
1 11 oz can mandarin orange slices
1 lge can crushed pineapple (slightly drained)
1 3 oz pkg instant vanilla pudding
1 9 oz container cool whip

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour three 9 in cake pans. Combine cake mix, eggs and oil and blend with mixer for two mins at medium speed. Add can of orange slices, including the juice, and beat one minute at medium speed. Evenly distribute mixture in cake pans and bake for 15 - 20 mins. Test for doneness with toothpick. Cool completely before icing. Mix pineapple and vanilla pudding with spoon to blend well. Fold in Cool Whip and stir until blended. Spread icing between layers, on top and sides. Refrigerate til ready to serve.

I have just added a new blog link, Fresh Approach to Cooking. There are some great recipes, check them out.

Have a great Memorial Day

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Holiday Weekends and Barbecues

This weekend is a holiday for Americans, last week it was a holiday for Canadians. For us it was Victoria Day which is often referred to as May 24th weekend which puzzles me as it is the 24th today so why wasn't it celebrated this weekend I wonder? For the Americans it is Memorial Day and a time when many of them remember those passed away in their families as well as members of the armed services killed in wars. Many people also spend their weekend at the barbecue and there have been all kinds of programmes noting that fact in the last week or so. Unfortunately, living in an apartment, we are not allowed to have a barbecue so make do with an indoor/outdoor grill which works very well. In fact friends of ours, who also live in an apartment, have an electric grill on their balcony which they like very much. We have thought of getting one, but haven't done so yet. One problem I perceive is having a power cord running through the balcony doors allowing any bugs to wander inside at will. I do NOT like bugs etc. particularly indoors. Good Morning America had Chef Mario Batali grilling up a storm yesterday, if you would like to see his recipes click here.

We had a phone call yesterday from our friends who are vacationing in North Carolina right now, apparently the weather has been great. In fact, looking at the weather map, the weather has been warm over most of the States but of course a lot of that has spawned tornadoes of which there have been many this last few weeks. The main reason they called was to tell us that the friend we went on a cruise with, is in hospital which is not very nice news. I am beginning to think NC isn't so healthy after all, our friends have been getting pretty sick over the past few years and we don't have too many left there any more.

I see Myanmar has finally agreed to allow some helpers in their country, I wonder how many have died because they didn't agree earlier. China is now talking of deaths up to 80,000 from their earthquake. They too have now asked for extra help but at least they sent in thousands of soldiers when the disaster happened and have allocated billions to rebuild the areas which were hit.

Yesterday I made the asparagus soup I posted and it was delicious. I can highly recommend it, very simple to make and worth the small amount of effort. I will be making more, in fact I may freeze some although the recipe calls for the tips to be kept whole, this won't work too well frozen as they will become a mush.

Tonight we are going to have an M & M Meats' Chateaubriand, they have them on special at the moment so we bought some extra yesterday. I have mentioned them before and they are really very good and good for the money. It will be cooked on our indoor/outdoor grill. I am not sure what we will serve with it, I have about one serving of asparagus left - guess where I will be going tomorrow? Yes, they are open on Sunday. We don't bother with dessert when we are on our own although we frequently have a Ferrero Rocher chocolate each after dinner. Being a Saturday, we will open a nice bottle of wine too, not sure which one. I would like to open one of our Malivoire Pinot Noir, but Matt is saving them for a special occasion???

If you are having a barbecue, this is a good salad to have with it. I have made it several times and we enjoy it very much. If you are not sure how to properly segment or supreme an orange the way the professionals do it, here is a blog entry with pictures click here which will help you. I tend not to cut the peel so square which wastes a lot of the flesh. I have posted this recipe before, but it bears repeating and can be prepared well in advance of the meal.

Fennel, Orange, and Parsley Salad
Everyday Food

Servings: 4

5 x medium oranges
2 x medium fennel bulbs (8 ounces each), quartered, cored, and thinly sliced crosswise
2/3 cup fresh parsley leaves
2 tbsp slivered pitted black olives
1 tbsp olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Using a paring knife, remove the peel and pith of the oranges. Separate oranges into segments over a large bowl (to catch the juices), then add segments to bowl. Smoosh rest of orange to remove juice.

2. Add fennel, parsley, olives, oil; season with salt and pepper. Gently toss, and serve.

Have a great weekend.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cats and Glasses, Let It Heal

I was amazed, my CT Scan appointment was for 9:40 a.m., we got there a bit early; I was out by 10:00, incredible. We were expecting to hang around the hospital for ages. Its very easy, I lay on the table fully clothed, even kept my coat on as it was a bit chilly in there, the machine passed over my head a couple of times and that was it. Matt was parking the car and had barely sat down in the waiting room before I joined him. You could say, as they were scanning my brain, there really wasn't a lot for them to see, but I'd rather you didn't say it *g*.

After lunch we went to get my new glasses which they took forever adjusting. Boy do they cost a lot of money these days, I am so glad we have insurance. I can't imagine what people do without it. I also have a snazzy new case for them, it can be reversed to black and pink or black and mauve, it probably won't get used much though, I wear them all the time.

Matt went to Let It Heal in the afternoon - he has been having lots of back pain and so I finally persuaded him to go, if you have been reading this blog long enough, you will know I have lots of praise for the Bowen Treatment as practiced by Let It Heal, it has helped me terrifically and I have recommended it to others who have benefited as much. We will hope that it can help Matt, it should, but it takes at least 3 sessions before you know if it is helping you. If you want to read about it click here for their website.

Here's a different recipe for Asparagus Soup which came with my Cookbook Wizard programme.

Asparagus Soup

Servings: 4

1 pound asparagus
2 cups water
1 tablespoon margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup low-fat milk
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Cut tips from asparagus stalks; reserve. Cut stalks into 2-inch pieces. Heat 2 cups water and the asparagus stalks to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes or until tender; do not drain. Pour asparagus with water into blender. Cover and blend until smooth.

Heat margarine in 3-quart saucepan until melted. Stir in flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup water. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in asparagus mixture, bouillon granules, curry powder, salt, pepper and asparagus tips. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered 10 minutes. Stir in milk; heat just until hot. Sprinkle with lemon peel.

Have a great day.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Movie, TV Programmes, Asparagus and Salmon

Just watched a movie called Treed Murray - didn't think it would be very good, but actually it wasn't bad. I didn't know anyone in it (I am not very up on actors anyway) but we both enjoyed it. Its about an ad executive who takes refuge in a tree from a bunch of muggers. The muggers decide to wait out the night until the guy, Murray, comes down from the tree. If you get a chance, watch it.

Earlier we watched one of our favourite TV shows, Wingfield. Rod Beattie plays the part of a stockbroker who has semi retired and bought a farm in Persephone Township, Ontario. He plays every part. When we first saw it, we weren't impressed, but then it caught our interest and it is actually brilliant acting. If you don't live here you probably won't get a chance to see it, but it is so clever. He doesn't change in any way except in actions and expressions, but you know just who the characters are. In previous episodes we have seen, his wife was pregnant and the way she got up from a squat, with hands on her back, you could just see it as a pregnant woman, but it wasn't it was Beattie. Really clever. I am glad it is starting over because I really want to see how it all began. I recently recommended it to someone who lives in our building. I recommended another show to her which she has been enjoying, As Time Goes By. Its an English comedy which is extremely popular in North America and is shown on Public Television. I have no idea how many re-runs it is into, but we watch them faithfully every Monday night. Judy Dench is the most well know name, but the cast is excellent - even the bit parts are beautifully acted and the people were wonderfully cast. If this show is on TV where you live, I can recommend it. Now it is very old, but it is still one of the funniest shows we have ever seen. We are not alone, every year it is voted in as the top BritCom on the station.

I enjoyed some stewed rhubarb for supper tonight, made with Splenda again and have some left for tomorrow. I am not allowed to have breakfast before my CT Scan other than something light (diabetics have to eat regularly). I am taking a snack bar, but will probably be very hungry by lunchtime.

I am looking forward to starting a new book tomorrow as I have just finished The River God by Wilbur Smith which I enjoyed very much. The next book is Victory Conditions by Elizabeth Moon, part of her Vatta's War series.

Here is another way to use asparagus. This came from an ezine I get each day called Recipe du Jour. I haven't yet tried it, but saved it because I thought it sounded pretty good. Most of the recipes I give here are ones for dishes we have eaten, but sometimes they are for things I certainly intend to eat.

Asparagus and Salmon Pasta

Servings: 8

6 quarts water
2 tablespoons salt
1 pound fresh asparagus
1-1/4 pounds fresh fettucine, plain or spinach, or 1 pound dried
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
grated zest of 1 lemon
4 ounces smoked salmon or cooked fresh salmon
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

1. Bring water and salt to rolling boil in large pot. Trim ends from
asparagus and cut into 1-inch pieces. Add asparagus to boiling water and cook until tender but firm, 1 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness. Scoop out the asparagus from the pot with a sieve and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking and preserve the bright-green color. Return the cooking liquid to rolling boil. Add fresh fettuccine and cook until tender but firm.

2. Meanwhile, melt in large skillet over medium heat unsalted butter add asparagus and cook, stirring, just to coat with butter, about 1 minute. Stir in heavy cream and grated zest of lemon, heat through. Drain pasta and add to skillet along with smoked salmon, cut into thin strips, or cooked fresh salmon, cut into small pieces, snipped fresh chives, chopped fresh parsley and salt and ground black pepper, to taste. Toss to combine and serve immediately.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Medical Stuff, Asparagus,

I have been having a lot of migraine like auras lately, with my eyes going all swimmy if you understand what I mean, although I don't really get a headache. Its a bit of a worry when driving. So now I have to go for a CT Scan tomorrow at 9:40 in the morning. Horrors, I will have to get up early and will not be able to write my blog. In the afternoon I get new glasses. Busy day. At least it will prove I do have a brain which some people tend to doubt now and then.

We are doing well medically as Matt is going through a bunch of tests at the moment where he has to wear heart monitors for most of 24 hours once a week for about a month. All as a result of possible TIAs (minor strokes) of which he has had three. He has to take these gadgets back at 7:45 in the morning (the office is 10 miles away) so he has to really get up early, I shouldn't complain should I?

On a happier note, yesterday we went to my favourite asparagus farm, Barrie's, and loaded up on the green stuff. I also got myself some more rhubarb - just enough for me. We saw someone picking that yesterday and they don't use a machine like they do for the asparagus. I guess with only one acre of rhubarb they don't need one. I must talk to them about using a machine on the asparagus as I am curious. I grew asparagus in my garden in England (centuries ago) and you could only pick it for so long and then it had to be left to grow ferns some of which were male and some female. They would then cross pollinate. I therefore didn't cut every stalk, but how can you tell a machine to miss some stalks and not others. The fern is actually very pretty and some of it carried quite large red berries. I used to cheat and pick some of it for my flower arrangements. In those days I used to do very elaborate arrangements for my living room. Now I cheat at that too and have silk flowers.

Here is a very simple recipe from Paula Deen of TV fame. We went to her restaurant, Lady and Sons in Savannah and actually met her, years before she became known on TV here.

Asparagus Phyllo Bundles
Paula Deen

For one roll:
Phyllo - 1/2 sheet for 2 asparagus
2 stalks asparagus
Parmesan, grated

Brush phyllo with butter, sprinkle with Parmesan, place 2 asparagus in middle and roll. Place in baking dish, sprinkle more Parmesan and put in oven 375 F for 15 mins.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Napoléon Bonaparte, Josephine, Chocolate Mousse

They say you learn something new every day. Reading French Marilyn's Blog this morning (see link this page) I discovered two things, there are members of the Napoléon Bonaparte family buried in Farnborough, Kent, close where I lived in England and also there are still more members of the family alive and well in France who want to bring the remains home and bury them in France. I have always been fascinated with that period of French history starting from the Revolution itself and ending with the death of Napoléon. I think the interest was sparked by being christened Josephine and that my grandmother had sent my mother a pair of baby bootees with a note saying "for Napoleon or Josephine". I am very glad I wasn't a boy.

I mentioned, in a previous blog, how much I had wanted to see the house in Martinique where Joséphine de Beauharnais lived but the taxi ride was just too expensive - I visited Chateau Malmaison in France which is one place she spent a lot of her time. When I went there it was in very good condition but I just saw a description of it being run down. It was one of the few monuments in France that was still furnished as it was originally. Mots of the other chateaus were stripped of furniture by the ravening hordes of the revolution, but of course, Chateau Malmaison was furnished after the revolution. I remember thinking the house and grounds were absolutely lovely. I was about 19 or so at the time. I used to tell people I thought I was her reincarnation, I don't think I really believed it although Joséphine and I did have a lot of things in common. Still do in fact. At the time I used to read everything I could get my hands on telling me about both of them. M.S. Coryn wrote some very good novels about both of them but I don't think those books are available any more. There was one book, A Swarm of Bees about Lucrezia Bonaparte, Napolèon's mother and another called The Marriage of Josephine. Both excellent books in their time. My paternal grandfather used to send books (including these) to my mother and I. He hardly knew us but he always chose fantastic books for us to read, I can't imagine how.

Right now I am reading The River God by Wilbur Smith which is turning out to be a very good book and contains some intersting background on the Egyptian's life, particularly the information on the tomb building and how the country was bankrupted to furnish gold and other precious funerary items for the Pharoah's tomb I have just got to the point where Egypt was invaded by The Shepherd Kings. I had to Google them as I didn't really know who they were. However, it turns out that the book is totally fictional despite an assertion at the end, by Wilbur Smith, to the contrary. I can certainly recommend the book as a good novel.

Yesterday was a bowling day, the summer league. It turns out to be much more fun than the winter league as there is a little team competition which there is absolutely none of during the winter. Apparently people want to be on the same team in the winter league so won't be split up by their averages. A pity, it makes it much more interesting. Because we have to get out of the house on time, I usually have a Lean Cuisine meal for my lunch. One I have had a couple of times now is the Oriental Ginger Beef Stir Fry. The sauce on this is absolutely delicious. The meals themselves are not much to write home about, but I wish I could duplicate this sauce.

How about something chocolatey for my recipe today. Here is another chocolate mousse which I got from the Yahoo groups cookery club I belong to. I absolutely adore chocolate mousse.

Amedei Chocolate Mousse

Servings: 4

275g dark chocolate (70-75 per cent), cut into small pieces,
plus about 40g of grated chocolate to finish
150g unsalted butter
8 medium egg yolks, at room temperature
1tbsp caster sugar (optional)
8 medium egg whites

Melt the pieces of chocolate and butter either in a microwave or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Don't let any water get into the chocolate. Leave to cool a little, then whisk the egg yolks and sugar, if using, and stir into the chocolate mixture. Whisk the egg whites
until soft peaks have formed (you may want to do this with a mixing machine) and then very carefully fold into the chocolate mixture with the grated chocolate, ensuring you don't lose any volume - what you want is a mousse that stays nice and light. Transfer into a serving bowl and chill for a couple of hours.

Have a great day.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Barrie's, Everyday Italian

I published the picture of Barrie's Asparagus Farm yesterday. I was fascinated to read, in the article, that they have 35 acres of asparagus and one acre of rhubarb. That's a lot of asparagus. I don't think even I could put much of a dent in that amount. Yesterday's picture also showed the machine they use to pick the asparagus, I had naively assumed they did it by hand. The man in the centre of the picture is their lead hand, Lam Tram. The crate of fresh asparagus shown at the front of the picture makes me drool. I want to reach out and grab some. Apparently the current owner, Tim Barrie, is a third generation asparagus farmer and the farm used to have a contract with Campbell's Soup. I wonder why they don't now, probably not cheap enough any more. The beauty of the asparagus from Barrie's is there is no waste. Most asparagus you buy has to have the ends snapped off, never from the farm. Do you know what's really sad, I don't have any at the moment *g*.

I have been having some problems with one of my cook book programmes which wouldn't open for me after I had wiped my hard drive and re-loaded everything. I had to prove that I had bought the programme in 2005 in order to get help opening it again. However, I have finally done that and now can use it once again. Very frustrating as I had a lot of recipes from Giada de Laurentiis of Everyday Italian which I would have hated to lose. We frequently watch her programmes and I get the recipes from the Internet if it is something I want to keep. She did a super looking cake from Venice the other day, but I refrained because I shouldn't really eat the stuff. A small slice probably wouldn't hurt, but keeping to one small slice, is very difficult to do. Years ago in England I used to make cakes and Matt would come home from work "for tea" and then go back again. We would have some cake, but by the time he came home for supper, there wasn't too much of that cake left. I never did figure what happened to it, but every time I went into the kitchen it seemed to be smaller. Must have been the dogs.

However, you might like to make the cake so here is the recipe:

Almond, Pine Nut, Apricot Crumb Cake
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Show: Everyday Italian
Episode: Venetian Holiday

1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted, plus 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted, plus 1/4 cup
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan.

Combine the whole almonds and 1/4 cup pine nuts in a food processor. Pulse the machine until the nuts are finely ground. Transfer the nuts to a medium bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine and set aside.

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer beat the eggs and the sugar until the mixture becomes thick and pale yellow. Add the butter, and milk. Stir in the almond extract and apricots. Gently stir in the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Sprinkle the top of the cake with sliced almonds and remaining 1/4 cup pine nuts. Bake until the cake is cooked and a toothpick comes out clean, about 50 to 55 minutes. Let the cake cool on a wire rack. Use a knife to loosen the edges. Turn the cake out, slice, and serve.

Have a great day.