Friday, October 31, 2008

Hallowe'en, Bateaux Mouches, Penan

Happy Hallowe'en to everyone. I hope you have a good day and if you have kids I hope they have a great time tonight. We will be safely ensconced in our apartment away from all the ghosts and goblins. The first time we experienced Hallowe'en in Canada we ran out of candy and Matt was apologising to all the children and explaining how we had only just arrived in Canada. One little tot piped up "Welcome to Canada" how wonderful! Karen Miller (Karen's Musings this page for link) is presently swanning around France with her publisher. She happened to mention having gone on a trip on one of the Bateaux Mouches which ply the Seine. It brought back memories of when I did the same, many, many years ago. It was spoilt for me however, the main thing I remember is going to the loo and waking up on the deck at the top of a long flight of stairs. I had fainted. Thank God I hadn't fallen down the stairs. No idea why I fainted, I used to do things like that once in a while as a young woman. My friend, Hubèrt, who was with me, didn't know anything about it. Luckily I was able to spend time on the Seine several years later when my parents took our home, Sunfish, to Paris and parked it there. That is Sunfish on the left. We were moored right in the centre of Paris by the Pont d'Alexandre III. A wonderful spot which enabled us to visit wherever we wished to go. Only problem was, in those days, the Seine was pretty filthy. I assume they have cleaned it up considerably by now. What you could see floating in it was enough to turn your stomach. Paris is the city of love and you could tell that by what was floating down the Seine. We have a programme called The Nature of Things which is presented by David Suzuki, a Canadian science broadcaster and environmental activist. Last night we watched a very sad little story about the Penan, who used to be the last race of hunter gatherers on earth and lived a nomadic way of life. Unfortunately this lifestyle has been diminished by logging activities. This is all taking place in Sarawak, Malaysia where it would seem they are allowing indiscriminate logging. The Penan are now having to live in permanent structures, their sources of food have been virtually destroyed so they have to plant crops, they are exposed to the burning sun which they are unused to and they are mostly not compensated by the goverment for the ruination of their life. One or two have had to accept jobs with the logging companies in order to survive and they are paid 50¢ an hour for doing so. They are a very primitive peoples and they didn't want much in their lives, but it is being taken away from them. To read more about it click here for the story The Last Nomads. If you are in my viewing area, it is being aired again on November 6 and I hope you will try and catch it. It is pitiful to see what man's greed achieves. This picture is of a Penan chief. The linguist, Ian Mackenzie, who made this film speaks Penan and is compiling a dictionary of their fast disappearing language. They appear to be very fond of him as he has spent a lot of time with their various groups. Some of the time he has travelled with them but that is now a thing of the past. Ian Mackenzie was almost in tears when he realised that. There is more about the Penan on Wikipedia click here. I am presently trying to figure out a dessert for tomorrow, I haven't decided yet, but I was hunting through my Three and Four Ingredient cookbook and this is one I came across. Chocolate Banana Fools This deluxe version of banana custard looks great served in glasses. It can be made a few hours in advance and chilled until ready to serve. Serves four. 4 oz. plain (semisweet) chocolate chopped 1 1/4 cups fresh custard 2 bananas Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt in the microwave on high power for 1-2 minutes. Stir, then set aside to cool. (Alternatively put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and place it over a pan of gently simmering water and leave until melted, stirring frequently). Pour the custard into a bowl and gently fold in the melted chocolate to make a rippled effect. Peel and slice the bananas and stir these into the chocolate and custard mixture. Spoon into four glasses and chill for 30 minutes to an hour before serving. I wondered what they meant by custard, they are talking about good fresh custards as available in your supermarket. I assume Bird's custard would also fill the bill. Have a great day.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Polenta, American Elections, Bowling

Having written about polenta yesterday, we bought a ready made tube of it from the store - it has sun dried tomatoes in it - and then sliced it, put a little seasoning, a smear of olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on each slice and grilled it for supper. Delicious. I also bought the ingredients for the Pissaladière I published the other day (I'm glad I have the book as I couldn't find which day, guess I need to label my recipes too) which I thought I would make as a starter on Saturday. We have some friends coming to dinner. Main course detemined, haven't decided on dessert yet. With only 5 days to go before their elections, the Americans TV personalities and candidates are running around like a disturbed hive of bees. Good Morning America is visiting the swing states for the rest of the week and probably Monday too, and doing political interviews as well. Now it's down to the wire we are seeing ads for all the different positions such as District Attorney which is included in the ballot. I used to think that the main presidential candidates must be included on the local ballots, but they aren't so you have to vote for John Doe or Joe Blow depending on your preference for Democrat or Republican. I am so dumb about politics, I don't even know which is which. No, don't bother to enlighten me, I will forget immediately. My personal delight about the elections taking place next Tuesday, we will finally get rid of all the campaign ads. Someone told me I could always turn off the ads, but then I wouldn't be able to watch those few programmes I like. I don't have one of those TVs which can do that for you, just turn off the advertising. Meanwhile, it is the day for our Travel League bowling. Sadly this is now divided between two bowling alleys, everyone else having dropped out because their 55+ members are not prepared to travel. Today we are going to Riverside Lanes in New Hamburg, next month it will be in Waterloo Lanes which is our "home" base. The Travel League is just a bunch of bowlers visiting another house. In fact we field a team from a non-existent house, the one where we used to bowl but where the house is now closed. That way we get three teams. First of all, our bunch meet for lunch and then go bowling. That's always fun. There's nothing competitive about it, we do it because we enjoy it and its great meeting other people. I love leeks and use them a lot for soups. This is a recipe from my Three and Four Ingredient Cookbook, very similar to one I have from Two Fat Ladies, but not quite as complicated. Diet food this ain't. Cheesy Creamy Leeks This is quite a rich accompaniment that could easily be served as a meal in itself with brown rice or couscous. Cheddar cheese has been used here for a slightly stronger flavour but you could use a milder Swiss cheese such as Gruyère if you like. Serves 4 4 large leeks or 12 baby leeks, trimmed and washed 2/3 cup double (heavy) cream 3 oz mature cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese grated from the store cupboard 1 tbs olive oil salt and ground black pepper Preheat the grill (broiler) to high. If using large leeks, slice them lengthways. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the leeks. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until starting to turn golden. Pour the cream into the pan and stir until well combines. Allow to bubble gently for a few minutes. Transfer the creamy leeks to a shallow overnproof dish and sprinkle with the cheese. Grill for 4-5 minute, or until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling. Serve immediately. Have a great day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Books, Fractals, Secret Rooms, Snow

I forgot to mention, yesterday, I have finished The Riven Kingdom by Karen Miller, it was a great read, I thoroughly enjoyed it. On enquiry I find that in fact the third book, Hammer of God, is actually published, in Australia. It will not be available in North America til January, boo hoo, I want to read it NOW. I want to know how they defeat the hordes of Mijak. The main character of the book I have just finished has done, or is about to do, some silly things which will make life difficult for her in the last book!!!!!! I watched a fascinating programme on Nova last night, all about fractal geometry, yes, really. An absolutely enthralling programme. I am not going to pretend I understood it completely, but I certainly got a very interesting grasp on what it was all about and will watch it again - you can read about the programme here and find a link to the video. Because a man called Benoit Mandelbrot wrote a book about fractals, a computer scientist discovered a lot about making graphics on computers. That was in the early days. Now they are using the fractal theories to discover all kinds of things, from natural history to the working of human bodies. I couldn't begin to explain it to you but I can highly recommend you watch the video - you will need an hour to spare. I sat completely enthralled. The picture on the left is known as the Mandelbrot Set. The basic fact is that these patterns repeat virtually ad infinitum although you can't see them by eye, the computer can. The mathematics couldn't even be worked out properly without computers as it would take forever to do the calculations. They showed possible ways of following the blood flow of cancerous and non cancerous tissues in the body by using this geometry on ultra sound pictures. Plus by cutting down a tree (it was dying anyway) in a forest, taking the appropriate measurements and using fractal geometry, they can calculate how much CO2 a given forest can absorb. This morning there was a whole suite of rooms which had been built secretly under the Greenbrier Hotel, Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. It turns out they were built as a fall out shelter and could accomodate the whole government. Everything is down there that could be needed, fully stocked kitchens, bunk beds made up and ready to be used, TV studios, with a picture of the White House on the wall which might have been rubble if the government were down there!! The rooms were behind bomb blast doors and the majority of the hotel staff did NOT know the rooms were there. There were four men on duty in a room with a closet which turned out to be one of the entries. The men were supposedly TV repairmen for the hotel although their actual job was to maintain the secret shelter. Greenbrier is a hotel patronised by royals and presidents by the way. This morning we woke up to the white stuff all over the grass and roofs. Not, thank goodness, settled on the roads so driving is fine. Yesterday I was listening to BBC Cumbria (UK), a friend is a presenter on that station and I caught their weather forecast. Didn't sound much better than ours. Certainly a lack of visibility on the fells, that is very hilly country. The area is known as the Lake District. Never did get to visit that part of England, it is supposed to be very beautiful. Last night we had shrimp gumbo for supper, I had the gumbo prepared in the freezer and just peeled some shrimp to cook in the heated sauce. It was good. I have been seeing several Polenta recipes on TV lately, something we have eaten at home quite a bit. In fact, you can buy tubes of ready made polenta in the grocery store, although it is actually fairly simple to make. It is very much underused and makes a delicious change from the usual starch sources or potatoes and rice. Here is a recipe from the Three and Four Ingredient Cookbook. Dolcelatte is an Italian cheese and absolutely delicious, its name literally means soft milk. You can substitute several things if you can't find it. I have seen Roquefort and Camembert mentioned, also Mascarpone, but don't buy the stuff with a "gum" preservative in it as the gum makes the cheese sweet which is no good for something like this, OK if you are going to make a Tiramisu. Creamy Polenta with Dolcelatte Soft-cooked polenta is a tasty accompaniment to meat dishes. It can also be enjoyed on its own as a hearty snack. Serves 4-6 3 ¾ Cups milk 1 cup instant polenta 4 oz Dolcelatte cheese from the store cupboard 4Tbs extra virgin olive oil salt and ground black pepper. Pour the milk into a large pan and bring to the boil, then add a good pinch of salt. Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the polenta in a slow, steady strem, stirring constantly to combine. Return the pan to a low heat and simmer gently, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the olive oil. Spoon the polenta into a serving dish and crumble the cheese over the top. Season with ground black peper and serve immediately. Have a great day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


If someone sends you an email telling you to try a game of tic tac toe (noughts and crosses in the UK) unless you like being scared, don't open it. I find these types of emails particularly offensive, I DO NOT like being frightened out of my wits and don't find anything funny about them at all. If you don't mind them, go ahead and play the game.

Secret Rooms, Blogger Problem

Obviously because of Hallow e'en, there is a series on Good Morning America called Secret Rooms. Yesterday, they talked about The Winchester House in San Jose, California, which belonged to the Winchester Rifle Heiress who, apparently, believed she was being haunted by all the people killed by the rifles. To deal with the haunts, she was told to build confusing rooms and corridors in her home. She held a regular séance and was guided by that as to what room she should build next. The spirits even gave her blueprints. Over some 38 years she changed an 8 room farm house into a 160 room mansion with stairs that go nowhere and doors that do the same or you can walk through one and fall a couple of storeys. There are dozens of doors and stairways in the house. She kept a gang of builders in work for the whole of that time, if you didn't work to her satisfaction one day, you would be paid off and that was it. The report was that she spent $5,000,000 on the house. That is a lot of money today, when this all happened, it was a lot more money, Wikipedia says it is equivalent to $20 million in today's money. The odd thing is it contained up to date sewerage and the gas lighting operated at the touch of a button. You should go to Wikipedia and read the entry, it is absolutely fascinating. The pictured stairs only go to the ceiling, nowhere else at all. This morning it was the 21 Club in Manhattan, New York. This club was started during the days of Prohibition as a speakeasy. Although today it has fancy doors, in those days it had plain doors which were locked so that not everyone, like the feds, could get in easily. They had buttons to let people know when there was a raid and to drink up fast, another button tipped the booze in the bar down into the sewers. But, downstairs, through the kitchen, there was a secret room. It was a double door, which looked like a brick wall and only unlocked with a skewer in a hidden hole. It opened into the brownstone next door and was a complete wine cellar and a room where people could sit and drink. They told the story that one time there was a raid by the feds and the Mayor of New York was sitting there so he phoned his cops and told them to remove the feds' cars from the front of the building. They were never raided again. The story by ABC News is worth reading. All kinds of famous people used the club, Sinatra and Hemingway to name a couple. Today it is a famous and well patronised restaurant. Their secret cellar contains $1.5 million dollars worth of wine, some of which is owned by famous people, past and present. By the way, several readers have reported a problem with using the comment section of this blog. Marilyn, of French Marilyn's Blog did some research and it appears Google/Blogger have a problem, but they are aware of it so hopefully it will be fixed any time soon. Here's a seasonal recipe which is from my book "The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook". Even if you are not a vegetarian, there are some very enjoyable dishes which don't include meat and are worth looking into. This recipe looks absolutely delicious and I will see if I can find some small pumpkins to use. Stuffed Pumpkins 4 medium golden nugget pumpkins 1/4 c water 1/2 cup cooked rice 2 tsp curry paste 1 Tbs finely chopped fresh coriander 1 green apple, finely chopped 1 small zucchini (courgette), finely chopped 1 small carrot, finely chopped 2 oz. button mushrooms, finely sliced 5 oz asparagus spears, chopped 2 tsp currants 1/4 tsp garam masala 2 oz butter, melted. Preheat oven to hot 210°C. Cut top of each pumpkin; set aside. Scoop out seeds and discard. (Unless you want to roast them for snacks). Arrange pumpkins in medium ovenproof dish.Replace tops. Add water to dish and cover firmly with foil; bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; remove pumpkins; drain water and brush dish with melted butter or oil. Combine rice, curry paste, coriander, apple, zucchini, carrot, mushrooms, asparagus, currants, garam masala and butter in a medium bowl; mix well. Spoon this mixture into the pumpkin cavities. Top with lids. Return to the prepared dish and cover with foil. Bake pumpkins for 20 minutes or until just cooked. Have a great day.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Books and Time, the Blind and the Overweight

Saturday I got hold of the latest book by Dick Francis who is one of my favourites. Matt says his stories are same ol' same ol' and in some ways that's true I guess, but I still enjoy them. I started the book at lunchtime and finished it before I went to bed. This time he is writing in conjunction with his son Felix Francis. Apparently Felix has assisted before, but is now co-writing. From the picture on the back inside cover, Dick is now using a cane, so, like the rest of us, he is getting older. The title comes from the silks jockeys wear when riding and the silks worn by Queen's Councillors (Barristers). If you like his books, it is a good read. Next I am going to read The Riven Kingdom by Karen Miller, I read the first book, Empress of Mijak and ended up absolutely hating the main protagonist, Hekat, but I am told, by Karen herself, that this book is quite different. Presumably Hekat will be dealt with in the third book of the trilogy. This current book had a good review in Specusphere read here which is a good source for information on current spec fic. if you are interested in the genre, I recommend Specusphere to you. I am now over half way through this book and Karen has introduced another very nasty character, she had better make sure they both get dealt with in the last book which I think is called Hammer of God. Something I was thinking about over the weekend was Time. How it rules our lives. I used to know a woman who always took off her watch when she went on vacation, I don't think I could do that, I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do is look at the clock before I decide whether to get up or try and go back to sleep. I can't make that decision without knowing what time it is!! Surely once you are wide awake you should get up otherwise you would still be asleep anyway. Primitive man was guided by the light, but our lives are only guided by what time it is. Yesterday I went to visit a woman who lives on our corridor, she is totally blind and has been all her life. She is incredible, she used to sing professionally and still sings in church. She lives alone and does a lot of caring for the sick and elderly (she is not young herself). She also visits old folks' homes to tell those who are becoming blind how to manage. When I told her I wrote this blog with recipes, she gave me a quick recipe. Take an instant Angel Food cake and a can of pineapple. Mix together and bake. Then top with Cool Whip. It amazes me she can do things like that. She has been married and did most of the cooking. Not only that, in his later life she used to pull her husband's golf cart for him. Marvellous woman. It makes me wonder what I complain about. A story I saw on the news this morning was of a couple, in Mexico, getting married, he used to be the heaviest man in the world at 1,200 lbs. However, since the love of his fiancée changed his life he has lost 500 lbs. He still travelled in his bed to church, the bed was carried to the wedding on a flat bed truck. However, he planned to stand up in church. Didn't say if he made it. What I often wonder, who keeps these people? They are unable to get out of bed, or obviously earn a living, so someone else has to buy their food and supply all their daily needs. Who pays for all this? I sure wouldn't. Here's a recipe we have enjoyed from Readers Digest's Great Recipes for Good Health. One thing about giving you recipes from Readers Digest books, they have been used so much the pages are loose which makes it really easy to scan the pictures. Chicken with Snow Peas and Peanut Sauce Serves 4 1/2 lb fresh snow peas, trimmed 1 Tbs peanut butter 2 Tbs reduced sodium soy sauce 1 Tbs cider vinegar 1 tsp sesame or peanut oil 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger or 1/4 tsp ground ginger (doesn't tast the same) 1 clove garlic, minced 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste 2 cups cooked chicken cut into matchstick strips 1/2 cup sliced radishes 1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts 2 Tbs sliced green onion In a large saucepan, cook the snow peas in boiling unsalted water for 3 minutes or until the peas are tender but still crisp. Drain and arrange attractively on a medium sized platter. In a large bowl, whisk the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil until smooth. Stir in the ginger, garlic and cayenne pepper. Add the chicken, radishes and waterchestnuts. Toss lightly to mix. Spoon the chicken mixture over the snow peas and sprinkle with the green onions. Have a great day.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dreams, Curry and Meatloaves

I arose in a foul temper this morning, all because of a dream. Ridiculous isn't it? However, I dreamt a family of 4 were taking Matt and I over, house and home and there appeared to be nothing I could do about it. A very frustrating, aggravating dream. I am glad I didn't dream it tonight as they say:
"Saturday's dream on Sunday told, is sure to come true be it never so old"
I suppose the people who interpret dreams could tell me something about this dream, the fear of being overcome by something I couldn't resist, perhaps? Maybe its something to do with all the bad financial news at the moment. That is something I am certainly helpless to combat. My mood is beginning to dissipate, thankfully. The financial crisis is very depressing though, every time you switch on the radio or TV there is something about it, if only on how to feed a family of 8 for $10. There have been so many meatloaf recipes posted. I am not greatly fond of meatloaf at the best of times and to be compelled to eat it a lot because of financial woes would be terrible. We haven't sunk that low yet, I hope. Maybe that's what my dream was about, being overtaken by meatloaf. Don't get me wrong, we do make meatloaf now and again, but it is only now and again. Actually there is a recipe we used to make more often, Tarragon Turkey Loaf, I will have to see if I can find it and share it with you. One of the problems with meatloaf is quantity. If I make one loaf it is too much for us, so I freeze it. By the time we get to eat the remainder its pretty horrid, I think. North Americans have meatloaf sandwiches, I'm sorry this does not appeal!!! Yesterday I made up a batch of all purpose curry sauce, separated it into three lots and put chicken in two. We had chicken curry with rice, pappadums and chutney for supper, I now have another chicken curry in the freezer and some sauce to which I can add shrimp at a later date. I have some Gumbo sauce which just needs shrimp (crab and oysters too if I come across any). I do like to have such things in the freezer so we can grab them for a quick meal when we are in a hurry. I don't pass on my recipe as it isn't very authentic, good, but not authentic. I do keep a decent curry powder in my cupboard as well as Garam Masala which is much the same. Plus I have two chutneys on hand, Mangoe and Bombay Duck which is very spicy. I love Bombay Duck but we can no longer get them in Canada and I believe they have stopped importing them into the UK too for health reasons. Its dried fish for goodness sake, how can it be that unhealthy? Matt hated it anyway and couldn't stand the smell of it being prepared. I loved it. OK I have found the recipe from Reader's Digest's Great Recipes for Good Health. Our book has been used so much, most of the pages are loose. As meatloaves go, this isn't bad. Tarragon Turkey Loaf Serves 4 2 tsp unsalted margarine 1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped fine 1 large stalk celery, chopped fine 1 lb. ground turkey 1/3 cup chopped parsley 1/4 Cup fine dry breadcrumbs 1/4 cup skim milk 1 large egg white 1/2 tsp dried tarragon, crumbled 1/4 tsp each black pepper and nutmeg Nonstick cooking spray For the Mushroom Sauce 2 tsp unsalted margarine 1 vup mushrooms 2 tbs flour 1 cup low sodium chicken broth 1/8 tsp each ground nutmeg, salt, black pepper and dried tarragon, crumbled. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a heavy 7 inch nonstick skillet or medium sized saucepan, melt the margarine over moderate heat; add the onion and celery and cook, uncovered, until the onion is soft - about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the turkey, parsley, bread crumbs, milk, egg white, tarragon, pepper and nutmeg. Add the onion and celery, and mix well. Lightly coat a 7 ½"x3 ¾"x2" loaf pan with the cooking spray. Press the turkey mixture into the pan and bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until lightly browned and firm to the touch. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Using two spatulas, transfer the loaf to a heated dinner platter. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In the same skillet or saucepan, melt the margarine over moderate heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3-5 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and blend in the flour, chicken broth, nutmeg, salt, pepper and tarragon; return to the heat and cook about 5 minutes, stirring, until thick. Ladle some sauce over the loaf and serve the rest at the table. If you are not too worried about weight, you can substitute butter for margarine etc. Actually, there is no caloric difference between butter and margarine, fat is fat. Have a great weekend.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Galt Little Theatre, Unknown Bird,

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Well, it wasn't what I expected, it was a series of vignettes, but of a very different character to the vignettes I saw in August. These were some funny, some poignant, some just sad and several that made you think and think real hard. I can't honestly say I enjoyed the music, basically not my thing at all except when they played an excerpt from Beethoven's Ninth. The idea of Beethoven's life and music helping you rise from depression was quite fantastic. Another funny/sad little story was of a man with memory loss who, every once in a while thinks its Christmas Eve. His family celebrates with him. At his request his wife tells him about his Christmases as a child, telling him about getting a bicycle and similar stories, all of which are lies because he had a rotten childhood, but he is so happy when she describes these gifts and Christmases because he doesn't remember how they really were. It brings tears to my eyes just telling you about it. There were several ideas presented in a totally different way. Certainly thinking outside the box. The main theme of the show was how we lose spontaneity as we grow older. Ain't that the truth. I thought it was beautifully acted and the cast did a really good job of a very difficult show with continuously changing rolls. There was nothing amateurish about them at all. Something that stood out to me, the one male actor, was an Englishman with a strong Lancashire accent (he came from Manchester) which I would think would be difficult for most Canadians to understand. I asked my friend and she agreed that she did have some difficulty with it. I also learnt, a producer in the UK is someone who shows the actors what he wants, it is a director who does that over here. Amazing I hadn't heard of that difference in all the 30 some years I have been here. It is an excellent little theatre - not a very big seating capacity, nor an overlarge stage. I have forgotten what their next production is, but the one after is The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. I offered to play the part of the aunt!!! Yesterday, on Good Morning America, Dianne Sawyer was talking about a bird which flies from the Americas to New Zealand. I cannot remember what she said the bird was called, nor can I find anything about it on their website. The thing which really hit me, this little bird eats itself silly all the time it is here, then flies for about a week or a little over to get to New Zealand for the winter. They breed there and then fly back again in the spring, another 8 day trip. They have lost half their size by the time their flight is ended. You realise there is nowhere for them to land on this trip so it is just continuous flying. Nothing to eat or drink. Apparently one half of its brain can shut down and rest and then the other half takes a turn. I just don't know what the name of the bird is. Very frustrating. It has just occurred to me to ask Glenda Larke (Tropic Temper) she will probably know. I was right, she did, it is the Godwit. Thank you so much Glenda. Apparently there are two kinds the black tailed or the bar tailed, in this picture from Wikipedia, the black tailed is in front, the bar tailed behind. The bar tailed holds the record for non stop flight from Alaska to New Zealand, this is 7,242 miles non stop. Apparently curlews also do similar long flights. Isn't Nature incredible? I discovered that at one time these birds were eaten, in Britain anyway. OK how about another recipe from the Three and Four Ingredient Cookbook by Jenny White and Joanna Farrow. Moroccan Date, Orange and Carrot Salad Take exotic fresh dates and marry them with everyday ingredients, such as carrots and oranges, to make this deliciously different salad. The salad looks really pretty arranged on a base of sweet Little Gem (Bibb) lettuce leaves. This fruity salad is excellent served with chargrilled lamb steaks or with skewered lamb. Serves 4 3 carrots 3 oranges 4 oz fresh dates, stoned (pitted) and cut lengthways into eighths 1/4 C toasted whole almonds, chopped From the store cupboard Salt and ground black pepper Grate the carrots and place in a mound in a serving dish, or on four individual plates. Pleel and segment two of the oranges and arrange the segments around the carrot. Season with salt and pepper. Pile the dates on top then sprinkle with chopped, toasted almonds. Squeeze the juice from the remaining orange and sprinkle it over the salad. Chill in the refridgerator for an hour before serving. Have a great day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Family, Theatre,

Yesterday we had a nice surprise, a parcel of photos and DVDs from daughter #2 and her husband, Mike the artist (Scolopax Chronicles). It also included school results for their daughter, our only granddaughter. She is an excellent student and we are very proud of her. In fact we are very proud of all the grandchildren, three of them are now teachers and one of them has just entered university in the hopes of becoming a teacher. On the DVD was film of our granddaughter in a concert, dancing for the most part, but the most impressive thing was her solo of Castle on a Cloud from Les Misérables. She sang it beautifully. It is a sad little song by a young girl, Cosette, who's parents are no longer alive and who is in the care of a grasping and cruel innkeeper and his wife, she is dreaming of what it would be like to be loved. I wish I could share it with you. There are lots of songs from Les Misérable on YouTube, if you want to listen. OK I have stopped boasting. Tonight I am going to see "All I really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum. It is being produced by Galt Little Theatre Group and one of the producers is a friend of mine. She is very involved in Little Theatre and by all accounts the group is very good so I hope the performance will be relatively professional. I haven't been to an amateur dramatic performance in many years, although at one time I used to be very involved myself. Not since I have been in Canada though. I really don't know why as I used to love the theatre and was very keen on acting. My first husband was a brilliant actor. Matt couldn't be less interested. Funny isn't it? I am going with a friend from Cambridge - same town as the theatre. I then have one more theatre visit this year, a pantomime in December. I have finished book 2 of the Arrandin Trilogy, The Treason of Dortrean. The author, Marcus Herniman, commented that it is sometimes frustrating that something which takes so long to write can be read so quickly. I do read very quickly, but then I frequently stay up late reading, particularly if I am enjoying a book, which I was in this case. I was up til late last night reading the third book in the trilogy so it shouldn't take me long to finish it either. Although I guess I won't be reading this evening. I very often read books again if I find them particularly good. Here's a nice easy recipe for dessert. Once again from the Three and Four Ingredient Cookbook by Jenny White and Joanna Farrow. Baked Bananas with Ice Cream and Toffee Sauce Bananas make one of the easiest of all desserts, just as welcome as a comforting winter treat as they are to follow a barbecue. For an extra sweet finishing touch, grate some plain (semisweet) chcolate on the bananas, over the sauce, just before serving, if baking on a barbecue, turn the bananas occasionall to ensure even cooking. Serves 4 4 large bananas Scant 1/2 cup light muscovado (brown) sugar 5 Tbs heavy (double) cream 4 scoops good quality vanilla ice cream Preheat the oven to 350 F. Put the unpeeled bananas in an ovenproof dish and bake for 15-20 minutes until the skins are very dark and the flesh feels soft when squeezed. Meanwhile, heat the light brown sugar in a small heavy pan with 5 Tbs water until dissolved. Bring to the boil and add the cream. Cook for 5 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and is toffee coloured. Remove from the heat. Transfer the baked bananas in their skins to serving plates and split them lengthways to revel the flesh. Pour some of the sauce over them and top with scoops of vanilla ice cream. Serve any remiaing sauce separately. My Note: I think if you are handling the bananas to cut them, I personally would try and get the flesh out of the skins, but maybe they would break up too much. Have a great day.

White Asparagus, Parallel Worlds,

So maybe I am a Phillistine, I am sure some would say that I am, but I managed to buy some white asparagus on sale and last night I cooked them, as recommended by a chef: having pared them first, not snapped them. They were good, with a delicate flavour, but I didn't find them anything special to write home about and am just as happy with my regular green asparagus. I honestly don't see what all the fuss is about. Matt didn't see they were any better than the green either, although he isn't a fanatic about asparagus like me. I certainly will never shell out the exhorbitant prices they normally ask for them. You could say I was very disappointed. I didn't watch the programme, I didn't like the beginning, how it was presented, but it appears - for my sci fi friends - that today the possibility of parallel worlds and their existence is considered real science, serious research. I have read many stories which took place in such parallel worlds, wouldn't it be incredible if it were true. An infinite number of me and you etc. but worlds where things happened differently. It is a concept which has fascinated sci fi writers for many years. I have always enjoyed the idea of sci fi writers coming up with ideas which turned out to be true. Witness the many writings of Isaac Asimov which came to pass even in his own lifetime. If his concept of Multivac isn't the same as the Internet, I will eat my hat (well I would if wore one). By the way, we didn't get snow yesterday although it was pretty cold. If you read the comments section, you will see Satima (Satima's Blogspot) asked about the Three and Four Ingredient Cookbook and whether it does microwave and/or stovetop dishes. I am sure it does, but it would be easy to adapt any oven recipe for the microwave. I had a friend who lived in Cyprus and in the summer she wouldn't cook anything in the oven as it was too hot. So she used her microwave all summer long including poaching salmon which I imagine was very good. Here's a stovetop recipe for lamb which should be right up the street for anyone in Australia. Marinated Lamb with Oregano and Basil Serves 4 Lamb leg steaks (or gigots) are chunky with a sweet flavour and go well with oregano and basil. However you could also used finely chopped rosemary or thyme. Serve with couscous. 4 large or 8 small lamb steaks (gigots) 1 small bunch of fresh oregano, roughly chopped 1 small bunch of fresh basil, torn From the store cupboard: 4 Tbs garlic infused olive oil salt and ground black pepper Put the lamb in a shallow, non-metallic dish. Mix 3 Tbs of the oil with the oregano, basil and some salt and pepper, reserving some of the herbs for garnish. Pour over the lamb and turn to coat in the marinade. Cover and chill for up to 8 hours. We usually do our marinades in a plastic bag, saves all the mess. Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan. Remove the lamb from the marinade and fry for 5-6 minutes on each side, until slightly pink in the centre. Add the marinade and cook for 1-2 minutes until warmed through. Garnish with the reserved herbs and serve. Have a great day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Health, Snow.

I am still feeling sorry for myself. This allergy stuff comes and goes. I keep thinking it has disappeared and boom, its back full fledged again. For instance, we went bowling yesterday, and all the time in the alley I was fine although I was well loaded with Kleenex in case. The minute I left, it started again. Same thing this morning, I seemed OK until I started moving around to make breakfast, off I went again. I am supposed to do my volunteering stint this aft at CDA, not sure I will make it. A friend suggested I wore a mask. Maybe I should. I keep forgetting to phone the doc about a flu shot for us too. I am not keen on those because I get such a sore arm after but it doesn't seem to worry Matt. Just phoned and they won't be til next month with the first clinic on November 6 apparently. I have said before, I am not convinced of the efficacy of a flu shot as they cannot know what is coming down the line only what was around last time. However, the docs all recommend it for people over 65 so who am I to question it. I am aghast, horrified, gobstruck, etc. etc. they are talking snow already. Snoooooow!!!! I can't believe it, when we first emigrated to Canada everyone assured us snow didn't start til November 15. Hullo, its only October 21 at the moment. Out west they have already had a fair dollop of the white stuff and Buffalo, just south of us, is definitely supposed to get some, but us, in the Banana belt, surely not. Buffalo is affected by lake effect show see Wikipedia for an explanation which I have talked about before. But its supposed to be milder on this side of the water. It is a fact that the leaves on the trees have decided to come down in a big hurry the last couple of days. I am so glad we don't have to rake leaves, we had enough of raking in North Carolina although that was mostly pine straw. This morning I am turning to my Three and Four Ingredient Cookbook by Jenny White and Joanna Farrow. This is a great little book and full of easy to prepare meals. Red Onion and Olive Pissaladière For a taste of the Mediterranean, try this French-style pizza - it makes a delicious and easy snack. Cook the sliced red onions slowly until they are caramelized and sweet becore piling them onto the pastry cases. To prepare the recipe in advance, pile the cooled onions on to the pastry round and chill the pissaladière until you are ready to bake it. 1 1/4 lb small red onions thinly sliced 1 1/4 lb puff pastry, thawed if frozen 3/4 C small pitted black olives 5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil Preheat the oven to 220 C. Heat the oil in a large heavy frying pan and cook the onions gently, sirring frequently for 15-20 minutes until they are soft and golden. Season to taste. Roll out the pastry thinly on a floured surface. Cut into a 13 in. round and transfer to a slightly dampened baking sheet Spread the onions over the pastry in an even layer to within 1/2 in. of the edge. Sprinkle the olives on top. Bake the tart for 20-25 mins. until the pastry is risen and deep golden. Cut into wedges and serve warm. Have a great day.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Calais, Allergies, Book

I was looking at some pictures on my bedroom wall the other day - you know how you suddenly "see" things which have been there for ever. They are of scenes painted in Paris, France and I was remembering how I bought them. We were in Calais, France at the time and wandering around a market and fairground when I saw them and decided to buy. I had to have them framed and whilst we were waiting I remember riding a chairoplane (I don't suppose there are such things these days, way too tame); the friends I was with were all trying to scare the Bejasus out of me by grabbing my chair from behind. I certainly wouldn't ride on one today, I would be scared the thing would break. The prints were from paintings by, I believe, a fairly well known French artist. Strangely enough, I saw one of them on the wall of a bedroom in a scene in our favourite English comedy "As Time Goes By" and I saw another of them in something else from the UK recently, don't remember what it was. This is one of the pictures and as you can see, I couldn't manage to take it without the flash, it came out black, and with the flash you lose some of the river. But you can see what the picture is about. Well, what a lousy day Sunday turned out to be. As I said, we were going out for a dim sum lunch. About 6 a.m. I started sneezing and snuffling and by the time I got up I had a full blown allergy attack and was feeling pretty rough. At 10 I had a phone call from the friends that we were going with and they were in the same boat. So, no dim sum this weekend. I was told by someone, many years ago, that Ontario was the allergy capital of the world. These days I believe it. I never used to have allergy attacks like this, I used to feel superior to those who did and think it was nonsense. Did I ever get my punishment for that. I forgot to mention I am reading the rest of Marcus Herniman's Trilogy, the one I am reading now is The Treason of Dortrean and it is a good book. It is even signed "To Jo from Marcus" which is really nice to have. I was annoyed I couldn't read last night, but my eyes were streaming so badly I couldn't see. I am still suffering a bit today, but not nearly as much as I was. I thought I might not be able to bowl, but I should be OK by the afternoon. Because I thought we were going out for lunch, I just threw a few things in the crockpot for supper. Lots of veg and some stewing beef with appropriate seasonings. It wasn't bad, Matt enjoyed it, by then I would have enjoyed a plate of carboard as much. Here is another recipe from my Hot and Spicy Cookbook. We get catfish in this part of the world, if you don't get it where you live, I have no doubt you could substitute with other fish. Fried Catfish Fillets with Piquant Sauce Spicty fillets of catfish are fried in a herby batter and served with a wonderfully tasty sauce to create this excellent supper dish. Serves 4 1 egg 1/4 C olive oil squeeze of lemon juice 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh dill 4 catfish fillets (cod or haddock would be good) 1/2 C flour 2 Tbs butter salt and freshly ground black pepper For the sauce: 1 egg yolk 2 Tbs Dijon mustard 2 Tbs white wine vinegar 2 tsp paprika 1 1/4 C olive oil 2 Tbs prepared horseradish 1/2 tsp chopped garlic 1 celery stick, chopped 2 Tbs tomato ketchup 1/2 tsp ground black pepper 1/2 tsp salt. For the sauce, combine the egg yolk, mustard, vinegar and paprika in a mixing bowl. Add the oil in a thin stream, beating vigorously with a wire whisk to blnd in. When the mixture is smooth and thick, beat in all the other sauce ingredients. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Combine the egg, 1 tbs olive oil, the lemon juice, dill and a little salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Beat until well combined. Dip both sides of the fish in the egg and herb mixture, then coat lightly with flour, shaking off any excess. Heat the butter with the remaining olive oil in a large heavy based frying pan. Add the fish and fry until they are golden brown on both sides and cooked, for about 8-10 minutes. To test they are done, insert the point of a sharp knife into the fish - the flesh should be opaque in the centre. Serve the fried fish hot, accompanied by the piquant sauce in a dish. Have a great day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Titanic Survivor, Politics and Election Costs

Last night I caught a segment on the news about Millvina Dean, 95, who is the last surviving passenger from the Titanic. She is living in a nursing home in the UK which she can't afford, so she is selling off her mementos of the Titanic. Apparently she sailed with her mother, father and brother. Her father didn't survive and she was put in a sack because, being a baby, she was too small to go in a life belt. This has caught the attention of the world news so I imagine even if her artefacts don't raise money, someone will help her. There is a video here on CBC news if you would like to watch it. In fact, there are loads of articles on the net about it. The family seems to have been emigrating to either Canada or the States according to what I have read? They were travelling steerage (same as Leonardo di Caprio) so were extremely lucky to have survived, from what I understand there were more people in steerage who didn't survive than anywhere else in the ship. Money talked. Apparently Stéphane Dion, the leader of Canada's Liberal Party, is announcing on Monday that he will step down. Good. He may be a very able politician and all kinds of other things, I don't know but as a leader portrayed on the media, he did NOT come across very well at all. In fact to me he looked a total wimp. He has led the party to two defeats and it is time he stepped down. Charisma counts unfortunately, not ability. Something which has been discussed on Glenda Larke's blog, Tropic Temper. They were also talking about the cost of the recent election, something over $300 million dollars. This is the second election in a short space of time and the results were still no more positive. If it is costing us that much, what on earth does it cost in the States? Ours is all over in 5 weeks, the US has been politicking and campaigning for a year. I know the $300 mil is the cost of running the offices and polling stations, etc. nothing to do with the actual politicians of course. Isn't it great, less than 3 weeks to the US elections, peace for a couple of years. This is a recipe we haven't made in a while but is always a success. It came from Cooking Light - May 1995 Cool Chicken Salad Shells 12 uncooked jumbo macaroni shells 5 artichoke hearts from can 3 Tbs reduced fat mayonnaise 2 Tbs non fat Italian dressing 1/4 tsp onion powder 1 cup cooked chopped chicken breast, about 6 oz skinned and boned 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper 2 Tbs chopped ripe olives 6 fresh basil leaves. 1 Cook macaroni in boiling water for about 10 mins until tender. Drain and rinse under cold water, set aside. 2 Line each shell with basil leaf. Mix remaining ingredients and spoon evenly into shells. Servings: 4 Have a great weekend.