Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lumosity, Weather, Market, M& Ms,

I have been meaning to mention a site I have found where they have brain puzzles. I have at least three relative who had senile dementia at the end of their lives, one my grandmother so in the direct line and it is something I have been scared about for a long time. The site I have found is called Lumosity and they have all kinds of brain puzzles to improve your brain functions. You can try the site out free for a week and then you can join if you wish, either on a week by week basis or by the year. To reach their website click here and give their puzzles a try. However old you are, it is always worth stimulating your brain. The games are quite fun although one is math and as I have mentioned, I am a mathematical dummy. May still isn't really keeping her promises, we have had lots of rain over the last three days. A week or so ago I was wearing shorts, now I am back in long pants again. Come on already, I want lots of sunshine please. I think I am suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It seems to have been a very long winter and although spring has certainly sprung and there are lots of new leaves and green grass, we are short of sunny warm weather. Of course, in a week or two I will be complaining that it is too warm!!! OK, I am off to market this morning - will add a recipe to this later. Well, it is now about an hour later and I had no idea we would be in and out of the market so quickly. I mainly went for lamb's kidneys which you cannot buy anywhere else that I know of, there is a company, Charles' Meats, that specialise in lamb. I also bought some neck chops to make a hot pot which is something we love and again, I can't find that meat easily elsewhere. I was interested to see the asparagus was about the same price as Tim Barrie's although we saw red and yellow bell peppers at about $4 each. They sell practically everything at the market, however, I still miss the old market where they had places you could stop for a coffee and maybe a crêpe filled with paté or jam, or an Octoberfest sausage on a bun. I used to love watching the cooks making Black Forest Cakes, I think they brought the cakes in ready made, but they added fillings, icings and decorations at the market, used to be fascinating. Something I saw today was a pink loaf. I asked about it, it was just regular white bread with a die which people buy for fancy sandwiches etc. Wish I'd taken a picture now, I could have done with my new camera, didn't think of it at the time. I wanted to wander a bit more, but Matt didn't so we came home. On the way we stopped at M & M Meats and got some of their teriyaki marinated pork tenderloins and some more Chateaubriands. We were given a sample of some mini quiches. I liked the double cheese one, but not the spinach one, it was very bland. With our purchase we were given a free Chocolate Fudge Cake - I hadn't realised that was on just for today, Matt said it was the only reason we went there, ridiculous!!! Having talked about lamb's kidneys, here is a Spanish recipe for Riñones al Jerez pronounced 'rinyoness al hereth', or kidneys in sherry sauce which is one of our favourite ways to prepare lamb's kidneys unless we have a good old fry up for breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausages and kidneys etc. No - not baked beans - to me those are not a breakfast food. Riñones al Jerez Time Life Foods of the World Serves 6 5 Tbs olive oil 4 oz finely chopped onions 1 tsp finely chopped garlic 1 small bay leaf 1/2 oz flour 6 Tbs beef or chicken stock 2 Tbs finely chopped parsley 2 lb lamb's or calf kidneys, split lengthways in half, trimmed of all fat and cut into 1 inch cubes salt Freshly ground black pepper 6 Tbs pale dry sherry Heat 3 Tbs oil over a moderate heat in a medium sized frying pan until a light haze forms above it. Add the onions, garlic and bay leaf. Cook for about 5 mins., stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and transparent but not brown. Add the flour and mix thoroughly. Pour in the stock and stirring constantly, cook over a high heat until the mixture thickens heavily and comes to the boil. Add the parsley, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 3 minutes. Set aside. Heat the rest of the oil in a large frying pan. Sprinkle the kidneys liberally with salt and a few grindings of pepper. Then cook them in the hot oil for 4 or 5 mins. turning them about with a large spoon and regulating the heat so that they brown quickly on all sides without burning. Transfer the kidneys to a plate and pour the sherry into the pan. Bring to the boil over a high heat, meanwhile scraping in any brown particles clinging to the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the kidneys to the pan, stir in the reserved onion sauce and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer a minute or two. Taste for seasoning. Serve the kidneys at once, accompanied by saffron rice and garnished with strips of pimiento. Have a great day.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Spelling Bee, Twitter, Susan Boyle.

We watched the Spelling Bee finals last night, they really are incredible these young kids. However, there were some words I didn't figure should be included, Neufchatel and Caerphilly which are both cheeses and Reykjavik which is apparently not just the name of the capital but a word derived from it. We found a lot of the earlier words to be comparatively easy too and they didn't seem to have too much trouble either. I was also interested to see how many of the young competitors were of obviously Indian descent. I don't Twitter although it appears that more and more people do. However, someone is using the author, George R.R. Martin's name and twittering with it. George emphatically denies being on Twitter see here and it must be very annoying for him when someone uses his name. I have been enjoying his books over the years and am awaiting the next in series with baited breath. Oops, searching for info I have just discovered that there is a new book in his Songs of Ice and Fire series which I haven't yet read, A Dance with Dragons. Also just read an article about Susan Boyle, the singer from Britain's Got Talent, sounds like she is reacting to the pressure of fame and perhaps not handling it too well. She even packed her bags and considered going home. I can't say I blame her - media pressure killed a princess!! There seems to be some doubt about whether she will win as there are two other acts which are very good. One a young boy singer and another a father and son act. I had to share this with you, it was in Karen Miller's blog this morning and I thought it was so funny. In one of my ezines I receive, Desserts du Jour, they had a dessert yesterday which really caught my eye and I will be trying for my very next dinner party. Orange Meringue Puddings 2 Tbs unsalted butter Zest of 1 orange 2 cups fresh orange juice 1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 cup cornstarch 1/4 tsp salt 3 large egg yolks 3 egg whites 1 Preheat oven to 425F. In a medium saucepan over low heat melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, then whisk in the zest of 1 orange, 2 cups fresh orange juice, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup corn-starch, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 3 large egg yolks. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour into 4 ramekins or custard cups. 2 In a bowl, beat 3 egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar until the sugar dissolves and stiff, glossy peaks form. Spread the meringue over the puddings. Bake until the meringue is browned, about 10 minutes. Set the puddings in a pan of ice water to cool, then refrigerate 1 hour or until cold. Servings: 4 Don't they sound delicious? Right, I am off to make what Matt, so rudely, calls meat pies. Tourtières sounds so much better. Have a great day.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Books, Cameras, Berry Season

I just finished The Accidental Sorcerer by K.E. Mills otherwise known as Karen Miller (see Blog link this page). It is the first book in her Rogue Agent Series. Very different from the last series I wrote and quite light hearted in many ways. I was surprised at a lot of the Englishness (is that a word) of one of the characters and wondered if Australians use more English phrases than I realised, I then discovered that Karen worked in the UK for a while which would explain her familiarity with English slang. The Anglicised character is a bird, no-one tells you what kind of a bird exactly, just a bird, who is an ex Queen and an ex witch and who was enscorcelled many years ago to become Reg the bird with a mouth on her. The basic story is about a young third grade wizard who is bumbling along somewhat unsuccessfully and ends up discovering he actually has a lot more power than anyone realised. Reg, the bird, is his companion - familiar maybe. I enjoyed the story and am looking forward to getting hold of Witches Incorporated which is the next in the series. Now I am back onto Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars books, I have just started volume 6 In the Ruins and then have one more to read, Crown of Stars. I wasn't all that enamoured of the first book, although I liked the story enough that it kept me reading. I have found the books have improved as they went along although I always have trouble with books which have lots of different groups or characters all doing different things so that one jumps from one to the other all the time. You are just settling down to the activities of one character, and poof, you are onto another person. But if you are telling a story about a wide ranging world of characters, I guess it can't be avoided. Although I did read one series, can't remember what it was now, where each book was written from the POV of a different character and told the whole of their story, then the next book went on to another character. It was well done and it worked. My miniature camera arrived yesterday, it really is pretty small and fits into my 'wallet on a string' beautifully. I have stopped carrying huge handbags any more, I must say I like not having to wonder what to do with my bag when I am shopping or something. The camera came with a docking station which I don't think I will bother with. I took a couple of pictures of Matt but as he never smiles when I take a picture, I haven't bothered to keep them. The weather is rainy and dull at the moment, so I don't want to take pix outside. Matt can't understand why I need it, but I am fed up with not remembering to take a camera with me when I go to various functions, places, etc. Now I can have it with me all the time. My regular camera will be used on vacations, in particular, after all it can take video, this miniature one can't. Well, its shopping day, so I had better get cracking. I am planning to buy some more ingredients for Tourtières - we already have the ground beef and pork so I need veal. I think tomorrow will be a cooking day, I may well do steak and kidney pies too whilst I am at it, I have the ingredients for that except for pie shells. Strawberry season is well on its way in some parts of North America and will soon be under way here. Here is a recipe from Eating Well for a strawberry dish - it uses black pepper. The first time I tried black pepper on strawberries was in a recipe by Graham Kerr called South Australian Strawberry Pie. It was delicious and a sprinkling of black pepper really enhances the flavour of the berries. Strawberry-Black Pepper Tart for Two Makes 2 servings Crust for Two (recipe follows) All-purpose flour for dusting 1 ½ cups sliced strawberries 4 teaspoons sugar 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon cornstarch ½ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper Pinch of salt 1. Preheat oven to 375°F. 2. Prepare Crust for Two. 3. Place parchment paper or a silicone baking mat on a work surface, dust with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Dust the dough with flour and roll into a rough 9-inch circle, dusting with flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Transfer paper or mat and the crust to a baking sheet. 4. Toss strawberries with sugar, 1 teaspoon flour, cornstarch, pepper and salt in a medium bowl. Mound the strawberry mixture in the center of the crust, leaving about a 2-inch border around the outside. Pick up the edges of the crust using a spatula and fold over the berries. (The crust will not meet in the center.) 5. Bake the tart until the crust is lightly browned and the filling is bubbling, 40 to 42 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes before serving. Look for whole-wheat pastry flour in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets and natural-foods stores. Crust for Two Makes 2 servings ¼ cup whole-wheat pastry flour (see Sources) ¼ cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon sugar ⅛ teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 chunks 1 tablespoon canola or walnut oil ¼ teaspoon distilled white vinegar 1-2 tablespoons cold water Mix whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or fork until it is smaller than peas. Stir in oil and vinegar. Mix in enough water so the dough is evenly moist and a little crumbly but not wet. Gather the dough into a ball, then pat it into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Let stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes before rolling. White whole-wheat flour, made from a special variety of white wheat, is light in color and flavor but has the same nutritional properties as regular whole-wheat flour. Have a great day.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Breast Milk, Wedding Dress, Hispanic Judge, Hispanic Movie

Interesting article on GMA this morning about a father, Tim Browne, in England drinking his daughter's breast milk in order to help cure his cancer. I hasten to add she fed the baby first and then saved the rest for her father. This is unproved as a cure or even as an assist for cancer, but the father swears it made him better even if he wasn't totally cured. There may have been a placebo effect of course because he believed in it strongly enough. If you would like to read the article click here where there is also a video clip. Apparently Tim Browne did not like the taste, but when his wife put it on cornflakes and mixed it with regular cow's milk, it was OK. A doctor interviewed on the programme said she thought the curative benefits were unlikely for adults although a mother does pass all kinds of curative benefits to the child and breast fed children have less incidences of cancer amongst other things. I was surprised to find out there are breast milk banks in the States, I am assuming for those babies who's mother's can't feed them for one reason or another. Planning to get married in the near future? They had a segment on wedding dresses. I personally have always thought paying thousands of dollars for a dress you are going to wear for a few hours is ridiculous. A dressmaker made my dress and I think it cost me £20 at the time. Becky Worley spent a fair bit of time visiting all kinds of thrift stores looking at dresses and found lots of wonderful bargains. $3,000 dresses for less than $300 or even dresses for $20. Many had not been properly cleaned although most stains can be removed by proper cleaning, it is worth reading the article if you or someone you know is looking for a dress click here its certainly what I would do. A number of years ago a friend of mine did just that, in this case it was a dress to be married in rather than a white wedding dress, but she bought a designer dress from a thrift store which cost her pennies on the dollar and looked absolutely wonderful. I must admit I am not a good dress shopper and the few times I have ever ventured into a thrift store, I am overwhelmed by the "stuff" and have never managed to find anything in my size anyway. There is a lot of criticism this morning regarding Obama's choice of a new Federal appeals judge Sonya Sotomayer because she is Hispanic in origin. In other words a minority. If being black makes you an African American, does being Hispanic make you a Spanish American? That is something that really annoys me, surely if you are born in the US of A you are American and that's it. I know Whoopi Goldberg agrees with me. Anyway, a lot of people are very unhappy about Sotomayor's appointment apparently. I wonder how long that will take to die down. I don't pretend to know a lot about it, but it seems to me that it just shows what minority groups can do if they pursue their education and don't drop out of school. Talking of which, we saw the movie Stand and Deliver last night, an old film, but it was about a teacher, Jaime Escalante, who first persuaded them to stay in class, and then taught his barrio students, all with Hispanic names, calculus and got every single one of them through their exams. Unfortunately, the examination board accused the kids of cheating and finally they all took another test and got through with flying colours a second time. In subsequent years he got dozens of students through, more and more each year. I could have used a teacher like that, I can't add 2 and 2 let alone do calculus. Actually I did have a teacher like that who began to get through to my non mathematical brain and then for financial reasons I had to leave the school. Great pity for me. Yesterday afternoon Matt was watching, as so often, Giada di Laurentiis and her new show Giada at Home. He called me when he discovered she was going to do the following dish. I promptly got the recipe and here it is. Grilled Asparagus and Melon Salad 2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto 1 lb asparagus, trimmed 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice 1/4 small melon (about 12 ounces), peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes 4 oz fresh mozzarella or burrata cheese, cut into 3/4-inch cubes 2 Tbs pine nuts, toasted* * 1 Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 2 Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the prosciutto in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Chop the prosciutto into 1/4-inch pieces. 3 Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. In a medium bowl, toss together the asparagus and 2 teaspoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes each side until crisp-tender. 4 In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the melon and mozzarella cheese and toss until all ingredients are combined. 5 Arrange the asparagus on a platter. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the melon and burrata cheese on top of the asparagus. Drizzle any remaining vinaigrette over the top. Sprinkle the prosciutto and pine nuts on top and serve. Servings: 4 ** To toast pine nuts, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 8 to 12 minutes until lightly browned. Have a great day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Susan Boyle, N. Korea, Pay Day Loans

Good Morning America is delightedly reporting on the closure of Times Square to traffic. Great for them, not sure about the drivers. They do a lot of reporting outside anyway, now they have a bigger area for their audience. They are also thrilled with the latest performance by Susan Boyle. She started somewhat shakily, but ended up singing Memory absolutely beautifully. Susan Boyle in the semi-finals.

There is a lot of worry in North America at the moment because of North Korea's testing of nuclear weapons and missiles. They are totally ignoring calls from world leaders asking them to stand down. Where will this end I wonder. I naively thought the people of the world had realised the horrors of nuclear wars and stopped testing such things. Maybe I need to take off my rose tinted glasses.

This week at our apartment, not only did they turn off the water yesterday and several people got caught I gather, but they are also cleaning out the underground garage which means we have to go down early to remove the car and then put it back in the evening for three days running. We have found that parking spot to be a godsend, especially in the winter. After Matt slipped and ended up with a spinal injury, we prefer to pay for the garage rather than risk something similar happening again. Talking of paying for things, there was a segment on GMA about people having to borrow money when things like car repairs necessitated it. Apparently the companies who advance pay day loans (in the States anyway) charge 800% interest and its legal!!! There is an article and video at this site detailing how people can get on this vicious cycle and then how it is almost impossible for them to get off.

I mentioned that we are going in for a bowling tournament in New Hamburg next week. I think we may be wasting our money, we are both of us in a very bad bowling cycle at the moment. Matt is totally fed up with his bowling and I am not feeling much better. Very frustrating. Oh well, keep your fingers crossed for us next Wednesday. Maybe we will surprised ourselves. Mock Risotto Eating Well Makes 4 servings, 1 1/2 cups each 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 1 medium onion, diced ¼ teaspoon salt 2 cups instant brown rice 4 cloves garlic, chopped 2 ½ cups vegetable or reduced-sodium chicken broth 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into ¼-inch pieces 1 red bell pepper, finely diced 1 cup frozen peas, thawed 4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel) ½ cup grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese, plus more for passing, if desired ¼ cup minced chives or scallion greens eating well Mock Risotto Ingredients Cont. 1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and salt and cook, stirring often, until soft and just beginning to brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Add rice and garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. 2. Remove cover and spread asparagus and bell pepper on top of the simmering rice do not stir into the rice mixture. Replace cover and continue simmering, adjusting the heat if necessary, until the liquid is almost absorbed and the asparagus is bright green but still crisp, about 5 minutes. 3. Add peas and cream cheese; stir until the mixture is creamy and the cheese is incorporated. Return to a simmer and continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated and the asparagus is tender, about 5 minutes more. Stir in 1/2 cup Asiago (or Parmesan). Serve topped with chives (or scallions) and additional grated cheese.

Have a great day.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Time Passes, Books,

Unfortunately yesterday, we lost a very good friend of long standing. When I was talking some time ago about our one and only cruise, he and his wife were the people who were with us. Now, sadly they have both gone. It is, for us, the end of an era with our friends who came from Blowing Rock in North Carolina and who moved to the coast where we met them. In recent years, we have lost eight of these friends from the mountains. These were all people who took us to their hearts and made us feel part of their family. RIP every one of you. I won't be writing a lot this morning as the super is turning off the water soon so I have to get myself showered before they do so. We only found out by accident - there is a notice, I am not sure when it was put up, but we didn't go anywhere this weekend so didn't see it. Could have been a problem for us. I haven't mentioned reading lately, I have been working my way through Kate Elliott's books The Crown of Stars, but last week J.D. Robb's Promises in Death became available, so I whipped through that at the weekend. Enjoyed it as usual. With these books I love the 'back story' as much as anything, knowing the characters and watching them develop through each book. Here's a different way of using asparagus. Its from the Asparagus Growers' Marketing Board. Asparagus and Ham Brunch Bread
2 lbs (1 kg) Ontario asparagus
3 cups (750 mL) biscuit mix
1 tsp (5 mL) dried tarragon
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each dry mustard and pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) milk
1 cup (250 mL) diced Black Forest ham (about 4oz/125 g)
1 onion, diced
1 cup (250 mL) grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Break asparagus stalks where they snap easily; discard ends or reserve for soup. Set asparagus aside. In large bowl, combine biscuit mix, tarragon, mustard and pepper. In another bowl, beat eggs with milk; pour over dry mixture and stir until smooth (batter will be thin). Spread half the batter in greased 13 x 9-inch cake pan. Arrange half the asparagus in a single layer on batter. Sprinkle with half the onion and half the Parmesan. Spread remaining batter over top. Arrange remaining asparagus over batter; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Bake in 375º F (190º C) oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let stand in pan on rack for 20 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature.

Prep time: 15 minutes, 35 to 40 minutes cooking time

Yield: 6 servings

Right, off the the shower. Have a great day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mandarin, Tournament, Ribs

Well I ate Chinese food like a starving child yesterday, funnily enough I didn't end up feeling stuffed to the gills as one often does with Chinese food, possibly because we were chatting between servings as it were so I wasn't up and down filling my plate at speed. Me, being me, started with Hot and Sour Soup, yummy. Then I had some salmon and some mussels which wasn't particularly Chinese but quite delicious nevertheless. From there I went into the noodles, beef dishes, chicken dishes etc. I also ate Tempura veggies (no I know, not Chinese, but there) I then decided to go to the sushi counter and tried some - original - sweet potato sushi? Different. Finally I ended up with rice pudding and crème caramel and a tiny carrot cake (not great that one). The picture shows their dessert buffet. One of our friends had found some chicken dumplings so I grabbed a small plate and put some on it before I ate dessert. They were delicious. Where they were served, I saw a couple of other things I'd like to try so I will remember next time, I don't usually go to that counter as its amongst the roast beef and pizza and I didn't realise there was anything else there. They did want proof of our age, I'm surprised but maybe they figure they have been conned a couple of times. I don't think there is a lot of doubt about Matt and I. There is a kind of competition taking place - they issue with passports and you have to get 5 stamps on a page and then hand it in. There is more than one stamp page in the passport. The prize is a trip for 2 to Japan. Wouldn't that be nice? Yesterday I received the registration for us to bowl in competition in New Hamburg for the Wilmot Senior Games. We are bowling at 9:30 a.m. which means getting up real early as I imagine we have to be there at 9 and its a fair drive away. I am trying to persuade Matt that we should go to the Waterlot in New Hamburg for dinner and stay the night there. At the moment its not working. If you would like to check them out click here their food is excellent. We've never stayed there, so don't know about the rest of it. Its quite close to the alley, one could almost walk. Dumb thing on GMA Weekend, I thought; one of their people has been checking barbecued ribs around the country and had brought back four finalists. I must admit they looked pretty good. There is a video on their page here which will show you the selections. However, they asked the TV audience to vote on the ribs. How on earth can we, we haven't tried them. I have no doubt thousands of people voted. That is one thing I have never cooked as Matt doesn't like chewing bones. However, he did try some ribs a friend cooked which he discovered had a lot of meat on them, so he enjoyed them more. So long as he can pull the meat off with a knife and fork, he hates to eat with his fingers!!! Now me, I get stuck right in there. We went to Tim Barrie's Asparagus farm yesterday for my weekly fix of asparagus. I am buying a $7 bag full this year which seems to last me about a week, Matt doesn't eat it daily like I do during the season. Tim gave me yet another raw stalk to try, I had never realised how delicious they are raw. I went to Eating Well again for the following recipe. Shrimp, Asparagus & Pesto Pasta Makes 6 servings, 1 1/2 cups each 8 ounces whole-wheat fettuccine 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups) ½ cup sliced jarred roasted red peppers ¼ cup prepared pesto 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 pound raw shrimp (21-25 per pound), peeled and deveined 1 cup dry white wine Freshly ground pepper to taste 1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add fettuccine and cook for 3 minutes less than the package directions specify. Add asparagus and continue cooking until the pasta and asparagus are just tender, about 3 minutes more. Reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water, drain the fettuccine and asparagus and return to the pot. Stir in peppers and pesto. Cover to keep warm. 2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until pink, about 3 minutes. Add wine, increase heat to high and continue cooking until the shrimp are curled and the wine is reduced, about 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and the reserved cooking water to the pasta; toss to coat. Season with pepper and serve immediately. Have a great weekend and, to those of you in the US, have a great Memorial Day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mandarin, Pandas, Webcams,

Today we are joining some friends for a Chinese lunch at the Mandarin. When I first went there, I didn't realise it was a chain restaurant, but nevertheless it is very good and certainly a cut above a lot of chains. Their hot and sour soup is to die for, probably one of the best I have tasted and I have tasted a lot I assure you. However, everything else is good too, they have an excellent selection of Chinese dishes, they also have sushi and pizza and for those who don't like different cuisines, Western food. Personally I wouldn't go there for non Chinese cuisine, but I guess if your party wants Chinese and you don't, then at least you can eat something. They do a special price for seniors and to date I have never been asked for proof of my age, but apparently last time our friends went, they were asked so if I am not asked today, I shall be grossly insulted *g*. There was a segment on the news today about the Pandas in the National Zoo in Washington, DC - unfortunately their lease has run out. Apparently they were rented from China for 10 years for $10 million. Lot of money. They are now in the middle of sensitive negotiations to retain the animals for a longer period. Not sure, but I guess if the ma and pa go, then baby goes too although the baby, Tai Shan (not such a baby any more) having been born in D.C., is an American citizen surely? I cannot believe it is good for the animals to be shipped around the world like that, however, if negotiations break down, then I guess there is no option. There is a Panda cam on this site as well as what looks to be a daily Panda blog. You can definitely see the Pandas moving around, I got a tad distracted this morning watching them. I have always enjoyed webcams, particularly animal cams, but in the early days I was fascinated to watch pictures of a tanker going through the Panama Canal. This was done in a series of still photos. I just checked and there is an accelerated Panama webcam here which shows a heck of a lot of traffic going through the locks. In fact there seem to be a lot of web cams showing either the Milleflores Locks or the canal itself. I guess there will be no hopping off the boat at the lock and tying it up. Used to be one of my jobs as a youngster, paying out the rope, or hauling it in, depending on whether they were emptying or filling the lock. I have had a Chinese flavour in most of this blog today, so I figured a recipe with a Chinese flavour would be appropriate. Wok-Seared Chicken Tenders with Asparagus & Pistachios Source: Eating Well Makes 4 servings, about 1 1/4 cups each 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil 1 ½ pounds fresh asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces 1 pound chicken tenders (see Ingredient Note), cut into bite-size pieces 4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger 1 tablespoon oyster-flavored sauce 1 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce (see Ingredient Note) ¼ cup shelled salted pistachios, coarsely chopped Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add asparagus; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add chicken; cook, stirring, for 4 minutes. Stir in scallions, ginger, oyster sauce and chile-garlic sauce; cook, stirring, until the chicken is juicy and just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes more. Stir in pistachios and serve immediately. Ingredient Notes: Chicken tenders, virtually fat-free, are a strip of rib meat typically found attached to the underside of the chicken breast, but they can also be purchased separately. Four 1-ounce tenders will yield a 3-ounce cooked portion. Tenders are perfect for quick stir-fries, chicken satay or kid-friendly breaded "chicken fingers." Chile-garlic sauce is a blend of ground red chiles, garlic and vinegar and is commonly used to add heat and flavor to Asian soups, sauces and stir-fries. It can be found in the Asian-food section of large supermarkets. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 year. Have a great day.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Spring, Child Witches,

A couple of pictures I took yesterday, one of a pot of geraniums hanging on our balcony and another of the blossom outside our window. I also took a picture of the dandelions swathed across the parkland, but it seems to have disappeared although I took a video as well which I do have. The park is Heritage Park although Heritage Rd. is not close to it, go figure. As you can tell, it was a beautiful day yesterday although somewhat cool and windy. Today it is supposed to be warmer. Ve shall see.

A very disturbing story out of the Congo this morning about children being accused of being witches and then mistreated, abused, or even murdered. The pastors making the accusations frequently ask a lot of money for an exorcism. To read about this and see the video click here and see how some of these children are being kicked out onto the streets because they are witches. This is all being done in the name of Jesus. When GMA brought it up to the Congolese government they said if the child has brown eyes and a big belly it is probably a witch. What a terrible abuse of power. In the video it showed two gorgeous young boys who were accused, their eyes show confusion and fear. Poor little souls and their parents are too primitive in their upbringing to refute the accusations and actually pay the priests for the exorcisms. Unicef is, apparently, working on the problem, but it is a big one. This picture, by the way, shows a child witch!!!!!

Raiding the Ontario Asparagus Grower's Website again I chose this recipe which I think I will be making fairly soon, it sounds delicious and fairly easy to do. Bit low on asparagus at the moment so I will have to make a trip to Barrie's Asparagus Farm.

Asparagus Strudel
Ontario Asparagus Grower's

12 oz (375 g) Ontario asparagus, trimmed
1 tbsp (15 mL) canola oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz (90 g) Swiss cheese, shredded
1/4 cup (50 mL) sour cream
 salt and pepper
1/4 cup (50 mL) dry bread crumbs
1 tbsp (15 mL) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 sheets phyllo pastry
1/2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, melted

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

2 large roasted red peppers, seeded and peeled
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh basil


Cut asparagus into 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) pieces; steam or simmer just until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Place in large bowl. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat; cook shallots and garlic until softened, about 3 minutes. Cool slightly. Add to bowl. Add cheese, sour cream and salt and pepper to taste to bowl; mix well.
In small bowl, combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350º F (180º C). Lightly grease baking sheet. Place one sheet of phyllo on clean work surface with long side closest to you, keeping remaining sheets covered with waxed paper and damp tea towel. Brush with melted butter; sprinkle with about 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the bread crumb mixture. Cover with another sheet of phyllo, butter and bread crumbs. Top with third sheet of phyllo; butter sheet. Cut in half crosswise to make 2 stacks. Place one-quarter of the filling along one short end of stack, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) uncovered at each end. Roll phyllo up and over filling to completely enclose it. Fold long ends over toward filling; continue rolling strudel. Brush all over with butter. Transfer to prepared baking sheet; brush with butter.

Repeat with remaining stack. Make 2 more strudels with remaining ingredients. (The strudels may be prepared to this point and frozen for up to 1 month; bake frozen.) Bake strudels for 30 to 35 minutes or until filling is heated through and pastry is golden brown.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:

In food processor or blender, combine red peppers, basil and 1/4 cup (50 mL) of the vinegar; process until smooth. Taste and add more vinegar if desired. Pour into small saucepan and bring to simmer over low heat. Serve under or beside strudels.

Yield: Serves 4

 Have a great day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lolcats, Pet Doors, The Link

funny pictures of cats with captions see more Lolcats and funny pictures I couldn't resist adding this. Karen Miller (Karen's Musings see link this page) often adds Lolcat pictures to her site and I was looking at some of them on the website and thought this was hilarious. I was talking about the dangers of Doggie Doors the other day, I must admit I hadn't thought of this one. A woman in Maryland came home one day to find she had a visitor on her couch curled up next to her Beagle. What a gorgeous little critter. Have you heard about Ida The Link? She is a 47 million yr. old primate fossil which was discovered in Germany and, incredibly, has opposable thumbs which is something not seen on later specimens. If you would like to read more about her click here to see the GMA article. Another incredible thing is that she has fingernails, not claws. They figure she broke her wrist and was unable to climb trees and that is why she died. Absolutely fascinating. Watched Giada di Laurentiis on TV yesterday, she cooked some good stuff as usual, but one which really appealed to me, was a tomato tart. She made it with Heirloom Tomatoes which she says are the best, like old fashioned tomatoes with a wonderful flavour. Now I am going to be on a hunt to see if anyone in our area grows Heirloom tomatoes. If not, I will use the best I can find, but I will probably season the tomatoes before I use them and if necessary add a sprinkling of sugar to improve the taste. Heirloom Tomato and Basil Tart Crust: 1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crust (recommended: Pillsbury) Basil Pesto (see below) 2 med (12 ounces) heirloom or 4 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/8-inch thick slices 2 Tbs thinly sliced fresh basil leaves Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling Kosher salt Freshly ground pepper 1 Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the pie crust on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes until lightly golden. Cool for 20 minutes. 2 Using a spatula, spread the pesto over the cooled crust. Arrange the tomato slices on top of the pesto and garnish with the sliced basil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Cut the tart into wedges and serve. Servings: 4 Cooking time: 7 minutes Source: Giada Di Laurentiis Cook's Notes: To toast pine nuts, place on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 8 to 10 minutes in a preheated 350 degree F oven until lightly browned. For those of you who do not have a basil pesto recipe, here is the one I use, you will see above that Giada tells you how to toast pine nuts, my recipe tells you a different method - either method is perfectly acceptable. Classic Basil Pesto 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted 2 cups fresh basil leaves 2 cloves garlic 1/2 tsp salt 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese 1 In a small skillet set over medium-low heat, toss the pine nuts with about 1 tbsp of olive oil, stirring constantly just until they begin to turn golden, about five minutes. Be careful not to let the pine nuts burn. 2 Transfer the toasted pine nuts to the container of a food processor or blender and add the remaining olive oil, basil leaves, garlic and salt. Blend until almost (but not entirely) smooth, scraping down the sides of the container once or twice so that it blends evenly. 3 Add the parmesan cheese and process just to mix. Have a great day.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Vowels, Job Fair, Bowling,

It appears that I wasn't correct when I stated emphatically that y is not a vowel. A teacher friend went to the trouble of checking it out in the dictionary and it seems that it can be considered a vowel (read yesterday's comments if you haven't already). My bad. But certainly when I was a kid, y was not classified as a vowel according to my teachers - and who do you believe as a youngster? This morning GMA are running a job fair in Chicago. Needless to say, there are thousands looking for work. I believe the jobless rate is running around 15% at the moment. I was surprised there was one woman of 67 looking for work and she found some too. I am not fully au fait with the pension support offered to Americans, I know there is one government pension which kicks in around 62 yrs. old, but it isn't enough to live on. Beyond that I don't know. I just tried to google and it looks like it would take quite a while to figure out what kind of government pensions are available. This woman may just feel she wants to work anyway, but I hope at 67 she doesn't feel she has to. Nowadays there are a lot more older people in the work force. Quality of life and life expectancy have improved considerably and older people who are in good health are not likely to want to have to sit around for 30 or 40 years just waiting to die and they may not be in a financial position to do a lot of travelling or pursue expensive hobbies so, what do they want to do, go back to work (or stay there)? Some companies tend to fire older people, I remember years ago Du Pont in the UK laid off every employee over 50. A friend of mine was still working there (we had both joined the company together when we were 20) and was one of the one's laid off. As she pointed out, Du Pont had disposed of hundreds of years of experience and knowledge. Seemed somewhat short sighted to me. Maybe those kinds of policies have been changed. Bowling - ha! Two pretty lousy games and one good one. I wondered why I went. Matt didn't even have the consolation of one good game. However, he beat one of the top bowlers in the last game - he too had a lousy game. It happens to the best bowlers. Lets hope it will be better next week. For some reason we play a team game in the summer league but not in the winter league. I prefer it. Adds interest to the game. Yesterday, our team leader was holding up the rest of us who were bowling so badly (well one player was missing). At least I pulled my weight in the last game. Its amazing really that some of us can bowl at all. There are one or two who get up to the foul line and then bowl without moving. There are others who are still fit enough to take a run up and slide. I couldn't do that when I was younger, let alone now, the slide that is. Here's another recipe using asparagus. Sole is not something we see round here a lot but any nice white fish which isn't too thick to roll will work. Sole with Asparagus 1 lb Asparagus 1 lb Sole fillets (4 pieces approximately the same size) 1/4 tsp Salt 1/2 tsp Grated lemon or lime peel 4 Tbs Lemon or lime juice, freshly squeezed 1/8 tsp Black pepper 1 Tbs Chives, finely chopped 1 tsp Your favorite mildly flavored mustard 1 Cut asparagus into 3 inch lengths. Cook in 2-quart saucepan in lightly salted water for 5 minutes, drain. Set aside. 2 Season the skin side of the sole fillets with salt and lemon or lime peel. 3 Place asparagus spears at one end of each fillet. 4 Roll up fillets with asparagus spears inside and secure with plain round toothpicks. 5 Place in a 2-quart oven-save casserole dish liberally sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. 6 In a small bowl combine remaining ingredients and pour over fish. 7 Bake in a 400° oven for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily. 8 Baste fish every 7 minutes. Servings: 4 Source: Produce for Better Health Have a great day.