Friday, February 28, 2014

Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Margaret Ullrich

We’ve been living in Winnipeg for 39 years!
Some good years, some bad years, some so-so years.
We’ve also survived 39 Winnipeg summers and winters.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

This February will probably have a mean temperature around -20 C.
We’ve actually seen worse.
In 1979 February had an average temperature of -22.0 C.
We also had a mean temperature of -19.4 C in February, 2003.
That was 24 years later, but just eleven years ago… hmmm.

The projected winter average for 2013 - 14 is -20.2 C.
I almost said this has been the coldest winter we’ve ever seen in Winnipeg.
Nope.  Winter in our first house in Winnipeg, in 1978 - 79, was colder at -20.8 C.
Before that, the coldest winter was 29 years earlier, in 1949 - 50 at -19.8 C.
Crap… the gaps between nasty winters ARE getting shorter.


Some native Winnipeggers like to brag about surviving harsh winters.
Not me.  I’m not a native and I’m all wintered out.

Moving to Winnipeg in 1975 seemed like a good idea at the time.
Last year I posted about when we moved to Winnipeg from Surrey, British Columbia.
All it took was four fun-filled days:

Last year I also wrote about our first apartment in Winnipeg.
It was a two room walk up, with a shared bathroom.
Hard to believe it held everything we owned.
Still, it was once our home, as was our apartment in Surrey.

In life, a person will come and go from many homes. We may leave a house, a town, a room, but that does not mean those places leave us. Once entered, we never entirely depart the homes we make for ourselves in the world. They follow us, like shadows, until we come upon them again, waiting for us in the mist. 
Ari Berk, Death Watch 


As it’s been too cold to do much walking about, I’ve been tossing out stuff.
Another whole cart of recyclables is ready to go next week.
Let’s just say I’ve still got that feng shui fever.
At this rate, I’ll be down to just enough stuff for another two room apartment.

But, if the winters keep getting colder, I wonder if that apartment will be in Winnipeg.


About tonight’s new moon in Pisces...
According to the folks at astrology.com:
You may not know if you're coming or going as a new lunar phase begins in the midst of several planets changing direction. 
Should you invest in your goals? Yes! 
Should you expect results right away? No! 
Your best course of action is to simplify your schedule for the next couple of weeks. Listen to music, walk in nature, or write in your journal. 

Also… tonight Mercury turns direct
Now it's time to incorporate everything you've learned this month! 
Hopefully you've informed yourself of all your options. 
Ordinarily, this would be an ideal time to get your revamped ideas out into the world, but since Mars turns retrograde on March 1, it will be difficult to get your plans in motion now. 

Yeah, right, walk in nature… When skin freezes in 2 minutes?  I don’t think so.
Maybe I’ll just toss out some more stuff.
Less stuff would make it easier to move to someplace warmer.

Get my plans in motion.  Sure…  If I had a plan. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Anna Sultana's Easy Meatloaf, Maltese Style


I recently gave the recipe for Carmela’s meatloaf - Polpettone.  
If you missed them, they’re meatloaves with a surprise hard cooked egg filling.
A sort of beefy twinkie.

Yes. they are a bit of a hassle to make.
Some might even say life is too short to wrap meat around an egg.
And it might get even shorter with eating extra eggs.
No problem. 
You can make meatloaf without the hard cooked eggs.
Not as pretty, but, still family dinner good.

Hint:

You can also shape the meat into a loaf and place it on a baking sheet.
Since the oven will be on for such a long time, serve with baked squash.
Wouldn’t hurt to make a cake, too.


                        Easy Meatloaf 

Serves 6 

Place in a large bowl
3 slices white bread, torn into very small pieces
1 1/2 pound ground beef  
1 Cup tomato juice or milk
1/2 Cup finely chopped onions
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350º 
Place the mixture in a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
Bake uncovered for 1 1/2 hours.
To be on the safe side, the internal temperature should reach 155º

Remove from oven.
Let cool 10 minutes and drain off excess fat before slicing. 

The leftovers are also good in a sandwich.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Grilled Meatball and Sausage Skewers


I first mentioned Grilled Meatball and Sausage Skewers in Autumn 2010.
Back in my carefree with the details era.
It's your basic shish kebob.
Still, some folks like measurements.

The recipe is in the Adult Birthday Parties chapter in Entertaining with The Sopranos.
If the winter weather is getting to you, have a barbecue.
Well, no not really.
But you could prepare this, along with a salad, and pretend.
And it’s a handy recipe to have in the summer

Again with the ground sirloin!  

Hint:



                        Grilled Meatball and Sausage Skewers

Serves 8

Soak 8 long bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.

Have on hand
16 bay leaves

Cut each into 8 wedges
2 medium red onions

Cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound hot or sweet Italian-style pork sausages

Thoroughly soak in a large bowl 
1/2 Cup plain dry bread crumbs
in 
1/2 Cup water
Add
1 pound ground beef sirloin
1/2 Cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
1/4 Cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 large egg, beaten
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
Mix well with your hands.
Rinse your hands with cool water.
Shape the mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs.

Alternate the onions, meatballs, bay leaves and sausages pieces on the skewers.
Cover and chill the prepared skewers 30 minutes to allow the meatballs to firm up.

Prepare a medium hot charcoal fire or preheat the broiler.
Brush the grill rack with
olive oil
Place the grill rack 4 inches from the heat.
Place the skewers on the grill rack or the broiler pan.
Grill about 6 minutes.
Carefully turn the skewers and grill about 5 minutes more.
Serve hot.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Veal and Pepper Heroes

With Carmela’s recipes, as with most things in life, you win a few and lose a few.
Mozzarella in Carozza was a bit of a hassle.
It’s in the Small Events for Men Only chapter in Entertaining with The Sopranos

Yeah, well, this recipe also presents a few problems.
Veal can be hard to find.
And asking for it can give a butcher hysterics in some grocery stores.
Veal?  Neither of my local supermarkets carries veal.
They carry 5 kinds of hamburger.

Don’t get me wrong.
The stores in my neighbourhood do try.
For example, there’s our local Liquor Mart.
They try to have something for everybody.
And they go way beyond mere bilingualism.

Back to the veal…
I’ve made a habit of substituting chicken breasts for veal.
And who doesn't have chicken in the freezer?
Especially from stocking up when it was on sale.


                              Veal and Pepper Heroes 

Serves 6

Trim and cut into 3 x 1 x 1/2 inch strips
1 1/4 pounds boneless veal shoulder

Core, seed and cut into 1/2 inch wide strips
3 large bell peppers
2 red peppers

Halve and thinly slice
1 large onion

Heat in a large heavy saucepan over medium high heat
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Add the veal and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned.
Sprinkle with
salt and black pepper
Remove the veal to a plate.

Pour into the large heavy saucepan
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Add the peppers.
Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the onions.
Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
Sprinkle with
salt and black pepper
Remove the peppers and onions to a plate.

Add
28 ounce can Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of crushed red pepper
Stir well and season to taste with 
salt and black pepper

Return the veal to the skillet and bring to a simmer.
Turn the heat to low, partially cover the pan and simmer 40 minutes.
If the sauce becomes too dry add a little water.
Stir in the peppers and onions and cook 5 minutes.
Season to taste.

Open and pull out some of the soft bread of
6 crusty hero rolls
Fill the rolls with the veal and vegetables.
Serve hot.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Mozzarella in Carozza / Toasted Mozzarella Sandwiches

A grilled cheese sandwich.
What could be simpler.
You’d think that, wouldn’t you.
Wait till you see what Carmela does to it.

Carmela recipe for Mozzarella in Carozza is in the chapter Small Events for Women Only in Entertaining with the Sopranos.
Carmela uses mozzarella.
No problem there.
Mozzarella is easy to find.
It’s Carmela’s extra touches that make this sandwich formal dinner quality.

There’s a sauce, so don’t serve this to the really small fry. 
There are also anchovy fillets.
Maybe you should serve the sauce on the side.
You’ve been warned.


                        Mozzarella in Carozza 

Serves 4 to 8

SAUCE:
In a small saucepan place
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
6 anchovy fillets, chopped
Heat until the butter melts.
Stir in
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Cover and keep warm.

SANDWICHES:
Pour into a shallow dish
3/4 Cup milk

Spread on a piece of wax paper
1/3 Cup flour 

In another dish beat together
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon water

have on hand:
8 slices white bread, crusts removed
4 ounces mozzarella, cut into 4 slices
Make 4 sandwiches.

Melt over medium heat in a large skillet
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Dip each sandwich lightly on both sides first in the milk, then dip in the flour and finally dip them in the beaten eggs.
Place the sandwiches in the pan and cook 4 minutes, until golden.
Flatten the sandwiches and turn with a pancake turner.
Add to the skillet
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
Cook another 4 minutes, until golden and the cheese is melted.

Cut the sandwiches into quarters on the diagonal.  
Place the quarters, overlapping slightly, on a warm serving platter.  
Top the sandwiches with a lemon anchovy sauce.
Sprinkle with
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Serve immediately.

Give me a break.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sex, Drugs, Rock ’n Roll, Valentine's Day and Stuff by Margaret Ullrich

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ah, February… usually a quiet, not much happening time.
A time to relax and celebrate love.
A time to shovel snow here in Winnipeg.

No further word from the patriotic Winnipeg YA author on Facebook.
After folks shared their Look Back movies, Facebook settled down.
Elsewhere there’s been everything: Sex, Drugs and Rock ’n Roll.
And a few reminders that time is flying.

We were all shocked by Philip Seymour Hoffman's tragic passing.
And saddened by the loss of Shirley Temple-Black, Sid Caesar and Ralph Waite.
Also in the news...
Woody Allen’s adopted daughter renewed allegations against him.
The UN human rights committee criticized the Holy See for its attitudes toward homosexuality, contraception and abortion.

After 22 years, on February 6, Jay Leno had his second Tonight Show exit.
He first left in 2009, when he was briefly replaced by Conan O'Brien.
That didn’t go so well, so Jay came back.
He’ll be 64 this year, and said, ‘this is the right time to leave.’
Jimmy Fallon takes over Tonight in New York on Feb. 17.
Yes, they’re moving the show back to New York.

On February 7 the Winter Olympics began in Sochi.
Sports competed with Rock ’N Roll royalty on February 9, the fiftieth anniversary of 
the Beatles arrival in New York and their first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.


This has been a busier than normal start for February.
Valentine’s Day, as usual, reminded us of the importance of love.
But this year February also reminded us that we must move with the times.


It seems February has been the time to clean house for quite a while.
February 15 was when ancient Romans celebrated Lupercalia.
Even for the Caesars, February was the time to cleanse, to let go. 

In honour of Lupercalia it wouldn’t hurt to do a Feng Shui thing:
Light a sandalwood or frankincense incense stick.
Beginning at the front door, walk the main floor in a clockwise direction. 
Let the smoke clear the spaces of stagnant energies. 
Don’t forget corners, closets and rooms with little foot traffic. 
Return to the front door, sit and let the incense burn out. 
It's important to intend a cleanse, not just to be a walking air wick. 

Well, why not.
This month we've seen a few reminders of the passing of time.
Memories are fine, they don't have to fill up boxes to be real.
As part of our plans to downsize, I’ve been tossing more stuff.
After I walk around the house with an incense stick, I’ll toss more clutter.


About tonight’s full moon in Leo…
It’s also called a Full Snow Moon or a "Hunger Moon”.

According to the folks at astrology.com:
During this attention-grabbing full Moon, conduct yourself in a way that will make you proud. The Sun and Mercury in Aquarius ask you to take into account what's best for everyone, making this a perfect time to highlight a cause that's close to your heart. 
Whether the spotlight shines on you or others, plan on experiencing a bit of drama! 
Not only is Leo a showy sign, but full Moons have a tendency to ramp up emotions; 
Mercury's retrograde is also likely to highlight misunderstandings. 
Do your best to keep your cool and not overreact!

As said in Desiderata….
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; 
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth...
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Polpettone - Meatloaf, Italian Style


Some folks like something different for Valentine’s Day.
And some folks like something familiar, basic comfort food.
And, wouldn’t you know it, these folks usually end up marrying each other.

And, wouldn’t you know it, they have to celebrate Valentine’s Day together.

I've got just the thing in Entertaining with the Sopranos.
Carmela has a meatloaf recipe, Polpettone.
Really, this recipe has something for everybody.
Ground beef with a few fancy touches.

Would I grind sirloin?
No way.
To my way of thinking, Ma's meatloaf, Maltese style makes sense.
Ground beef, regular breadcrumbs, and bacon.
What’s not to love?

I still wonder…
What is Carmela’s problem with crusts?  
What does she do with them? 


                        Polpettone 

Serves 6 - 8

Have on hand 
3 hard cooked eggs, peeled

Tear into small pieces
4 slices of day-old Italian bread, crusts removed (make about 1 Cup)
Thoroughly soak in 
1/2 Cup milk
Gently squeeze out the excess milk.

Grease a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan
Preheat oven to 350º           
Bake 70 min.

Place in a large bowl
1 pound ground beef sirloin
1/2 pound ground pork
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
the soaked bread
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 Cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 
1/4 Cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
Mix well with your hands.

Sprinkle a large sheet of wax paper with water.
Pat the meat mixture out to form a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.
Arrange on top of the meat
3 ounces sliced prosciutto (or mortadella)
Scatter on top of the prosciutto 
3 ounces provolone, chopped 
Put on top, in a row, lengthwise down the center
the 3 hard-cooked eggs

Lift one long side of the paper and roll up the meat, enclosing the filling and removing the wax paper as you go.
Pinch the ends of the meat roll closed to seal in the filling.
Place the loaf seam side down in the prepared pan.
Bake 70 minutes.
To be on the safe side, the internal temperature should reach 155º F.
Let cool 10 minutes before slicing.
Serve hot or at room temperature.

Carmela serves this with Tomato Sauce.
Oh, and probably some pasta and a salad.
The sauce can be prepared 3 days ahead, cooled, covered and refrigerated.
It can also been frozen.

Without the sauce, mashed potatoes, a favourite vegetable and dessert would nicely round out the meal.
And maybe some catsup.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce

The Valentine wish with the picture of the puppy reminded me of the dogs in Disney’s cartoon Lady and the Tramp.
Remember the scene in the restaurant?
The one where they shared a plate of spaghetti to the tune Bella Notte?
Not a bad way to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day.

If you’re craving an Italian dinner but it’s too late to make a reservation in the local Italian restaurant - or you just want to stay home - no problem.
Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce, one of the recipes in Entertaining with the Sopranos which I chatted about back in 2010, would do just fine. 

Make it a dinner and a movie night…
Rent Sophia Loren's Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.
This movie goes especially well with Carmela’s Spaghetti Puttanesca.


Hint:

Carmela got a little specific in this recipe:
3 pounds very small clams, such as Manila or mahogany clams, or New Zealand cockles (or mussels).
I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The local stores carry mussels from Prince Edward Island.
So, I made Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce using P. E. I. mussels.

If you are using mussels…
After the mussels have soaked, scrub them with a stiff brush to scrape off any barnacles or seaweed.
Discard any mussels with cracked shells.
Also those that don't close tightly when tapped.
Debeard by pulling the beards toward the narrow end of the shell.

This can be a great recipe for any holiday.
All that prep work probably saves someone from a punch in the nose.
As does Carmela’s recipe for Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce - Zuppa di Cozze.


                        Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce

Serves 4 - 6

With a stiff brush scrub under running water
3 pounds very small clams, such as Manila or mahogany clams, or New Zealand cockles (or mussels) 
Debeard them and place them in a bowl.
Rinse several times until there is no sand left in the bowl.
Throw away the clams with broken shells or ones that don’t close up tightly.

In a dutch oven pour
1/3 Cup olive oil
Add
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
a pinch of crushed red pepper
Cook, stirring over medium heat, for about 2 minutes.
You want the garlic to be lightly golden.
Stir in
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
add
2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
pinch of salt to 
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are softened about 5 minutes. 
Add the clams, cover the pot, and cook 10 minutes. 
Discard any clams that haven’t opened. 


WHILE THE SAUCE IS SIMMERING:
In a large pot place
4 quarts water
salt to taste
Bring to a boil.
Stir in
1 pound spaghetti or linguine
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente.
Set aside 1 Cup of the cooking water.
Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce in the pot.
Cooking over medium heat, toss the pasta until it is coated.
Add some of the reserved cooking water if it seems too dry.
Remove from heat.

Serve immediately.


So is Sophia in Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.
And, with enough pasta and wine, you can be, too.

Wishing you a Bella Notte.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wishing you a Valentine's Day filled with all you hold dear…




Wishing You a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Life is never measured 
by the years you have lived,
but by the love you have shared,
and the people whose hearts you have touched.

Thank you for visiting!!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Chocolate Fudge Sheet Cake

Valentine’s Day is coming.
Some folks celebrate by going out.
Some folks celebrate by staying home.
To each his - or her - own.

We’ll most likely be staying home.
And that’s where a really good cake recipe comes in handy.

I gave the ingredients for the frosting, but not for the cake itself.
The frosting is great on its own and would add a special touch to any cake.
But, for the full experience, here’s the recipe from Entertaining with the Sopranos.
Enjoy!!

Hint:
If you're worried about the caffeine, decaf should be okay.  
Although the chocolate will give you a big enough buzz.

You can also refrigerate until the frosting is set.
Then, before covering with foil, poke a few toothpicks into the top of the cake.
They’ll keep the foil from touching the frosting.
You can then refrigerate the cake overnight.
Be sure to remove the toothpicks!


                        Chocolate Fudge Sheet Cake

Place the rack in the centre of the oven.
grease and flour a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan
Tap out the excess flour.        
Preheat oven to 350º           
Bake 35 minutes 

Sift together into a large mixer bowl
2 Cups flour
2 Cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place in a medium saucepan
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 Cup water
1/3 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
Stir over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil.
Pour over the dry ingredients and stir until smooth.

Place in a small bowl
2 large eggs
1/2 Cup sour cream
2  teaspoons vanilla
Whisk together until smooth.
Scrape the mixture into the larger bowl and stir until blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Smooth the surface with a spatula.
Bake until the cake is done, about 35 minutes.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
Invert the cake onto the rack and let it cool completely.


Mocha Fudge Frosting

Place in a medium saucepan
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
Heat until simmering.
Remove the pan from the heat and add
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Let stand until softened.
Stir until smooth.
Chill, stirring occasionally, until the frosting is thick enough to spread.

Cut 2-inch-wide strips of wax paper.
Place the cake upside down on a serving platter or board.
Arrange the wax paper under the cake to protect the platter.
Spread the frosting over the cake with a spatula.
Smooth the frosting over the top and sides.
Let the cake set at least 1 hour before serving.


Another really good cake recipe is Carmela Soprano's Baci Cake.
Glazed Chocolate Cake with Hazelnuts, if the Italian name doesn’t ring a bell.

And easier.
It's your Valentine's Day, too.