Sunday, March 30, 2014

In like a lion… Out like a lion by Margaret Ullrich


About a month ago I posted about the awful weather we're having this Winter.
It seems to be the same weather we’re going to have this Spring.
Maybe it’ll hang around through Summer and Fall.
I don’t think Winter knows how to leave any more.

They flew to Fort Whyte, saw that there wasn’t anything but solid ice, shook their heads, and flew south and out of the city.
The wildlife manager at Fort Whyte was thinking of following them.
Those geese are smart enough to know they need open water.
Don’t ever use the term ‘Bird brain’ as an insult.


Paul and I took a short walk last week to return a few books to the library.
We really need to get back into the habit of daily walks.
The icy sidewalks aren’t giving us much incentive.
Yes, those geese had the right idea - live in an area that has what you need.

Back to the library…
My local librarians are nice folks, who know me for what I am, or rather, what I was.
No sooner had I put the books on the counter than the guy flashed a huge smile and said, “You know, we have our Mega Book Sale going on in the meeting room.”
Pointing to my now empty shopping bag, he continued, “For five bucks you could fill that bag with books.”

Now the old me, the pre-Feng Shui Your Life me, would’ve raced into that room.
I mean a big bag of books for five bucks!  Yeee Hah!!  What’s not to love?
But, the new me just didn’t feel like even looking at the library’s discards.
I smiled, thanked him, walked over to the magazines, grabbed one, strolled over to a cubicle and read the magazine in the library.

Yes, Tisha Morris really has had an effect on my life.
Maybe not her New Age, scented space clearing and bell ringing ideas.
But I’ve gotten used to cleared spaces and I have to admit I like it.
I just couldn’t bring myself to cramming more stuff into my home.
A book is something to read and return; not to clutter up my living space.


Oh, the magazine I had picked up was O, as in Oprah.
I like and admire Oprah Winfrey, but I don’t watch her show.
I also never buy her magazines.
I have to admit she does have a sense of humour about herself.
Who could forget when she guested on 30 Rock?

After I put the magazine back on the rack I passed some books.
There was a copy of Robyn Okrant’s book Living Oprah.
It’s about her one year experiment in following everything Oprah told her to do.
Was that a sign or what?
I mean, I found the book about Oprah after I put the Oprah magazine away.

I checked out the book.
The librarian remind me of their Mega Book Sale.
No way.  I have Feng Shuied myself… on to getting Oprahed!!


About tonight’s new moon in Aries…
According to the folks at astrology.com:
All new Moons are about starting new ventures.  
Aries is the sign of beginnings.   
There couldn’t be a better new Moon in all of 2014 for launching a business!

You may feel as if you're driving with one foot on the brake since Mars is retrograde, the new Moon is joined by Uranus and squared by both Pluto and Jupiter… 
multiple people have competing agendas. 
Anything you begin now needs to incorporate the needs of others. 
Be smart about the way you go about getting what you want. 
Take time to regroup, find work-arounds, or simply slow down.


The New Moon is in Aries!
What’s good for beginning a business ought to be just as good for beginning a best life.
The heck with retrograding, joining and squaring… On to living a la Oprah!

What could go wrong?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Rice Pudding

This winter just doesn’t want to quit.
I know we’re supposed to be going all Spring-like with our recipes.
Well, when I see snow outside, I want to eat something with a bit of heft.
Yes, I’m not looking forward to weighing myself when Spring finally does come.

We Maltese do love our starches.
I mean, gluten-free is great if you have a medical condition. 
But most folks don’t, so why stop making old family favourites?

Rice pudding is comfort food of the first order.
It's a little easier than Ma’s risotto.

Hints:
You can add the zest of a lemon or an orange when you add the vanilla.
When you are stirring the rice while it is cooking, use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the pot so the pudding doesn’t burn on the bottom.


                        Rice Pudding

4 – 6 servings

Place in a pot
1/2 Cup short grain white rice 
1 1/2 Cups water
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
Bring to boil over medium heat.
Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Continue cooking until all the water is absorbed.

Add
4 Cups milk
1/2 Cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla 
Stir to combine. 
Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to low.
Cook for 45 minutes or until mixture is thick and creamy, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and pour into a serving dish or several small dishes. 
Serve slightly cooled or well chilled.

Before serving, garnish with
a sprinkle of ground cinnamon or nutmeg or cardamom sugar topping

Monday, March 24, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Creole Sauce

About a year ago I explained why I started this blog:
I had enjoyed sharing recipes with my Ma, who had died in 2009.
Ma lived in New York and loved watching cooking shows, especially Emeril Lagasse.
Thanks to Emerile, she had gotten curious about New Orleans and its food.

Mardi Gras and Lent began couple of weeks ago.
Ma had said that she wanted to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
Sadly, she never got the chance.
But she did try to cook up a bit of Mardi Gras in her kitchen.

Arjoli Sauce is a major Maltese sauce.
It was originally created to serve with snails, but it’s excellent with any seafood.
Just for a bit of fun, Ma sometimes made a simple Creole Sauce.
Ma served Creole Sauce with seafood, chicken and pork.
And so can you.

Hint:

Ma used this recipe to add some variety to a leftover cup of her tomato sauce.
So could you.
Or you could use the recipe to add some zip to a jar of store bought sauce.

About the Tabasco… use as much as you want.
Some like it hot.


                        Creole Sauce

Place in a heavy-bottomed pot 
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Add
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Cook over low hear until the onion is golden.
Add
1 Cup tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon salt 
dash of ground thyme
dash of Tabasco 
Cover and simmer 20 minutes.
Add a little cold water if necessary.

Pour sauce over the cooked seafood, chicken or pork.
You could also serve it on snails.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

A couple of days ago I posted a recipe for Velveeta Fudge.
Perfect for when you’ve got the jars - bought on sale - just sitting there.
Velveeta isn’t the only thing that is often sold as a loss leader.
On Dollar Days our local grocery store features small tubs of sour cream.

If you haven’t bought sour cream, give it a try.
It can be a topping for baked potatoes, or the base for dips and dressings.
It is one of the main ingredients in Chicken Paprikash and Beef Stroganoff.

Don’t be afraid to stock up when they are going for a buck a tub.
Really, it won’t go to waste.
You can also use it to bake some cookies!

Hint:
If you don’t like raisins, leave them out.
Ditto for the nuts… or the chocolate chips.
Just call the cookies something else, like Sour Cream Cookies.

Halfway through the baking reverse the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back.
The cookies should be just barely golden and just barely spring back when lightly pressed on top.
Do not over bake.  Really.  These cookies are supposed to be soft.


                        Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 2 dozen large cookies

Place the 2 oven racks in the centre of the oven.

Place in a medium pot
1 1/2 Cups raisins
1/4 Cup water
Simmer 5 minutes.
Let cool and drain the raisins.

Grease 4 cookie sheets          

In a medium bowl combine
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large mixer bowl beat until fluffy
1/2 Cup butter 
1 Cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Beat in
2 large eggs
1/2 Cup sour cream
On low speed gradually add the dry ingredients.
Beat only until mixed.

Remove bowl from mixer and add
1 1/2 Cups walnuts, chopped
1 Cup semisweet chocolate chips
the softened raisins 

Preheat oven to 375º           

Scoop cookie dough by heaping tablespoonfuls .
Place the dough balls 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.
Bake 2 sheets at a time for 13 to 15 minutes.
Remove cookies, place them on racks and cool completely.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Velveeta Fudge by Margaret Ullrich

Did you ever notice how some things seem to go on sale pretty regularly?
So regularly that, within a month or two, there are a few jars of it sitting on the shelf.
The kids notice the glut and figure there’s something fishy going on.
Like maybe you’re trying to get some vitamins into them.

Velveeta is like that.
It’s a nice enough product, and it goes on sale almost every month.
It’s hard to pass up a bargain.
And it’s even harder to force feed something into the kids, especially when they’ve grown to be bigger than you are.

Time to get a little sneaky and make some fudge.
Yes, really.

Hints:

This recipe works with either regular Velveeta or Velveeta Light.
Two 16 ounce packages of confectioners’ sugar would give you 8 Cups.

Wrapped tightly, the fudge can be frozen up to 2 months.
Thaw in refrigerator overnight before serving.


                        Velveeta Fudge

Grease an 9 x 13 inch pan

Combine in a large microwavable bowl
3/4 pound Velveeta, cut up
1 Cup margarine
6 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
Microwave on high for 2 minutes.  Stir.
Microwave on high for 1 minute.  Stir until well blended.

In a large mixer bowl place
8 Cups confectioners’ sugar
While beating at medium speed, add gradually the Velveeta / chocolate mixture, beating until everything is well blended.
Stir in
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/2 Cups chopped pecans or walnuts
Mix well. 
Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. 
Cover the fudge and cool until form.  
Cut into 96 1-inch squares.


A few months ago I posted a recipe for fast fudge.
Hope you enjoy both!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Snow, St. Patrick’s Day, Soda Bread and Stuff by Margaret Ullrich

With the winter we’ve been through, it doesn’t look like it’s really his feast day.
The windrows of snow in the back lanes are about a meter high.
For sure they don’t remind me of the type of weather we had for St. Patrick’s Day when my sister was being born in 1955.
Yes, I really thought my sister came from Ireland.

The 50s were a simpler time.
College Point was settled by Germans and Irish people.
During those days traditional recipes were shared.
At the very least, everyone there ate a slice of Irish Soda Bread on March 17.

Back to St. Patrick…
In 432, he used the shamrock to explain the Trinity to the Irish people.
But the celebrations in his honour don’t stop at the Irish border.
Montreal, whose flag has a shamrock, stages a huge Saint Patrick's Day parade.
In Manitoba, the Irish Association of Manitoba runs a festival of music and culture.
Yes, enjoying a slice of Irish Soda Bread is the very least one can do.


Tonight’s full moon is called a Lenten Moon by some.
Especially when, as in this year, Lent has already started.
Lent gives us forty days to do a bit of fasting and penance.
And to do Spring cleaning to get ready for Easter.
Maybe it was inspired by the ancient Roman celebration Lupercalia.

If you didn’t have time to celebrate Lupercalia last month, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do a Feng Shui thing after you’ve done your Spring cleaning:
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. 
Even if you did do it last month, it wouldn't hurt to do it again.

Paul and I have been tossing more stuff.
Guess we still have a touch of that feng shui fever.
With any luck we should roll out another cart - or two - for recycling before Easter.


About tonight’s full moon in Virgo…
It’s also called a Full Worm Moon or a "Sap Moon", but it’s too cold for that here.

According to the folks at astrology.com:
Are you content? Full Moons highlight your emotional connections with others, as well as your own personal feelings of well-being. 
Since Virgo represents your day-to-day work, and routines, the way in which you approach this important area of your life is extra-important now. 
Are you organized? 
Or do you find yourself trying to catch up on all the things you need to do? 
As you think about how you handle your daily life, make a plan to take better care of yourself… use this time to implement a sensible plan to make yourself more emotionally content.

Time to get organized… to become more content...
and to make some Sfingi to enjoy on St. Joseph’s Day on March 19.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Cheese Strudel l How to Use Phyllo Sheets


Without a doubt, pastizzi is the ultimate Maltese dessert.
But, sometimes, one just wants a little variety.
And Ma was always open to learning a new recipe from her friends.
Especially if it was quick and easy.

Ma's Pastizzi is a nice basic cheese dessert recipe.
But, after living in College Point and making friends with a few German moms, Ma learned there was more than one way to make a nice basic cheese dessert.
The German dessert, strudel, soon became a family favourite.
And it could become one of yours.

Hint:

You can find boxes of phyllo pastry sheets in the freezer section.
A one pound box has about 21 sheets, more or less.
That’s enough for 3 strudels.
If you have a sheet more or less, adjust for the third strudel.
Let the sheets, rolled and wrapped in the box, reach room temperature before starting.


                Anna Sultana’s Cheese Strudel


Makes 3 strudels

Grease a large baking sheet

Have on hand (do not combine)
2 Cups sultana raisins
1 Cup fine dry bread crumbs

In a large mixer bowl place
500 g ricotta
500 g cream cheese, cut into cubes
Beat until smooth.
Add
4 large eggs
300 g (1 1/2 Cups) sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
Beat until smooth.

In a small pot melt
1/2 Cup margarine
Keep the margarine warm enough to spread.

Place a damp dish towel on the table.
Open the box of phyllo sheets and gently unroll them.
Place 2 sheets on the damp dish towel.
Place a second damp dish towel over the sheets you aren’t using.

Lightly brush the top of the 2 phyllo sheets with melted margarine.
Sprinkle fine dry bread crumbs over the margarine.
Place 2 more sheets on the bread crumb covered first pair of sheets.
Lightly brush the top of the 2 phyllo sheets with melted margarine.
Sprinkle fine dry bread crumbs over the margarine.
Place 3 more phyllo sheets on the bread crumb covered phyllo sheets.

Cover the top sheet, leaving about an inch border clear, with
1/3 of the ricotta/cream cheese mixture
Sprinkle over the cheese
1/3 of the sultanas
Turn up the shorter ends of the sheets to cover the edge of the cheese.
At a longer end, start rolling up the cheese covered sheets.
When almost at the end, stop, and cover the rolled sheets with the unrolled end.
Place the strudel on the prepared pan.

Repeat the procedure with the remaining phyllo sheets to make 2 more strudels. 

Preheat oven to 375º
Brush the remaining melted margarine over the 3 strudels.
Bake 40 minutes or until lightly golden.
Let cool 10 minutes.


The only thing I miss from pastizzi is the crusty baked egg on top.
Well, nothing’s perfect.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Jam Pie, Maltese Style

I think we’ve finally left this winter behind!
Funny how, after the winter we’ve been suffering through, simply being at the freezing point and seeing the snow begin to melt makes it seem downright summery.
It’s time to bake something with fruit to celebrate.

Okay… March isn’t exactly a month known for fresh fruit.
No problem.  
Ma’s recipe for Jam Pie uses jam or jelly or preserves.
It’s a handy recipe for finishing what’s been sitting in the pantry.

This pie is really sweet.
A little slice goes a long way.
Especially if it’s topped with ice cream!

I mean it about letting the pie cool.
The jam really holds the heat.


                Anna Sultana’s Jam Pie
        
Combine in a large bowl
1 1/2 Cups flour
2/3 Cup sugar
Make a well and add
2 Eggs
Work the mixture with your fingers or a fork.
Add
1/2 Cup and 2 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 Cup red wine (or fruit juice or water)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Blend together.  
Form the dough into a ball.  
Let it rest, covered, for 1 hour.

Grease and flour a pie plate.
Preheat oven to 350º F

Roll out 3/4 of the dough and line the pan.
Spread on the dough
2 Cups jam 
Roll out the remaining dough and cut into 1/2-inch strips.
Make a lattice over the jam.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Let the pie cool.  Really.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Hot Drinks: Caramel Coffee for One, Spiced Vanilla Coffee, Caramel Coffee for Four, Spiced Coffee

Don’t even look at the calendar.
I know, it says March.  
But it feels like January, with fresh snow covering everything.
This winter just doesn’t want to quit.

Along with making us cold and miserable, the cloudy skies are making us sleepy and miserable.
Time for a cup of coffee.


Being from Malta, Ma usually relaxed with a glass of tea and a slice of bread.
I guess that was the Maltese way: they knew that the tea was popular with the British, but Maltese served tea, hot or cold, in a glass.
When we moved to America Ma’s new in-laws introduced her to coffee.

Back in the 50s coffee was usually perked.
Ma would prepare a pot whenever the relatives visited.
It would boil and bubble and we’d watch it get darker and darker in the little glass cap on the lid of the percolator.
When it was nearly black, she would serve it in cups.

But Ma also kept a jar of instant for when she felt like having something different.
Sometimes she made a cup to warm me when I came home from college or work.
It was nice to share a cup and talk about our days.


With a little jazzing up, a cup of coffee can make a nice ending to a meal, too.
I’ve included some recipes for when you have friends or relatives over.
These recipe work with either a percolator or a drip pot.
If you’re worried about caffeine, decaf is fine, too.


                       Caramel Coffee for One

Stir 
1 Tablespoon caramel ice cream topping 
into 
1 cup hot brewed coffee 
Top with 
whipped cream or topping 
A squiggle of caramel topping

**
                       Spiced Vanilla Coffee
2 servings, 1 cup each

Place in a saucepan
1 1/2 Cups water
1/2 cup skim milk 
Bring just to boil and remove from heat. 
Add
1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee 
1 Tablespoon sugar
Stir until dissolved.
Stir in
1 teaspoon vanilla 
Serve topped with
whipped cream or topping
A dash of
ground cinnamon (or nutmeg or unsweetened cocoa powder)

**
                       Caramel Coffee for Four
4 servings, 1 cup each

Place in filter in brew basket of coffee maker
6 Tablespoons coffee 
Add to coffee maker
4 1/2 Cups cold water 
Brew.
When brewing is complete, add
1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping
Stir coffee until blended. 
Pour into mugs.
Serve topped with
whipped cream or topping
A squiggle of 
caramel ice cream topping 

**
                       Spiced Coffee
8 servings, 3/4 cup each

Place in filter in brew basket of coffee maker
1/2 cup coffee 
Sprinkle with
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
Add to coffee maker
6 cups cold water
Brew.

When brewing is complete, add
1/4 cup sugar (or brown sugar)
Stir coffee until blended. 
Pour into mugs.
Serve topped with
whipped cream or topping
A dash of
ground cinnamon (or ground nutmeg or unsweetened cocoa powder)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Anna Sultana's Easy Fish Cakes, Maltese Style

Writing about Pop and his garden reminded me about another thing he did.
There he would buy bluefish fresh from the fellows who liked to go fishing, 
but who didn't like to eat that stuff.

In Malta, Ma was used to getting lampuki fresh from the fishermen.
And in Malta, just like in Sheepshead Bay, fish could be a feast or famine item.
Sometimes there was just took much to eat at one meal.
Ma would cook the extra fish, unseasoned, and refrigerate it for another meal.
Since it was a different recipe, we never felt like we were eating leftovers.
Clever, huh?
  
Hint:

This recipe also works well with canned fish, such as tuna or salmon.


                        Easy Fish Cakes 

Serves 4 - 6

Place on a large plate
1/4 Cup fine bread crumbs

Combine in a large bowl
1 pound cooked fish, boned and flaked
1 egg
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1/2 Cup fine bread crumbs
Form into patties.
Dip patties in the bread crumbs, coating all sides well.

In a medium skillet heat
1/4 inch oil
Fry patties until browned on both sides.
Drain on paper towels.
Serve hot.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Anna Sultana's Easy Carrot Loaf, Maltese Style

I recently gave the recipe for Ma’s Easy Meatloaf recipe.
It did come in handy during our family’s lean years.
Quick, easy and economical, made with the cheapest ground beef.
Who knew about cholesterol back then?

In the 1950s Pop raised rabbits and gardened, along with working at Lily Tulip.
Pop’s garden wasn’t big on variety.
And some of the veggies weren’t exactly grade A pretty. 

Ma had a recipe that made use of some of Pop’s carrots.
Especially the weird, two-legged ones.
You can make a loaf from carrots.
A main dish for the vegetarians, and as a side dish for everybody else.

Hint:

That’s 2 1/2 Cups of the cooked carrot mash, not 2 1/2 Cups carrots before cooking.
This is also handy for the Halloween pumpkin, or some of the leftover canned stuff.


                        Carrot Loaf 

Serves 6 - 8

Beat together
2  eggs
1 Cup milk

Combine in a large bowl
1/2 Cup fine bread crumbs
2 1/2 Cups cooked fresh carrots, mashed
Add 
the egg mixture
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 Tablespoons margarine, melted
3/4 Cup peanuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350º 
Place the mixture in a well greased 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
Then place the loaf pan in a 9x13-inch pan.
Add about an inch of water to the 9x13-inch pan.

Bake uncovered for 1/2 hour.
Remove from oven.
Let cool 5 minutes and serve.