Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Limoncello Panna Cotta, Maltese Style


Ma’s Limoncello Dessert has six egg yolks, so it is rich.
Especially if you’re watch your cholesterol.
Back in the 50s no one worried about stuff like that.
Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s not always healthy.


Panna Cotta is a lighter dessert.
More like ice cream.
There’s heavy cream in it.
But then, there’s heavy cream in ice cream, too.

Well, there’s always plain jello, without the whipped cream.
With a glass of homemade limoncello.

Hint:

If you would like to serve the Panna Cotta on a dessert plate, here’s what to do: 

Pour the Panna Cotta into custard cups. 
Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
It should be firm to hold its shape.
        
Dip the bottom of a custard cup into a bowl of hot water for 10 seconds.
Run a knife around the edge of the cream.
Invert onto an individual dessert plate.
Repeat with the other custard cups.
Spoon some fruit sauce around the cream.
A dot on top is nice, too.


                              Limoncello Panna Cotta  

6 servings

Into a small bowl, pour
1/4 Cup milk
Sprinkle 
2 1/2 Tablespoons unflavoured gelatin
Set aside for five minutes to soften the gelatin.

Combine in a medium saucepan
1 1/2 Cups heavy cream
1 Cup milk
1/4 Cup Sugar
Stir well.
Bring to a simmer over medium high heat.
Remove from heat.
Add the softened gelatin.
Stir until the gelatine has dissolved.

Add
1/2 Cup Limoncello 
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Set the bowl over an ice bath. 
Stir often so that the mixture will cool evenly.
The mixture should have the consistency of heavy cream.

Pour into 6 serving glasses. 
Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
It should be firm to hold its shape.

Garnish with fresh fruit or fruit sauce.
Or both.


Want a non-alcoholic Panna Cotta?
No problem.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Living la Vida Oprah, part 5 by Margaret Ullrich

I’m looking forward to returning Robyn Okrant’s book Living Oprah… 

Robyn is surprised by her tolerance for all the advertising done during the show.
She’s also wary of the most influential woman in America doing all that advertising.
Oprah occasionally urges her viewers to be stop buying so much stuff.
To Robyn it sounds like Philip Morris’s Youth Tobacco Prevention Department.

Oprah tells women to love their vulvas.
So, Robyn grabs a mirror, takes a look, and says she likes what she sees.
Like I said, I’m older than Robyn, so this was a flashback to the early 70s.
Except for the occasional white hair, the general area hasn’t changed since then, so if you’ve done it once, well no surprises there.

Unmarried Oprah has rules for how long wives should kiss their husbands (10 seconds) and how they should prepare for sex with their husbands (scrub up first).
Oprah, who has a housekeeper, also has ideas on cleaning a home.
I can’t help wondering if Oprah is actually a satire, like The Colbert Report.

Oprah also has views on how we should celebrate the holidays: what to do, how to decorate, what to eat.
As a single, childless woman with no noticeable extended family, this is doable.
Add a spouse, children or relatives or - oh, horrors, all three - and it’s a hassle.

Robyn’s family patiently went along with Oprah’s recipes.
Her aunt did say, “Oprah really loves grated orange zest… Who uses that much zest?”
But, except for the zest comment, the Oprah Thanksgiving went relatively smoothly.
Her Ma liked the thank you cards.
The family played Oprah’s version of ‘Truth or Dare’.
But it doesn’t sound like there’ll be a repeat next Thanksgiving.


On to December… probably Robyn’s saddest chapters.
She had to catch up with a few Oprah projects, including driving to a dreaded live Céline Dion performance.
The long list of projects are giving her stress attacks and nightmares.
She’s shocked to realize how she’s accepted Oprah’s clothing choices.
I’m really feeling sorry that Robyn put herself through all this.

Oprah has gotten fat again, but she’ll be able to work it into the show.
Maybe she got fat so she’d have a topic for her show?
Where does the show end and Oprah begin, or vice versa?
The Best Life Week in 2009 is going to be better than the one she had in 2008.
Was last year’s Best Life a practice run?  
Will there be a better Best Life in 2010?

Robyn’s family endured another Oprah dictated holiday.
The store-bought crust was the best part of the dessert recipe.
Following Oprah has had an effect on Robyn’s health and her RealAge.
What she gained through diet, exercise and vegan cleanse, she lost through stress.

December 31 saw Robyn buying a ‘fabulous’ chair and beans.
She also delivered books to a local charity as part of her Big Give.
When Robyn and Jim stopped for a quick meal, a woman recognized her.
Comments of, ”That’s just crazy.  She’s crazy.”  wafted to Robyn’s table.
Crazy.  Not a cheery thought on which to end a year or a project.

There were other assignments Robyn had to complete before the year ended.
Exhausted, she cancelled her usual New Year’s Day gathering.
Following Oprah does not leave time for socializing with friends.


A few days later Robyn heard two elderly women discuss Oprah’s political influence:
“Oprah? She sells flowers and soap.  What does she know about government?”
It’s hard for us older women to accept Oprah’s orders on the right way to live.
Oprah means well, but she basically sells lots and lots of stuff.
Maybe actual good advice doesn’t sell anything.

Robyn feels she had done Oprah a disservice by wondering if she can understand the priorities of a real woman.
I would never say Oprah is not a real or normal woman.
But what I would say is that her lifestyle is not one most women share.
No problem with that.  Oprah is a real woman who lives a unique lifestyle.
Except that Oprah keeps giving advice on how other women, who live lives that are quite different than hers, should live.

Robyn still believes Oprah seeks to empower women.
Oprah said when receiving a Lifetime Achievement Emmy, “I choose to use it (television) in whatever way I can… to make people lead better lives.”
Oprah may be sincere, but who made her the judge of what makes for a better life?
And doesn’t empowered mean a woman has the confidence to make her own decisions instead of being told what to do on a daily basis?

When we first marched for women’s rights we never thought the movement would result in an Oprah.
Not that there’s a problem with a super successful woman.
But we never meant for our daughters to become addicted to needing anyone’s advice.
We marched so our kids would be free to think, not to take orders.


I think that the next time I’m in the library I’ll walk past the Oprah magazines.


About tonight’s new moon in Taurus…
According to the folks at astrology.com:
Solar eclipses are quite dramatic. This one, in a sign that rules your values and finances, casts a major spotlight on how you handle your money… this is an ideal time to be practical… take this opportunity to get a handle on your material life.
You'll then be able to make sensible decisions that will, in turn, help make your life more comfortable and secure.

The solar eclipse occurs on Monday and Tuesday, April 28-29 at 11:14pm PDT. This is what is called an annular eclipse, when a narrow rind of the Sun is visible around the dark mass of the Moon. It is visible in Antarctica and the southern most parts of the East.


Happy Balsamic Moon… celebrate the end of a cycle so a new one can enter. 

This is a great year to celebrate the power gate of Beltaine (May 1-6), the old Celtic festival of the beginning of summer and the season of fertility. 
We dance around the May Pole to raise the twin masculine and feminine energies of life to weave them into new life for the year, both for the Earth and for ourselves. 

This year, go out and help our Mother Earth to regenerate us all!



Just so you know….

Virtual Telescope Project and the Slooh Community Observatory both offer live viewing of the eclipse on the internet. (Slooh also offers free tablet apps for easier viewing.) 

The eclipse begins at 8:53 pm Pacific time on April 28, and ends at 1:15 am April 29.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Prosecco Bellini - Prosecco Peach Dessert

I hope you’ve been enjoying a few adventures with limoncello.
There were a few other wines quickly mentioned in Entertaining with The Sopranos.
One of them is prosecco.

Prosecco is a sparkling wine, served as Champagne is, but easier on the wallet. 
It is aged in tanks and goes from vine to table in less than two years.
It is light and dry with a fruity aroma and a lower alcohol level than most wines. 
Serve it chilled as an apéritif, with appetizers or a dessert.
But do give it a try.


Prosecco can also be used as an ingredient in an easy and quick dessert/drink.


                        Prosecco Bellini for 1 

Per person combine
1 part peach puree
3 parts chilled Prosecco

Serve in a champagne flute.
Garnish with a fresh peach slice.


                        Prosecco Bellini for 12

Combine in a punch bowl
1 quart peach puree
3 quarts chilled Prosecco
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Add
fresh peach slices

If this interests you, you might also enjoy Ma's recipe for Peaches in Wine.
Carmela Soprano also has a quick fruit/wine dessert: Strawberries in Asti Spumante.

Want to avoid the booze?  No problem.
This is an easy recipe for a Peaches and Cream Dessert.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Living la Vida Oprah, part 4 by Margaret Ullrich

Going through Autumn in Robyn Okrant’s book Living Oprah… 
  
The August shows were inspired by the campaigns leading to the October election.
Oprah supports the Democrat candidate, Obama.
She had a few shows about how badly America was doing under the Republicans.
The anti-Republican shows - coincidence or what?

Robyn is noticing that, since January, she has become more aware of her appearance.
She’s becoming sick of seeing Dr. Mehmet Oz as a celebrity and possible spin off.
She’s also having problems with the advice, sales pitches and Oprah’s metaphors.


By September Oprah's wifely advice from the 50s was becoming a problem.
Maybe if Oprah were married she’d have more insights into modern marriages.
Robyn admitted that the project was making life difficult for her husband, Jim.
The article “48 Decisions We’ve Made for You” appeared in O.
Presumably, as head of the organization, Oprah condoned the piece.
Another topic in O magazine, “5 Friends Every Woman Should Have”, was so adolescent that it was embarrassing.
Oprah’s shows were about Barack Obama and folks who were survivors.
Oprah told her audience they had to see a live Céline Dion performance.
Robyn doesn't like Céline.  No matter, she has to go to a show.


October brought Robyn to a couple of realizations, Oprah's Aha moments.
Robyn is worried about being able to take responsibility for her decisions after obeying Oprah for a whole year.
While many of the shows had been on self care, Robyn doesn’t think Oprah will take care of herself by lightening up on all her projects and ventures.
Robyn also guested on NBC’s The Today Show, where fans called her “Oprah Lady!”
She doesn’t like losing her identity and becoming “Oprah Lady”.

Robyn decided to return a free Kindle she’d received from Oprah.
She felt it compromised the opinions expressed in her project, and her integrity.
One wonder why Oprah didn’t realize that it was unethical before sending the gift.
Some of Robyn’s readers were angered by her decision, others respected it.
Yes, success is complicated.

Oprah made a few announcements: “Do what you love and the money will come.”
Also “I don’t believe in luck.  I think luck is preparation meeting opportunity.”  
These statements didn’t sit well with Robyn.

In Robyn’s notes for 10/23 she quoted Oprah: “Following your passion, allowing yourself to be paid for what you love will give you a meaningful life.” (SHOW)
In response Robyn wrote: “Well I am following my passion. And I’m allowing myself to get paid for what I love. And I know the universe will shower me with salary any moment now.  Any moment… Universe?… (O)

Even Robyn realizes that attaining financial success is more complicated than implied by Oprah’s simplistic views.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Limoncello Dessert, Maltese Style


I got an e mail about the post on Ma’s Limoncello - Lemon liqueur, Maltese Style.
Was I serious about pouring limoncello over ice cream?
I understand - ice cream is usually a dessert for the kids.
Booze poured over ice cream is absolutely not a G-rated recipe.

A few years ago I posted Carmela recipe for Gelato Affogato, Drowned Ice Cream.
It was in Entertaining with The Sopranos.
Mix dark rum and espresso and pour it over ice cream.
Simple recipe - just not for kids. 

Italians - and Maltese - also use booze in recipes.
In Artie's The Sopranos Family Cookbook there’s also a recipe for Zabaglione.
That’s a lovely light dessert, perfect for a romantic dinner.

In the same cookbook there’s Carmela's Mom's Pear and Grappa Pound Cake.
Perfect for when the family gets together.
Grappa is strong enough to survive cooking and help smooth the rough edges.

A word about Grappa…
In Entertaining with the Sopranos there was some information about grappa in the chapter Small Events for Men Only:
It is actually a type of brandy, made from the leftovers of the wine-making process.
It was originally a drink made by farmers to get the last bit from the crop.
Now Grappa is more sophisticated drink, served after dinner, either alone in chilled glasses or in coffee or espresso.
Some folks also like to add a bit to their morning coffee.
If drinking it unmixed, it’s best if you let it breathe in the glass a few minutes.


Limoncello Dessert is a little heavier than Zabaglione.
And stronger.
Have another coffee.


                        Limoncello Dessert                 

Serves 8-10

Peel the zest in long strips from
1 lemon
Chop finely.

In a medium saucepan combine
1/3 Cup sugar
1/3 Cup water
Bring to a boil for 3 minutes.

In a large bowl place
6 egg yolks
Beat until fluffy and begin to lighten in colour.
While beating eggs slowly add  sugar and water mixture.
Beat for 1 minute.,

Melt together
8 ounces white chocolate
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Beat together until smooth.

Add
2 ounces Limoncello liqueur
Stir until well mixed.

Fold into chocolate mixture
1 Cup mascarpone cheese

Beat until stiff peaks form
1 Cup whipping cream 

Fold whipped cream and lemon zest into chocolate / mascarpone mixture.
Stir gently until well blended.
Pour mixture into small dessert dishes.
Refrigerate a minimum of 6 hours, preferably over night.

Top with
strawberries or raspberries (optional)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wishing you all the joy and hope of the season...



May joy fill your day,
Hope light your path,
And the many blessings of Easter 
warm your heart...
Wishing you a Happy Easter!!

Thank you for visiting!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Living la Vida Oprah, part 3 by Margaret Ullrich

Back to Robyn Okrant’s book Living Oprah… 
April brought Clarity, enlightenment and highlighters
Obeying Oprah, with all her contradictions, is giving Robyn nightmares.
One minute it’s "No emotional eating" then it’s  "Enjoy a huge ice cream dessert".
Is Oprah confused, or is she having mood swings?
Why chide an audience for wastefulness, then give an SUV as a gift?
Does she know what she is saying, or is she merely reading cue cards?

The lines between Oprah as a person, a mentor and a marketing power are blurred.
Her choosing Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose for her webinar reminded me of the Beatles.
The Beatles wrote great music, no argument there.
But follow the Maharishi as a spiritual guide because they had said so?
Yeah… I remember how enlightened their fights were by the end of the 60s.

Robyn thought it was brave that Oprah chose Eckhart Tolle for the book club.
Sure, she wasn’t alive when the Beatles were at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram.


May brought celebrities and Oprah’s suggestion to view her show on past life regression with an open mind.
Robyn thinks that when Oprah said, "I don’t get excited about a lot of things" that it meant that Oprah is so vital that she would be bored if she stopped growing.
Personally, if I heard a friend say she no longer got excited about most things in life, I’d be worried that she was clinically depressed.
But maybe that’s because I’m older and have seen a few friends having problems.

May was also the month of the 21 day vegan cleanse.
Easy for Oprah, she has a professional chef; most of the audience doesn’t.
Robyn is beginning to tire of Oprah’s focus on women’s bodies, specifically the weight of those bodies.
There was also a recipe for Donald Trump’s hugely overpriced turkey burger.
No, I won’t make that.


June was the month of Living with less while dreaming of more.
Oprah also said, "I think everybody should have a little garden."
I like gardening, but many don’t, and I wouldn’t tell everybody to do it.

Robyn has to move due to a rent increase and hates having to get rid of books.
Now there’s something else I have in common with her.
About books… Oprah assigned "The Five Books Everyone Needs to Read Once… they will blow open your understanding of the world."
Not really.  I’d already read three, and don’t see what the fuss is about.
The month ended with making a vision board as in the book and movie The Secret.  
As in "If you want it, you’ll get it… all your problems are your fault."  Give me a break!


In July Robyn coped with her own growing fame when there was a piece about her blog in a free weekly newspaper and she was invited to be a guest on a radio program.
She’s upset at losing her anonymity and has to make compromises.
This gave Robyn a few insights into Oprah’s life, its compromises and its difficulties.
While not making the same kind of money, Robyn feels Oprah’s pain.


The Dalai Lama quote Robyn had seen at Kripalu (a healthful living retreat in Massachusetts) summed it up quite nicely:
Through compassion, you find that all human beings are just like you.
Namaste.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Limoncello - Lemon liqueur, Maltese Style


A few months ago I posted about how Ma and I used to exchange recipes.
Timing is everything, and this exchange had led to Ma’s Tuscan Sun Chicken.

Under the Tuscan Sun is still one of my favourite movies.
It’s full of life, hope and sun… lots of sun.
Even the poster is bright, cheery and inspiring:
Life offers you a thousand chances… all you have to do is take one.

In Under the Tuscan Sun Frances meets and has a brief romantic affair with Marcello.
Marcello introduced Frances to limoncello, but their relationship does not last.
It had nothing to to with the limoncello.
Not to worry, Frances met another nice man.


In Entertaining with the Sopranos there was a brief mention of limoncello in the chapter Adult Birthday parties:
Known as il liquore del sol - liqueur of the sun - limoncello is a pale yellow tart-but-sweet liqueur beloved by Italians everywhere…
In the United States it costs around $20 to $30 a bottle.
Usually drunk cold after dinner, it’s kept in the freezer, then served in small chilled shooter glasses and sipped slowly.  
It can also be poured over ice cream. 

A few years ago making liqueurs at home was quite popular.
Here’s the recipe for limoncello.

Hints:

The peeled lemons would work in Ma’s Lemon Chicken.

If you want a sweeter drink you can make a simple 50/50 syrup.
You could also use less lemons.
This is a recipe that has many variations throughout Italy and Malta.
Feel free to create your own.


                        Limoncello

Makes 7 cups

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from
10 lemons 
Using a small sharp knife, trim away and discard the white pith.
Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart glass jar.

Pour over the peels
1 (750 ml) bottle vodka
Cover with plastic wrap. 
Place on a shelf and let sit for 4 days at room temperature.

In a large saucepan over medium heat combine
3 1/2 Cups water
2 1/2 Cups sugar

Stir until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. 
Cool completely. 
Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. 
Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. 
Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. 
Discard the peels. 
Transfer the limoncello to bottles. 
Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.


Lindsay Duncan, as the character Katherine, had a few memorable lines in Under the Tuscan Sun.  One of my favourites:
Regrets are a waste of time. They're the past crippling you in the present.

Don't have regrets.
Choose another chance... and enjoy a glass of limoncello.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Living la Vida Oprah, part 2 by Margaret Ullrich


I wasn’t too impressed with what I’d read in the January chapter.
February, what Robyn called An enterprising month, wasn’t much better.
Robyn mentioned that some of Oprah’s assignments made her hackles rise.
I’d have to say some of them made my breakfast rise.

One guest, Dr. Mehmet Oz, had an antiaging plan.
For someone Robyn’s age that just refers to smoothing wrinkles and hiding grey hair.
Dr. Oz’s advice was same old, same old… fibre, exercise and antioxidants.
Robyn was also told that the best fecal matter is S-shaped.  Really.

Antiaging means something a little different when you’re a senior.
If you’re not getting older, then you have died.  Those are our options.  
A new eye cream is not going to make a bit of difference.
About the fecal matter… when I’m scooping out a bit for my annual fecal occult tests I do not care if the poop is shaped like an S or like a pretzel.
It’s in the bowl, I scoop a bit, shmear it on the card, end of story. 


Robyn attended a taping of an Oprah show, where William Shatner was the guest.
She and the others had to prove they’d been fans of the original Star Trek.
As in Tina Fey dressed as Princess Leia to avoid jury duty on 30 Rock.
The audience was reminded to shop at The Oprah Store, near the studio.  Really.

There was a disturbing section on Oprah’s endorsement of Obama.
As a Canadian, I have no problem with Oprah’s choice or with Obama as president.
I have a problem with Oprah using her power on voters who obey everything she says.
In 2007 USA Today ranked Oprah as the most influential woman of the past 25 years.
That doesn’t make her an expert on what’s best for any person or country.
As Voltaire and Stan Lee (through Spider-Man) once said:
"With great power comes great responsibility."
I was not impressed with Oprah’s "Seize the opportunity… We need Barack Obama."


The chapter on March was about what Oprah does best: telling people to shop.
Oprah had a list of 12 items of clothing women need to own to be properly dressed.
The first item was a trenchcoat.
In 1967 I'd bought a creamsicle orange trenchcoat and a shiny plastic orange hat.
The hat was very similar to that worn by Clint Eastwood in his spaghetti western days.
When I wore the outfit to work a co-worker asked if my horse was tied outside.
End of my trenchcoat wearing days.

About the other items: turtlenecks, white jeans, cashmere sweater, an oversized bag, leopard print flats… It must have been meant as an April Fool’s show.

Robyn also wrote about reality TV shows, especially the ambush makeover shows.
I have to admit that I was a fan of What Not to Wear.
But Stacy and Clinton gave advice geared to a particular woman’s shape and age.
They had enough respect and sense to realize that one size NEVER fits all.
Oprah’s list and comments - “You need a crisp white shirt” - are useless.
I’d worn white shirts as part of my school uniform for 12 years, and that was enough.

I’m warming up to Robyn.
Along with sharing scoliosis, we each have a limited style sense and frizzy hair.
I’m losing patience with Oprah.  


About tomorrow’s full moon in Libra…
It’s also called a "Seed Moon", "Sprouting Grass Moon", "Egg Moon" and “Fish Moon”.
In some areas there might’ve been some sense to the names.
Not here.  Not this Spring.

According to the folks at astrology.com:
The full Moon in the social sign of Libra highlights how you get along with people. 
Think of a lunar eclipse as a bright beam of light that follows you - you may be able to run, but you can't hide! Plan on hitting a few unexpected snags. 
Since people are especially emotional this week, do what you can to create peace.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Lemon Chicken, Maltese Style

There’s something about April that makes me crave lemons.
Especially when we’re having a cloudy April.
Maybe because it’s colour reminds me of the sun.
Maybe because it’s tart flavour makes me feel more energetic.
I don’t know why, I just need lemon.  NOW.

Ma had a few chicken recipes that called for lemon.
This is a nice simple recipe, perfect for when you’re busy doing Spring cleaning.

Hints:

You can use either an assortment of chicken pieces or, if there was a sale, use all breasts, drumsticks or thighs.  Wings don’t need to cook as long as the other pieces.

Skinless chicken pieces are less flavourful than pieces with skin in this dish.
You may want to up the spices.
Also, if using skinless chicken, place a lid on the pan for the cooking at 325ºF period to help retain the meat’s moisture.

While the chicken is in the oven, why not bake some potatoes, yams or a squash?
You can also bake rice.
If you have favourite roasted vegetables, that’s fine, too.  
Just cook them in a separate pan. 

The garlic can be served as a garnish on the chicken or spread over a slice of crusty bread and served as a side dish.
Refrigerate leftover garlic in a jar with a tight lid.

The cooked lemon is quite tart, just so you know.
It’s my favourite part of the recipe.


                        Lemon Chicken

Serves 6 generously

Place in a large roasting pan
3 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken pieces with skin
20 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 lemons, each cut into 8 wedges


Heat oven to 400ºF.

Whisk together
1/4 Cup lemon juice
1/4 Cup olive oil
1/2 Cup dry white wine (optional) 
1 teaspoon salt
Pour over chicken.
Bake 1/2 hour.  
Lower oven temperature to 325ºF. 
Bake 1 hour or until chicken is done (170ºF). 

Serve with a green salad.
Wine is nice, too.

Ma's Broiled Chicken Oregano, Maltese Style also has lemon in it.
Enjoy!!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Living la Vida Oprah, part 1 by Margaret Ullrich

The snow is finally melting.
Does it feel like Spring?
No, not really.

About two weeks ago I borrowed Robyn Okrant’s book Living Oprah from the library.
It’s about Robyn’s one year experiment in following everything Oprah said to do.
Robyn wasn’t exactly unique in taking advice from Oprah.
In 2007 USA Today ranked Oprah as the most influential woman of the past 25 years.
In 2010, Life magazine named her one of the 100 people who changed the world.

I’m impressed, but, to be honest, I just never really got into Oprah.
Nothing personal, I was busy with other things when she started her rise to fame.

Robyn did this project in 2008, at the age of 35.
In 2008 I was 58, old enough to have been Robyn’s mother.
Okay… maybe I should’ve read the inside notes before I borrowed the book.
I don’t know for sure, but I think there’s a generation issue here.

Oprah was born on January 29, 1954, while I was born on May 1, 1950.
Don’t bother doing the math… I have a few years on Oprah, too.
Oprah’s a few months older than my kid sister.
Do you always ask a younger sibling for advice on what to do?


In my teens I'd read Ingenue, a teen's version of O, The Oprah Magazine.
It came complete with stories, advice, and quizzes, as well as dating, clothing and make up hints - everything a teen needed.
Then there was CosmoLadies’ Home Journal, McCall, Women’s Day and Family Circle.
I also watched the Phil Donahue Show, the first tabloid talk show.
So I’ve had my fair share of letting other people tell me what to do.

About Phil… he was born in 1935, so he is older than I am.
So maybe that helped make him seem like an authority figure to me.
He didn’t have the same technology or social network backup in those days.
Oprah has The Oprah Winfrey Show, O, The Oprah Magazine, and Oprah.com.
Oh, well, I guess that's progress.

Like I said, before picking up Robyn’s book I had just read O in the library.
I usually like some of the articles in her magazine.
I just skim through the advice and pretty much ignore the clothes and ads.
I mean, Oprah’s choice in fashions is for a crowd a bit younger than I am.
Well, that’s not any different from what I’ve seen in other magazines.
And the ‘must have’ products she likes to suggest?  
Pul-eese… I just got through tossing out a bunch of junk.


Anyway, back to Robyn Okrant’s project…
January 2008 started with Robyn serving pureed spinach hidden in blueberry bars, Robyn being ordered to get her clothes tailored, and a plug for Dr. Christiane Northrup’s book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.
Big news: a grown woman has to be her own health advocate.
Really? THAT’S what she calls advice?  Wait’ll she hears what seniors have to do.

Robyn also wrote about how she’d had a long history with The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Oprah had been telling Robyn and her Mom how to live for a few years.
Robyn lives in Chicago, where, in 1983, Winfrey started to become OPRAH.
As Robyn explained, "Sometimes you can feel her influence pulsating in the city…"

I’ve noticed there are a few potholes and bumps in Oprahland… 
How does one mesh being told to savour the simple life with the order to buy some ‘must have’ new super expensive products and clothing each and every day?

Oprah and fitness expert Bob Greene were about to start their 2008 Best Life Challenge, starting with the fat folks in Meridian, in the American state of Mississippi.
Thanks to computers, everybody else could sign the Best Life contract, too.

I don’t have much faith in this project.
If Oprah, with her wealth, personal trainer, fitness expert, chef, dietician and stylist can’t permanently drop the pounds, how will a welfare Mom who has no staff, is a whole lot busier and is struggling on a much tighter budget manage?

Oprah also has a Book of the Month club.
In January she endorsed author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle and his book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose.
Robyn wasn’t too thrilled with the choice or the 10-week webinar on the book.
Neither am I.

The chicken recipe sounded like a good one.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Mushroom and Ham Quiche

Quiche was popular in the 1970s.
Then there was that ‘Real men don’t eat quiche’ phase.
Yeah, well, quiche is perfect for when you have houseguests and want to enjoy their company while a brunch is baking in the oven.
Some folks invite friends and family to visit for Easter.
Need I say more?


Holidays were always a busy time for my Ma.
Like most immigrant families we loved to gather together for holidays.
Having an all-in-one dish brunch in the oven was a help for Ma while she was taking care of last minute details.

Ma's Torta ta' l-Irkotta is an even easier brunch dish to make.
This healthier Pizza Rustica is also a favourite for a light meal.

Carmela’s Pizza Rustica (Pizza Gaina and/or Easter Pie) is a cheesecake in a latticed crust which is very similar, but more of a dinner meal.
Although you could serve it, in smaller slices, earlier in the day.

Whatever...  Enjoy the brunch and your company!!

Hints:

If the dough mixture seems dry, add a spoon or two of ice water.

If you want to save time, you can use frozen puff pastry, thawed.
If you're trying to cut the fat you can use my pie crust recipe.  

Have leftover cooked ham?
You can use a cup or two of chopped leftover cooked ham.
Don't let a 'too small for a serving' bit go to waste.

The wrapped leftover pie can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. 


                        Mushroom & Ham Quiche

Serves 6 - 8

Place in a large bowl
2 Cups flour
Make a well and add
2 Eggs
Work the mixture with your fingers or a fork.
Add
1/2 Cup 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 9 inch pie plate.
Roll out the dough and line the pan.

The Filling

Heat in a large skillet over medium heat
1 teaspoon oil 
Add
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
Cook, stirring, 6 minutes or until mushrooms are lightly browned.
Remove from heat.  Stir in
1 ham steak (about 1/2 pound), cubed
Spoon into the crust lined pie plate.
Top with
8 ounces mozzarella, chopped
1/2 Cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Preheat oven to 425º F

Beat together in a large bowl
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves (1 teaspoon dried)
5 eggs
2/3 Cup milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pour mixture over the ingredients in the pie plate.
Bake 15 minutes. 
Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF.
Bake 30 minutes or until knife inserted in centre comes out clean.
Let stand 10 minutes before cutting to serve.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Manicotti with Sausage Filling

Easter is coming.
The family will be getting together.
They'll be at the table, expecting lots of food.
Time to plan a big family menu.

One of the tricks Ma used to make the main dish go further when the family gathered was to serve a pasta course first.

Ma always had homemade stuffed shells in the freezer.
Another old favourite was manicotti.

I had posted Carmela’s recipe for manicotti a while ago.
Here’s Ma’s version of manicotti. 
It’s a little different from when Ma used the shell filling.
Make both.  
If they fill up on the manicotti, there’ll be more turkey left over for sandwiches.

Hints:

New at stuffing tubes?  
It’s easier to cram a bit in from each end.
You can either use a spoon, or place the filling in a plastic bag.  
Using scissors, cut a corner from the bottom of the bag. 
Fill by squeezing the filling mixture into both ends of each tube.

You can also prepare stuffed manicotti in advance and freeze.
If you're in a cooking frenzy, make extra for another dinner.
For frozen stuffed manicotti, an hour in a 350º oven usually did the trick.


                        Manicotti 

Have on hand 
2 Cups tomato sauce, minimum

In a large pot place
4 quarts water
Over high heat bring the water to a boil.
Add 
salt to taste
Add
225 grams manicotti tubes
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked but slightly chewy.
Drain the tubes and rinse with cold water.


For Filling

In a large skillet place
1 pound crumbled sausage meat (or ground beef or pork or both)
1 small onion, chopped
Fry over medium heat until the meat is cooked.
Remove from heat and drain excess fat.
Add
1 1/2 Cups ricotta 
1/2 Cup chopped fresh basil  (or 2 Tablespoons dried, more or less)
1/4 Cup shredded Romano cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Mix well.

Preheat oven 350º

Place a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 13x9x2 inch baking pan.
Carefully stuff the manicotti tubes and place them in the baking pan.
Spoon the remaining sauce over the tubes.
Sprinkle with
4 ounces mozzarella, chopped or shredded 
1/2 Cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Bake 30 to 45 minutes, until the manicotti is heated through.
Serve hot with 
grated Romano or Parmesan cheese available

Serve some crusty bread on the side to sop up the sauce...
…and to stretch out that first course.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Spaghetti Squash, Middle Eastern Style

Last week the Middle Eastern Style recipe for Chicken with Cardamom was popular.
I had posted the link for it on the blog Carole’s Chatter.
It’s written by Carole, a lovely woman of a certain age who lives in New Zealand, an island country southeast of Australia.
Thanks to that, I got a very nice message from Lydia, who lives in Maryland, a state in the southeastern part of the United States.
Such is the shrinking, sharing world of blogging.

Interested in other Middle Eastern Style chicken recipes?
Try


I also got some e mails asking if there was a Middle Eastern Style recipe that could be enjoyed by vegetarians. 
Thank you for asking.  Of course there is.

Spaghetti squash is also called vegetable spaghetti, noodle squash, vegetable marrow, spaghetti marrow, and squaghetti.
It has flesh that is similar to other raw squash.
It can be baked, boiled, steamed or microwaved.
Then the flesh can be scraped out with a fork.
You'll get strands like spaghetti.

Served with or without a sauce, it’s a great substitute for pasta.
That's right - this recipe is also gluten-free!!
A two-fer, if you have guests who are so inclined.

Oh, be sure to save the seeds.
They can be roasted, just like pumpkin seeds.


                        Spaghetti Squash (Middle Eastern Style)


Toast
1/2 Cup slivered almonds

Peel the zest from
1 orange
Quarter or slice the orange to use as a garnish.

Cook
1 medium spaghetti squash
Scrape the inside of the squash and set aside.
Discard the rind.

In a dutch oven heat
2 Tablespoons butter 
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Add, stirring
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
3/4 teaspoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
Cook one minute.
Add the squash and stir well to coat the strands with the seasoning.
Place the squash in a large heated serving platter.
Season with 
salt and pepper

Garnish with the orange pieces.
Top with the toasted slivered almonds and the orange zest.
Serve with a mixed green salad.