Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cul de Sac Crazy lll - Being 60 (week 39 - by Margaret Ullrich)

I was really hoping I'd have some good news to report.

No such luck.

Okay... on January 19 B was back.
At least his truck was.  
No sign of life from the house.
Everyone was thinking the worst.
Don't ask what we thought the worst was.

On January 22, at 9:30 pm, B drove his truck from the carport, which faces the back lane, to the cul de sac and backed onto his front lawn.  
Excuse me our front lawn - he drove over our shrubs and sheared off a bit of them when he tried to cram his truck into the space between our houses.
We were just relieved he stopped before he hit our house.
The branches will grow back. 

By 10:00 pm he was done barricading his front door.
We settled down for another night's sleep.
We were hoping he was actually packing up this time.
Yeah, right.

On January 24, just 2 days later, at 5:00 pm, B cleared a path from his truck to the street and drove off.

There was some junk in the back of the truck, which does not have a canopy.  So it was easy to see the hodgepodge of junk piled in there.

This time we were a little less excited.
I mean, he'd done this before.
No Christmas lights were turned on.

On January 25 we went to see the movie Black Swan.  
As we backed out of our garage we saw the truck's grill grinning at us from the carport.
It was back.
The truck and Black Swan.
Don't ask which we thought was scarier.

January 27 was a lovely day.  Hoarfrost covered everything.  Of course that also meant that we were going to get more snow.  
Yep, we were going to get an Alberta Clipper sailing through with another 5 cm snow.  

January 28 the Alberta Clipper was whipping the snow around.  The estimate went from 5 to 15 cm of snow.  
Parts of the highway were closed.  Professional drivers stopped and hunkered down.  Only a crazy fool would drive into a Clipper. 

That was also garbage day.  
God help them, they had to work through that mess.  
When Paul returned from putting out our trash he had a bemused look.
The truck was gone.
Like I said, only a crazy fool would drive into a Clipper.


First we thought B was being logical.
He's from Texas.
His Mom still lives there.
Maybe she'd found an apartment for him and he was driving south.
It would take a few days.
He'd be there by the first.

Funny how the mind tries to find logic when faced with a lunatic.

That night, at 7:30 pm, we heard a truck door slam.  
I looked out the window at the bay.
The truck was back.

Now, did I mention that all this time, A's white car was left parked in front of their house?  
It's been there, getting covered by snow, for the past 3 months.
The plows don't usually bother with cul de sacs.
Not until the snow gets bad enought to cause a problem.

Okay... the snow is now bad enough to cause a problem.

The plows were here, at least in spirit.

Our house is at the mouth of the cul, so the area in front of our house is clear.

The plows gave up when they were faced with a white car and a green truck parked in front of the second house.
The two vehicles are now walled in with snow that is hardening faster than than you can say "Jackass".

There's a grassy spot in the middle of the cul that makes it difficult for large vehicles to get through when an idiot is blocking part of the path.
Our city employees are not idiots.
They just backed out and went to where saner people live.
There are 11 houses in our little bay.
It's going to be hell for 8 families to get to and from their houses tomorrow.
Monday.  School and work.
Guess how popular B is right now.

It gets better.
As of 5:00 pm a third car, belonging to a friend of B, is wedged perpendicularly between the white car and the truck.
The nose of the car is blocking the street.
B is shoveling snow onto the little circle in the middle of the cul.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Date Squares / Matrimonial Cake - Margaret Ullrich

Got an e mail for another date recipe.

We're all in this together.
Next year we'll know better.

This is also called Matrimonial Cake, but you cut it into bars.
Who cares.  
It uses up those dates.

                        Date Squares
grease an 8" square pan         
preheat oven to 325º           
bake 40 min.

Bring to a boil
1 Cup dates
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 Cup water
Simmer 5 minutes
Mix together
1 Cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda     
1/8 teaspoon salt
Cut in
1 Cup margarine
Blend in
1 Cup brown sugar
2 Cups oatmeal

Press half the crumb mixture in the prepared pan.
Cover with the date filling.
Top with the remaining crumb mixture.
bake - cool - cut into bars

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Berry Crumb Bar Cookies - Margaret Ullrich

Amazing what we find in our kitchens, once the holiday season is over.

Fresh cranberries.
Yeah, I know.  
The bags were so cute.

Nobody can face another turkey dinner.

Guess what?
Cranberries can be baked in pastries. 
Like regular berries.

This recipe also works with blueberries.
But that's not what you're stuck with right now.

                        Berry Crumb Bars                                                            

grease a 9 x 13" pan         
preheat oven to 375º           
bake 45 min.

Mix together
3 Cups flour
1 Cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Cut in (for coarse crumbs)
1 Cup margarine
Stir in
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
Toss together
4 cups berries
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 Cup sugar

Press 2/3 the crumb mixture in the prepared pan.
Cover with the berries.
Sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top.
bake - cool - cut into bars

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mock Apple Pie / Ritz Cracker Pie - Margaret Ullrich

I know...
the crackers were on sale - even buy one, get one free - and the TV commercials had folks digging their crackers into the dips like they were buckets of ice cream.

All your friends ate the raw veggies.
Now you're stuck with Ritz crackers.
Nobody likes them.

Still, can't just throw them away, what with people starving somewhere.
Can't send the crackers to them, either.

Make a fake apple pie.
Would I lie to you?

                        Mock Apple Pie

Boil together for 2 minutes
2 Cups water
1 1/2 Cups sugar
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Drop in 
20 whole Ritz crackers
Boil 2 minutes without stirring
Place crackers in
baked 8" pie shell
Cover with crumb crust made of
3/4 Cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter
2 tablespoons flour

Serve and keep your lip zipped.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Choo Choos - Date and Walnut Bar Cookies - Margaret Ullrich

Along with the raisins, you bought dates and walnuts.

Yeah, they do get stale.
Can't save them till next Christmas.

Here's an easy cookie recipe.

                        Choo Choos

grease an 8" square pan         
preheat oven to 350º           
bake 30 min.
makes 24 bars

Mix together
3/4 Cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder     
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Cup sugar
Stir in
1 Cup chopped dates                 
3/4 Cup chopped walnuts
Beat until foamy
2 eggs                                   
blend in dry ingredients
turn into prepared pan
bake - cool - cut into bars

Still have a bag or two of dates?
Make a pan or two of Date Squares.
they're also known as Matrimonial Cake.

Cul de Sac Crazy ll - Being 60 (week 38 - by Margaret Ullrich)

Okay... for the younger readers who didn't have a clue who I meant by Monty Woolley's character in The Man Who Came to Dinner, think of Owen Wilson in You, Me and Dupree.

Only not as funny.
Or as cute.
And with a peace bond.
That means he did something violent enough to get A to put a restraining order on him.
By law they have to stay away from each other.
No, we didn't know what a peace bond was, either.

After B barricaded his front door with his truck on January 13, at 8:30 pm, it was quiet in the cul de sac.

No sign of him.
At first we enjoyed it.

Then we wondered... was he still alive?
Were we supposed to call the cops?

I mean, we've all seen neighbors being questioned by cops after a crazy did something loopy enough to get on the 6 o'clock news.

Well, the quiet lasted until January 18, at 8:15 pm, when he decided to shovel a path from his truck to the street.

Could it be?
Had he packed the back of his truck?
Was he finally leaving?

A general mood of euphoria settled on our circle.
TVs were turned off.
People smiled and nodded.
Some got a bit giddy and turned on their Christmas lights.

At 9:09 B drove off.
We saw his truck turn west on the main drag.
He was headed away from the city.

Maybe he was going to stay with his relatives.

We slept well that night.

The next day I went to get some fresh fruit.
Something made me glance at our back lane.

The truck was there.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Easy Raisin / Sultana Cake - Margaret Ullrich

I know... I know...  
In November we were all going to bake dozens of cookies and cakes.  
Okay.  We did bake a few.  
Then things got crazy.

Now it's January.  
It's almost guaranteed that you've got a few bags of dried fruit just sitting on the shelves.  

Got raisins?  Got cake.

                        Raisin Cake

grease an 8" square pan         
preheat oven to 350º           

Place in a medium pot
1 Cup raisins or sultanas
2 Cups water
Boil gently for 5 minutes.
Drain, reserving  1 1/2 Cups of the liquid in a large bowl.

Add to liquid
1 Tablespoon oil

2 Cups flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Cup sugar
Stir into the raisin liquid quickly and thoroughly.
Stir in raisins.
Turn batter into prepared pan.
Bake 35 minutes.

Anna Sultana's Qaghag tal-Gulglien - Sesame Ring Biscuits, Maltese Style

On the good side, it's nice to know you're visiting my blog.
On the bad side...
Sheesh, you don't have to bite my head off.

I know I haven't had a recipe from my Ma for a while.

Well, she didn't have favorite booze recipes.
And, to be honest, she didn't cook many chocolate cookies or cakes.

So, this week I'm skipping Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos and giving you a recipe from Ma's cookbook.

Here's a recipe for Ma's Qagħag tal-ĠulglienSesame Ring Biscuits.

                        Qagħag tal-Ġulglien

Grease a large cookie sheet
Preheat oven to 400º 
In a large mixing bowl, beat 
100 g lard
100 g margarine
200 g sugar
2 eggs, beaten
Mix in
400 g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Work into a dough by adding 
a little milk
Form dough into 15 to 18 rings.
Dip each ring into
50 g sesame seeds
Put the rings on the greased pan.
Bake about 30 minutes (until they are golden).
These were also called biscuits.

Yes, more confusion when we learned about English and American biscuits.

Will I make them again.
They're good to dip in a cup of coffee.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cul de Sac Crazy - Being 60 (week 37 - by Margaret Ullrich)

Sorry I missed a week.
It's been a bit crazy here.
Trust me.
No, I wasn't just playing with makeup for 2 weeks.

I'm just as hooked on the comings and goings of celebrities as the next person.  I watch ET.  I read a couple of chapters of Candace Bushnell's One Fifth Avenue before I go to sleep. 

But the celebs and Manhattanites have nothing on what's been going on in a once quiet little cul de sac right here in Winnipeg.

Think Kelsey Grammer's divorce is a mess?  
Think Sandra Bullock was blindsided?

Last Halloween our neighbor, let's call him A, left his companion, let's call him B.  
No word to anyone in the cul de sac.
Just left.

A little backgrounding: A had bought the house about 25 years ago.  B had moved in about 10 years ago.  B, similar to Monty Woolley's character in The Man Who Came to Dinner, wanted to be kept in a certain lifestyle, sans work, either paid or domestic.  
A let him.

We were wondering why we hadn't seen A for a while.  But we hoped it was a simple family matter, helping a relative, yadda, yadda, yadda.

In mid-December B popped in while we were trying to get ready for the holidays.  First he said A was missing.  We suggested calling the police.  No need to.  Police were already involved.  A had gotten a peace bond against B, who had been told to vacate the premises.  B had changed the locks.  

B also was hoping we'd escort him to our church for some fellowship.  A Christmas dinner, perhaps?

Lips quivering, B said he would leave a few days before Christmas, so A could have Christmas in his own home and invite his widowed Mom.

B then went on to talk about his heroes, the Branch Davidians, who had caused a ruckus a few years ago.  B is from Texas and likes guns and the "circle the wagons" approach.

Okay... B, not A, is still in the house.
No sign of A.

On January 13, at 8:30 pm, we heard some loud thuds coming through our living room wall.  The wall facing A's house.  
The houses in our cul de sac are close.  
About enough space to squeeze a car between them.
I looked out the window.
The snow on A's front lawn had been disturbed.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the snub nose of B's truck.
He had backed it, wedged it, between our houses, so that it now blocks his door.
It makes quite a barricade.
The next day the mail carrier passed the house, the other neighbors shook their heads.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Mostaciolli - Spiced Chocolate Cookies with Rum Frosting

Last week I posted Carmela's recipe for Baci Cake - more or less.

Hope everyone who hit it and tried it, enjoyed it.
Don't complain about the mess, bowls and spatulas.  
You were warned.

Okay, we've just gotten through a few weeks of heavy eating.
And I mean heavy.
Time to cut back.
But not too fast.
It's like coming up for air.
Come up too fast and you'll get the bends.

Let's wean ourselves with some cookies.
Baby steps.

In the Holidays chapter in Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos, Carmela has a recipe for Mostaciolli, Spiced Chocolate Cookies.

The recipe uses cocoa powder instead of ounces of semisweet and bittersweet chocolate.  It also has some rum.
Baby steps.

Just a thought... Carmela is big on using things like freshly grated nutmeg and pure vanilla.  I don't know if she started cooking this way or it's something she jumped into when she moved into the McMansion.  If you are so inclined and have the time and that tiny grater, knock yourself out.

If you've gotten the family used to bagged grated nutmeg and artifical vanilla, no problem.  You most likely have a cleaner conscience about your income, too.

Also... if your family likes cookies more cinnamony than clovey, go for it.  
They're the ones you're feeding, right?


Line 2 large baking sheets with foil         
preheat oven to 375º           
bake 18 to 20 minutes (see below)

In a medium bowl whisk
2 large eggs
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled 
1/2  cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large mixer bowl stir together
3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Add the egg/butter mixture.
Stir until blended.

Pinch off small pieces of dough (enough to make a 1-inch ball).
Roll them between the palms of your hands.
Place them an inch apart on the cookie sheets.

Bake until the cookies are slight puffed and cracked.
Let them cool completely on the sheets on a wire rack.

For the Frosting:
Combine in a small bowl
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
Stir until smooth.
Dip the top of each cookie in the frosting.
Place on wire rack and let stand until frosting is firm.
Store in a tightly sealed container.

Would I make the Mostaciolli again?
Can't waste that rum.
Another recipe down.  Thirty-one more to go.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Baci Cake, Glazed Chocolate Cake with Hazelnuts

Okay... last February I posted about making Shrimp Aragonate and Baci Cake, a chocolate hazelnut torte, for our Valentine's Day dinner.

Paul liked it.

Apparently a lot of people got curious about Baci Cake.
No, I'm not psychic.

Blogger keeps track of what people were searching for when they land here.
A really popular search word is "baci".

Take a look at the top posts.
They're just to the right.
Carmela Soprano's Baci Cake.
With the booze recipes.
Which have been up for a couple of weeks.
(None of my business.)
The Baci Cake has been up for over 10 months.
(Just drink in moderation.)

Since last May 106 people have hit that post.

This isn't the Huffington Post.
For me, that's a lot of hits.

Okay... I can take a hint.

Carmela Soprano's Baci Cake is a hassle to make.
I didn't bother posting the whole recipe.
I'm sorry.

If you still want to make it, here it is, with a few changes from how I found it in Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos cookbook.
I'll skip a line every time you need a new bowl.
You'll also need a few spatulas.
If you freak out at a messy kitchen, you've been warned.

I won't tell Paulie Walnuts if you make a few changes, too.
Just do what you've gotta do.

                        Baci Cake

grease and flour
9 x 2 inch round pan or springform pan
tap out excess flour         
preheat oven to 350º           
bake 55 minutes (see below)

Put in heatproof bowl
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
Place over simmering water (or in a microwave), uncovered, until softened.
Stir until smooth.
Remove from heat and let cool.

Place in a large mixer bowl
1/2 pound unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup sugar
Beat until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
6 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons dark rum
Beat until smooth.
With a heatproof spatula, stir in
melted chocolate
1 1/2 cups toasted skinned hazelnuts, finely chopped

In another large bowl, WITH CLEAN BEATERS, 
beat at medium speed until foamy
6 large egg whites
pinch of salt
Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted.
With a spatula, gently fold about a quarter of the whites into the chocolate mixture.
Repeat 3 times.
Spread batter in pan.
Bake until the cake is firm around the edge but soft in the center.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Unmold the cake upside down on the rack and let it cool completely.

Cut 4 2-inch-wide strips of wax paper.
Place the upside down cake on a serving platter.
Arrange the wax paper under the cake to protect the platter.

For the Glaze:
Combine in a heatproof bowl
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Place over simmering water (or in a microwave), uncovered, until softened.
Stir until smooth.
Pour the glaze over the cake, letting some spill over the sides.
With a spatula smooth the glaze over the top and sides.
Sprinkle on top of the cake in a circle close to the edge (or not)
2 tablespoons toasted skinned hazelnuts, finely chopped 
Cover with a large overturned bowl or dutch oven.
Refrigerate until 1 hour before serving.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Cher Me - Being 60 (week 35 - by Margaret Ullrich)

We've been taking a break from the movies this week.  
We love going on Tuesdays - It's "Free popcorn and drink day" at Silver City.

Ah, the life of a retiree.

Problem is, everybody knows about the Tuesday deal.
Especially the kids.
The kids who've been on break this week.

About a month ago I talked about how the movie Scrooged was a wake up call for me.  I had focused on Alfre Woodard.  The shoulder pads, the height of fashion in 1988, gave her a certain Hulk look.

Great then.
Not great now.

Okay.... I know the clothes entering their teens in my closet have to go.
Ditto for the clothes old enough to vote.

I still have a problem.

I've watched What Not to Wear.
Clothes are just the first half of the show.

Then there's...  MAKE UP. 
Bronzers... brushes... blushers... Oh, my!!

The problem is, after a certain age, most women are clueless about makeup.

The magazines aren't much help.
I mean they were great a few years ago. 
When I was a teenager Cosmo was my bible.  
But it doesn't help to see articles titled
What makeup to wear when you're in your 20s... 30s... 40s... 

I'm 60.  
I still have makeup I bought when I was 40.
I learned how to use it when I was 15.
In the 1960s.

That's not a good thing.

For those who don't have an ancient history book handy, in the 60s the entire eye was surrounded with white (think of a raccoon) and eyeliner was applied with a trowel (think of Liz Taylor in Cleopatra).

Even Cher looked like a raccoon Cleopatra in the 60s.

A few weeks ago Paul and I saw Burlesque.  

There Cher was.  
On the big screen. 
In a twenty-first century movie. 
Not a period piece.
Lookin' good.

Hurrah for Cher!! 

Cher's eyes looked like she'd just been slugged.
So did some of the other women.
She was supposed to look like that now, in the twenty-first century.

White eye bad.
Black eye good.

It was a sign.
Baby steps.  Baby steps.

Now, what do I do with the rest of my face?

Saturday, January 1, 2011


May your home never be too small
To hold all of your friends.

May you live as long as you want
And never want as long as you live.

May the good Lord take a liking to you,
But not too soon. 

May you have warm words on a cold evening,
A full moon on a dark night,
And the road downhill all the way to your door. 

May your neighbors respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you, 
and heaven accept you. 

Dance as if no one were watching, 
Sing as if no one were listening
And live every day as if it were your last.

Happy New Year!!