Saturday, March 31, 2012

Anna Sultana's Kwarezimal and Figolli - part 2 - Margaret Ullrich

continued from part 1

     When I was seven I had to follow the Church's rules during Lent.  I ate kwarezimal, an almond cookie iced with honey and chopped pistacchio nuts.  Ma said we could eat it during Lent because it didn't have any fats or eggs.  

     For Maundy Thursday Ma baked bread in the form of a ring.  It was sprinkled with sesame seeds and pierced with roasted almonds.  Our Easter dinner menu was the same as it had been in Corona.  But Ma baked a Figolli, a Maltese sweet bread with a marzipan filling instead of a Colomba di Pasqua. 

     A figolli is harder to make than a colomba.  The dough was rolled about one cm thick.  Then Ma cut the dough into pairs of figolla with a figolla cutter.  It looked like a large J, but the stick part ended in a fish's tail.  On one side of a figolla she put jam and marzipan.  Then she covered it with the identical shape as if she was making a sandwich.  After the figolli had been baked and cooled they were covered with colored icing and piped royal icing.  Then an Easter egg was placed on top of each figolli.  For the final touch a cardboard woman's face was inserted into the mound of the J.  

     The odd thing about Ma's figolli was that it was a mermaid.  I asked Ma why a mermaid and not a dove and she said, "I don't know.  It's our tradition."  Well, you can't argue with tradition.  

     In College Point, as Easter approached, the bakeries filled with cross buns, pretzels, braided almond loaves, Easter cookies and marzipan treats.  There were also decorated sugar Easter eggs which had a hole in one end.  When we looked into the hole we could see tiny bunny villages.  Ma knew about the cross buns.  Since Malta was part of the British Empire she had eaten them in Malta, too. 
     We brought samples of our mothers' baking to school.  There were lots of pretzels.  Since they didn't have any fats or eggs, they could be eaten during Lent.  I brought kwarezimal.  After I explained that the almond cookies didn't have any fats or eggs my friends agreed to try them.  I liked the braided loaves which were spread with almond paste.  They reminded me of Colomba di Pasqua.  

Please continue to part 3 -
it's about The Great Figolli Fight - when my Sicilian Aunt Dina and my Maltese Aunt Demi had a huge fight about the proper bread to serve for Easter.
Of course, Ma solved the problem!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Easter Bread and Food Traditions - part 1 - Margaret Ullrich

     Easter has more customs than the Bunny has eggs.  A popular tradition is to gather together and share a feast.  Over the centuries women have made this a glorious occasion with beautifully decorated eggs, colorful cakes and sweet breads.

     And that's where Easter goes to hell in a bread basket.

     According to tradition, an angel appeared to Mary to tell her that Jesus would arise on Easter.  To show her joy she baked bread to share with her friends.  And to make it more special, she put an egg, a symbol of life, on the top.

     Now, I have to admit I don't know what I'd do if someone told me that a recently deceased relative was rising from the dead.  I guess baking bread is as good a thing to do as any.  The only problem is that over the past two millennia something got lost in translation as that bread recipe went from country to country.

     During my earliest years in Corona, Easter was Italian.  Palm Sunday was the Day of the Olive.  Small blessed olive branches were offered as tokens of peacemaking.  For Easter breakfast we had Colomba di Pasqua.  Colomba is bread shaped to look like a dove, the symbol of peace, and covered with almond paste and almonds. 

     Easter dinner also had traditions.  First we had manicotti.  That was followed by a roasted whole baby lamb with a mixed salad, sauteed spinach and roasted artichokes.  For dessert there were cream tarts, cookies, spumoni, nuts and roasted chestnuts.  The adults also had coffee.

     Then my family moved to College Point, which had been settled by Irish and German families.  They had their own Easter customs.  Since Easter was not as commercial as Christmas, we were able to follow our own Maltese customs.

Please continue to part 2 - 
it's about Ma making Maltese Kwarezimal and Figolli for Lent and Easter.

Anna Sultana's Saffron Paska (Saffron Easter Bread)

Easter, just like Christmas, comes with its own recipes.
Ah, tradition...  Gotta love it.
Or at least do it.
If you want to keep peace in the family.

Here's an old favorite.
Or, hopefully, a new one.


                             Saffron Paska

1/4 Cup boiling water            
3/4 to 1 ounce saffron             
Let steep until cool, then strain. 

Scald and cool to lukewarm
3 cups milk                              

1 1/2 Cups lukewarm water   
2 Tablespoons yeast                  
3 Tablespoons sugar                            
Let sit 10 minutes

Cream together
1 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar                            
Add one at a time, blending each in thoroughly
6 eggs yolks                              

Add to creamed mixture
saffron water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt                          
1 lemon's juice and grated rind     
1 teaspoon vanilla  (optional)             
yeast mixture 
lukewarm milk 
Mix well.
Add, mixing well
5 Cups sifted flour                     

Beat until they stand in stiff peaks
6 egg whites                              
Fold whites into the dough.  
Cover bowl.  Let dough rise in warm place until doubled in bulk. 

Add to make a soft dough 
4 to 5 Cups sifted flour               
Knead until elastic.  
Place in a greased bowl.  
Cover bowl.  Let dough rise in warm place until doubled in bulk.  
Punch down.  
Reserve 1/4 of dough for decorating.
Shape remaining dough into 2 or 3 loaves.  
Place in well greased round bread pans.  
Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.                                                  
Decorate with reserved dough before baking. 

Bake in a preheated 325º oven for 30 minutes,    
Reduce heat to 275º and bake 35 minutes longer.

1 egg 
2 Tablespoons milk  
Brush tops.  
Return to bake 5 more minutes or until golden.  
Turn out on rack and let cool.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Thyme (whole and ground) / Thyme Salad Dressing - Margaret Ullrich

You're right.
Some of those spice jars and bags are holding leaves.
Not seeds that look like beebee pellets.
Not ground seeds that look like some weird pepper.
We're talking leaves.
Some big, some teeny tiny, some ground up.

Okay... let's pick up a jar.
Let's look at thyme.

You've sung about thyme and its leafy buddies. 
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme....
Alright, your grandmother sang about Thyme.

Don't get snarky.
Not unless you don't want Easter chocolates.
It's still Lent.
It's not smart to irritate a hungry old woman.

Buy some thyme.
It's time to get ready for a major family dinner.

You can sprinkle thyme on meats or fish before roasting.
Ground thyme is THE ingredient for pork and poultry stuffing.
It will add an appetizing aroma to casseroles, soups, stews and sauces.

Thyme is also delicious in cooked tomato dishes or sprinkled on raw tomato slices.
You can also add a pinch to biscuits or breads.

Or make your own salad dressing.
Yes, really, you can.
Kraft did not invent salad dressings.

Thyme Salad Dressing

Combine in a small jar
1/2 Cup salad or olive oil
1/4 Cup wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
Cover and shake well.
Let stand several hours.
Cover and shake well.
Serve over vegetable salads.

Makes 3/4 Cup

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cream Puffs - Baked Sfingi / Zfineg ta San Guzepp or Valentine's Day Cream Puff Heart - Margaret Ullrich

It's official!
It's Spring!
Really Spring for us in Manitoba, where we've been having 
record breaking warm days!!
Hurrah for Spring!!

I wasn't surprised to see that my post on Carmela Soprano's Sfingi, Anna Sultana's Zfineg ta San Guzepp was the week's top post.

Hurrah for Saint Joseph!!
Hope everyone had a wonderful time.

One thing that bloggers do, besides writing, is check what people are searching for when they find one's blog. 
Really, we care.
So I just checked my Search Keywords. 
And I was saddened to see a couple of searches for "sfingi +baked".

I'm so sorry that I didn't think of this sooner.

Doughnuts can be a bother.
And many wish to avoid them, for health or other reasons.

But everyone does want to celebrate.
So here's something you can use instead of doughnuts.
This recipe makes 10 large puffs.
If you're having company, increase ingredients.
It's a really easy recipe.

Honest, St. Joseph won't mind.

                        Cream Puffs
grease a large cookie pan         
preheat oven to 425º           
bake 45 minutes 

In a medium saucepan place
1 Cup water
1/2 Cup butter (or margarine)
Heat to boiling.
When the butter has melted, reduce heat.

Stir in
1 Cup flour
Stir until the mixture forms a ball.
Remove from heat.

Beat in, one at a time
4 eggs
Beat until smooth.
Drop mixture by spoonfuls onto pan.
Slice before serving and fill.

St. Joseph Sfingi filling
ricotta and candied citron 
Zeppoli ta San Guzepp
fill with sweet ricotta, then close and dip in honey and chopped nuts

So much for St. Joseph's Day.

Cream puffs can also be filled with ice cream, custard or whipped cream.
They can be topped with fudge sauce, butterscotch sauce or sweetened berries.

If you want to make a fancy shape, like a heart for Valentine's Day,
Drop the spoonfuls of mixture close to each other so they'll touch.
They'll bake as one.
Just before serving, slice as you would a large cake, fill and serve.

Happy Holidays... or any days!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Eat local / Canadian Farmers Markets

Spring kicks off the growing season in Canada. It’s time to start filling your grocery cart with local produce. When you buy from Canadian farmers, the food tends to be fresher, more nutritious and doesn’t require travelling long distances – which helps our environment, too.

Walk the aisles of your grocery store and look for some local foods including vegetables, fruit, meat, fish and dairy.
You can also visit your local Canadian Farmers Markets.
Here are some tips and recipes featuring some of Canada’s best produce.

The fresher the better Find out when your grocery store receives its produce delivery and plan your shopping accordingly. Check the label to make sure the produce comes from Canada, which has some of the world’s highest standards when it comes to food safety and quality.

Buy in season Some early Canadian produce items include asparagus, snow peas, new potatoes and dark leafy greens such as Swiss chard, watercress, Brussels sprouts and spinach.
Choose fresh asparagus by looking for straight, crisp spears with green or purple tips and tight heads. Their stalks should be firm and snap off easily.
Try our asparagus and red pepper mix recipe.
Soon, strawberries and rhubarb will be available, too.
Try our strawberry compote with dumplings recipe.
Consume your fresh produce within a week for best results. But if produce is not yet available, eat frozen or canned, which is packaged immediately after it is harvested.

Eat it right Most fresh produce is best eaten raw. Simply wash, trim and cut a variety of vegetable crudités such as green beans, spring onions and radishes. Enjoy them with our goat cheese and mint bean spread.
Some vegetables release more nutrients when lightly steamed or sautéed, including broccoli, carrots and tomatoes.

Local treats Most regions in Canada have award-winning cheeses, and locally grown spring lamb, pork, beef and harvested salmon. For a delicious dinner made with local foods, try our recipe for lamb stew with mini new potatoes.

By Alyssa Rolnick MHSc., RD

Monday, March 12, 2012

Nutrition myths - busted

Nutrition myths are like fast food restaurants – they are everywhere, they’re hard to avoid, and they can derail your best intentions to follow a healthy, balanced diet. To mark Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month, let’s skip the fast food in favour of some home-cooked truths.

MYTH: A low-carb diet is the best way to lose weight. 
TRUTH: In a recent survey of Canadian dietitians, 97 percent said that choosing the right carbs is better for healthy eating than choosing a low-carb diet. The “right carbs” are vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains such as oats, brown rice and whole grain bread. These foods provide fibre, vitamins and a wealth of disease-fighting antioxidants. Yes, cutting carbs can help you lose weight, but it may not help keep the weight off. It difficult to maintain a low-carb diet since the food choices are so limited. Instead, enjoy the right carbs in dishes like Red lentil daal and Sautéed garlic kale.

MYTH: If a food is fat-free, it must be healthy.
TRUTH: Foods labeled “fat-free” can still be high in calories, salt, sugar or other undesirable nutrients. Plus, fat is not the enemy it was once thought to be. Fat from foods like nuts, oil and fish is essential in the diet. Don’t be fooled by fat-free claims – read the ingredient list and use the Nutrition Facts panel to get the whole story.

MYTH: Only people with high blood pressure should limit their sodium.
TRUTH: In addition to causing high blood pressure, excess sodium can cause stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. The average Canadian consumes 3,400 mg per day, yet nutrition guidelines recommend only 1,500 mg. Try flavouring your food with herbs and spices instead of soy sauce, ketchup or other salty condiments.

MYTH: The easiest way to limit sodium is to stop using the salt shaker.
TRUTH: The best way to cut back is to limit processed foods, such as canned goods, frozen entrees, broth and bouillon, salty snacks, pickled vegetables, deli meats marinades, condiments and sauces such as BBQ, soy, teriyaki, mustard and ketchup. Cook from scratch more often.

MYTH: Cooking meals at home takes way too much time. 
TRUTH: If you plan ahead, keep a well-stocked kitchen, and choose simple recipes, weeknight meals can be easy. Choose recipes that can be prepared in less than 20 minutes, such as Salmon BLT or White bean pasta pot. Cook large batches and freeze portions so weeknight supper just needs to be heated. Take short cuts with healthy convenience foods, such as pre-cut vegetables or cooked brown rice. Get other quick, easy meal ideas from the Heart and Stroke Foundation recipe file
By Cara Rosenbloom RD
Posted: March 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mustard (seeds and ground) / Homemade Hot Chinese Mustard - Margaret Ullrich

Mustard is not a mystery ingredient.
It's probably the first spice a kid grabs.
Especially in the summer.
I mean, what's a hot dog without mustard?

Everybody knows that creamy golden glop on top.
And prepared mustard comes in such a variety of strengths.

Notice I said "Prepared".

Yes, mustard, as most folks know it, is prepared.
Prepared from, you guessed it, seeds.

Just like Fennel and Caraway, Mustard can be bought as seeds.

And you can actually use the seeds, as is.
Add a few to pickling brine.
Dry-roast seeds in a skillet until they pop, then add to braised cabbage 
or hot green beans.
Add some to simmering brisket or corned beef.  
Make this a St. Patrick's Day they'll remember!!

And just like the other seeds, you can easily grind Mustard seeds.
That's what the big companies do to make your old favorites.

You can do it, too!!

And what fun you can have with the powdered mustard!
Add, with roasted seeds, to white sauce.  Serve with fish and meat.

Small hint:
Mix it with cold water to make a paste before adding to other food, 
to prevent clumping.

Which reminds me...
Like Chinese take-out?
Want to have more Hot Chinese Mustard?
You can make your own!!

Hot Chinese Mustard
Mix powder with water (or vinegar, or a mix of the 2)  
Let stand 10 minutes

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Heart Healthy Mushroom Squash Soup

You may have noticed the Red Dress Campaign last month.

If you didn't have time to check it out, no problem.
You can visit The Heart Truth website now.

You can even email them a question through the site.

It does have a few sponsors.
Like The Heart and Stroke Foundation.

And it does have recipes.
A nice soup would be perfect right about now.

                        Mushroom and Roasted Squash Soup

Makes 5 servings. 
Cook time: 45 minutes  

1 small butternut squash, about 1 kg/2 lbs 
4 cloves garlic, minced 
25 mL (2 tbsp) chopped fresh parsley 
5 mL (1 tsp) curry powder (optional) 
1 mL (1/4 tsp) freshly ground pepper 
1 L (4 cups) no salt added chicken broth 
10 mL (2 tsp) canola oil 
1 pkg (227 g/8 oz) mushrooms, thinly sliced 
5 mL (1 tsp) chopped fresh rosemary or 1 mL/1/4 tsp dried 
5 mL (1 tsp) chopped fresh thyme or 2 mL/1/2 tsp dried 
25 mL (2 tbsp) goat cheese (optional)   

Peel and remove seeds from squash.  
Chop squash into 2.5 cm (1 inch) pieces and place in large bowl.  
Add 3 of the garlic cloves, parsley, curry powder, if using, pepper  
and 75 mL (1/3 cup) of the chicken broth and stir to coat.  
Spread onto parchment paper lined baking sheet and  
roast in 220 C (425 F) oven for about 40 minutes or until tender and golden.  

Meanwhile, in large non-stick skillet heat oil over medium high heat and 
cook mushrooms, remaining garlic, rosemary and thyme for about 8 minutes  
or until golden brown and liquid has evaporated; set aside.  

Scrape butternut squash into blender and puree  
with 500 mL (2 cups) of the broth until smooth.  
Pour into saucepan and add remaining broth.  
Bring to a simmer.  
Ladle into soup bowls and top with mushrooms  
and crumble goat cheese on top to serve.  

Tip: For added texture and flavour, you can stir in mushrooms when simmering instead of sprinkling them on top.  

Recipe developed by Emily Richards, PH Ec. © Heart and Stroke Foundation, 2012.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Heart Healthy Macaroni and Cheese

I know February was Heart month.
But heart attacks aren't very fussy about when they strike.
And heart attack is the number one killer of women in Canada.

You know the rules:
Get active.
Live smoke free.
Reduce stress.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation has an excellent website.
There are recipes.
And they don't taste like they're healthy.

Here's one of their recipes.
Enjoy and stay well.

                        Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Cook time: 35 - 40 min  
Servings: 6  

1 small sweet potato (about 250 g/8 oz), peeled and chopped 
375 mL (1 1/2 cups) whole-wheat elbow macaroni 
30 mL (2 tbsp) soft, non-hydrogenated margarine 
45 mL (3 tbsp) enriched, all-purpose flour 
425 mL (1 3/4 cups)  1% M.F. milk 
175 mL (3/4 cup) shredded light, old cheddar cheese (18% M.F.) 
5 mL (1 tsp) Dijon mustard 
125 mL (1/2 cup) frozen peas, corn or diced carrots  

Breadcrumb topping: 
60 mL (1/4 cup) seasoned breadcrumbs 
10 mL (2 tsp) soft, non-hydrogenated margarine, melted  

Place sweet potato in microwaveable bowl with 60 mL (1/4 cup) of water.  
Cover and microwave on HIGH for 4 to 6 minutes or until very soft.  
Drain and mash with potato masher until smooth; set aside.  

Meanwhile, in pot of boiling water, cook macaroni for about 8 minutes  
or until tender but firm. Drain well and return to pot.  

In saucepan, melt margarine over medium heat and stir in flour.  
Cook, stirring for 1 minute or until thickened.  
Slowly whisk in milk and cook, whisking occasionally for about 8 minutes  
or until starting to bubble around the edge.  
Whisk in cheese and mustard until smooth.  
Whisk in sweet potato and add peas.  
Pour into macaroni mixture and stir until well combined.  

Breadcrumb topping:  
In small bowl, combine breadcrumbs and margarine.  

Scrape macaroni mixture into 2 L (8 inch) glass casserole dish  
and sprinkle with breadcrumb topping.   

Bake in 190 C (375 F) oven for about 15 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Caraway Butter for Vegetables / Caraway Seed French Bread / Caraway Seed Noodles - Margaret Ullrich

Want some actual Caraway recipes?
Okay... here are a few simple recipes to get you started.

Fennel would work well in these recipes, too.
Or any other favorite savory spice.
Just saying...

Caraway Butter for Vegetables

Melt 4 Tablespoons butter
Add 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, more or less
Heat until butter is lightly browned.

Pour over hot cooked cabbage, cauliflower, beets, broccoli, 
carrots, potatoes or Brussels sprouts.

Caraway Seed French Bread

Preheat oven to 425º
Cutting to within 1/2-inch from the bottom,
cut a long loaf of French bread into 1-inch slices.
It'll look like a comb.

1/4 Cup softened butter
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
Spread between slices.
Wrap in foil.
Heat loaf 20 to 25 minutes.
Serve hot.

Caraway Seed Noodles
Cook according to package directions
8 oz. package of noodles
1 Tablespoon caraway seeds to the water.

Drain and toss lightly with
2 Tablespoons butter
Serve hot.
You can also serve noodles with the Caraway Butter for Vegetables.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Caraway (seeds and ground) - Margaret Ullrich

Caraway is another spice that I'm sure you've tasted.
Especially if you like German food.

But Caraway, just like Fennel, just doesn't get any respect.
Now is the time to respect Caraway by buying a bag or jar of seeds.
Trust me, they won't just sit there.

Some uses for those Caraway Seeds...

Add a few to meatloaf along with some dillweed and ground allspice.
Sprinkle a few on liverwurst and other meat sandwiches.
Add some to stews and hearty soups.

Add a few to the water for boiling potatoes for mashing.
Sprinkle over cabbage, sauerkraut or zucchini before cooking.
Stir some into coleslaw.  Gives a kick to that bland store-bought stuff.

Stir some into cheese-bread batter, muffins or scones.
Add to savory dumpling batter.

And just like Fennel, you can easily grind Caraway seeds.