Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Parmesan Zucchini, Maltese Style


We’re beginning to see results in our garden.
it’s been a bit of a hard slog.
First winter didn’t want to leave.
That was followed by more rain than we needed.

Well, whatever, the seeds know their business and we’ve got some home grown food to look forward to enjoying.


A garden has been part of my life since I was a kid.
While I was growing up, Pop had a garden.
Along with being a help to the budget, Pop found gardening to be a great way to relax.
Pop grew tomatoes, green beens and zucchini.
And that was just for starters.

Zucchini has a definite will to live.
In mid summer they are manageable.
But as the summer goes on, they can get very large.
A little neglect can be a very, very good thing.

In early Fall, when you have zucchinis the thickness of a baseball bat, they’re perfect for Ma’s recipe for  Qarabali Mimli - Stuffed Zucchini, Maltese Style.

But now, when they’re smaller, Ma’s Parmesan Zucchini is perfect.

                        
                         Parmesan Zucchini
                       
grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan         
preheat oven to 350º        

Slice in half lengthwise                      
4 medium, fresh zucchini
Lightly brush both sizes of the zucchini with olive oil and place in prepared pan.

In a small bowl combine
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon rosemary 
1 Tablespoon thyme
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Sprinkle over the zucchini. 
Bake for 10 minutes.
Place under the broiler for 5 minutes until cheese is browned.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

You’re Gonna Hear Me Roar by Margaret Ullrich


The sun is now in Leo, the height of summer.
Yeah, well, not around here.
Oh, it occasionally feels like summer.
But this year we’re getting more rain than heat.
Winter is beginning to look good.
Yes, this summer has been that bad.


Forty-two years ago we were getting our bearings in White Rock, British Columbia.
We had survived crossing the continent.
We had an address - Hiawatha Trailer Park.

Well, we did until October, since the campground closed at Thanksgiving.
But that’s another story.

A little over a year ago, during a new moon, I started reading Tisha Morris’ Feng Shui Your Life, the quick guide to decluttering your home and renewing your life.
That inspired me to start decluttering my home.
It wasn’t quick - what did I expect after all these years - but it did push me to make some changes. 
By December I could agree with Katherine in Under the Tuscan Sun...
It's a nice little villa. Rather run down, but redeemable...

Then it was on to Oprah…  Not much help there.
To be honest, I’ve gotten more inspiration from the fun loving guys on Property Brothers and the bickering couples on Love It or List It.
Thanks to them, I’ve actually tossed out some more stuff.


The garden never ceases to surprise me.
Sometimes it’s a bad surprise. 
The lily leaf beetles totally destroyed our lilies.
I had to admit that they are too much trouble to fight at my age.
So I decided to pull out the lilies and replace them with something else.
But I didn’t know what.

Well, Mother Nature takes, and sometimes Mother Nature gives.
While Paul was mowing the lawn he found a few raspberry canes under our aspen.
They even had bright red fruit.
What a lovely surprise!!
We’ve found volunteer plants before.
But this is the first time they came with fresh fruit!

This Fall I’ll transplant them to replace the lilies.
I’ll also harvest some of the leaves and try to brew a cup of herbal tea. 


About tonight’s new moon in Leo…
According to the folks at astrology.com:
A new Moon in Leo brings a fun and fresh start - so take advantage!
Get ready for your close-up as good-natured Jupiter joins the Sun and Moon! 

Anything you begin now is bound to receive plenty of positive attention. This is a wonderful time to showcase your talents or finally get a project you've been working on behind the scenes in front of the right people. 

No matter what you decide to do, let people know who you are and where your strengths lie.
As with any new Moon, invest in what you'd like to see grow or become more important in your life. 
This new Moon's power is in effect until the next full Moon arrives on August 10.


Another new moon, another beginning, is coming tonight.
And it sounds like it’ll be fun.
Let people know who you are and where your strengths lie.

Okay, I’ll take my inspiration from the video of Katy Perry's Roar:

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice…

I got the eye of the tiger, the fighter, dancing through the fire
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR
Louder, louder than a lion
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar!!!!



I have to admit, that’s a lot better video than Limblifter's 1996 rock video Vicious, in which I performed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Manicotti with Cheese Filling, Maltese Style

I got an e mail asking if there was a Vegetarian version.
Yes, indeed, there is.
Ma referred to it as her easier-on-the-budget version.
But it’s still really, really good.

I had posted Carmela’s recipe for manicotti a while ago.
Try them all and give your family and friends some variety. 

Ma usually served a pasta dish to make the main dish go further when the family gathered for a holiday meal.
With a vegetable side dish, it could be the main dish.
Just saying.


Hints:

If you already have shredded mozzarella in the fridge you can use that instead.

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 with Cheese Filling


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

For Filling

In a large skillet melt
1/2 Cup butter or margarine
Add
1 large onion, minced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
Fry over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Stir in 
1/2 Cup flour
Gradually stir in
4 Cups milk
Stir over low heat until the sauce bubbles and thickens.

Stir in
1 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bow combine
16 ounces ricotta 
4 ounces mozzarella, diced 
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 Cup grated Romano cheese
1/4 Cup chopped parsley  (or 4 Tablespoons dried, more or less)
3 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Mix well.

Grease a  9 x 13 x 2 inch baking pan
Carefully stuff the manicotti tubes and place them in the baking pan.
Spoon the sauce over the tubes.

Preheat oven 400º
Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and lightly browned.

Serve with a vegetable that adds a bit of colour.
Ma’s Green Bean Salad is a good choice.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Baked Macaroni and Sausage, Maltese Style


Timpana is number one among Maltese pasta dishes.
But Imqarrun il-forn is a close second.
And, true to a Maltese love of variety, there’s a third.
And probably a fourth, a fifth, a sixth…

But, back to number three.
Baked Macaroni and Sausage is similar to Imqarrun il-forn in that it does not have a crust, like Timpana.

But then it also has the extra treat that Imqarrun il-forn has that makes Imqarrun so special.
Usually when the macaroni is baked a few of the top ones get burnt.

Oh, how we fought over the burnt bits of pasta!
The crusty edges are also delicious.
I don't know why, but a crusty, hard piece of semi-fried, tomato meat sauce
drenched pasta is just the best.

Cut yourself a corner piece and see if you don't agree.
And be sure to pick off and enjoy a few burnt bits.
Smile, savour and, if you're the cook, don't apologize!


Hints:

About the macaroni…
Usually Ma used ziti or penne.
In a pinch, elbow.
You want something that can be filled by the sauce. 
Spaghetti would just lay there.
Not a good thing.

If you want to use hot Italian sausage, no problem.


                        Baked Macaroni and Sausage

Grease a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan

Remove the meat from the casings of
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
Place the meat in a dutch oven.
Fry the meat until it crumbles.

Add 
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
Fry 5 minutes.
Stir in
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, chopped and undrained
2 Cups water
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
Season with
salt and pepper to taste
Remove from heat.

While the sauce is simmering, in a large pot place
4 quarts water
salt to taste
Bring to a boil.
Add
400 grams (about 1 pound) macaroni
Cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente - about 10 minutes.
Drain the pasta well.

Shred coarsely
1 pound mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400º 

Place in the prepared pan a layer of 1/3 of the pasta.
Sprinkle over the pasta 1/2 of the shredded mozzarella cheese.
Repeat.
Top with a final layer of pasta.
Pour the tomato meat sauce over the pasta.
Sprinkle over the sauce
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
          
Place the pan, uncovered, in the preheated oven.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until bubbly and brown.
If you see a few burnt spots then you know it's perfect.

This was usually served as a first course.
With a vegetable and some crusty bread, it would make a great lunch.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Meat Stuffed Giant Shells, Maltese Style

About two years ago I posted Ma's recipe for Ricotta Stuffed Shells, Maltese Style.
It’s delicious, and a favourite of those who prefer cheese stuffings.
But some folks prefer meat in the stuffing.  
No problem.  
Ma had a second recipe, which includes meat, for stuffing large shells.

As with the cheese stuffed shells, the richness of the filling is up to you.

If there was a bit of leftover ham, Ma would dice and add that.
If she had a bit of ground pork, she might have added it.
Sometimes she'd also add cooked chopped spinach.
If it was the end of the month, the shells had a little less stuffing.


Think of stuffed shells as an early form of T.V. dinner.
Sometimes, when Ma was watching a rerun on T.V., she'd make stuffed shells.
She would then place them (on cookie pans) in the freezer.  
When they were frozen, she'd place them in a plastic bag, seal tightly and freeze.

She could then take as many unthawed stuffed shells as she needed.
She'd place them in a casserole, cover them with a sauce and bake.
For frozen stuffed shells, an hour in a 350º oven usually did the trick.
A sprinkling of shredded mozzarella cheese before baking is also good.


Hint:

Ma's tomato sauce recipe makes about 8 Cups of sauce.
Some folks like a lot of sauce, some like less.
Suit yourself.
If you’d like a little kick you can add 1/3 to 1/2 Cup dry red wine to the portion of the sauce you'll be using as a topping.



                        Meat Stuffed Giant Shells


For Stuffing

In a skillet place
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Cook until the meet is browned.
Set aside about 15 minutes to cool.

Add
8 ounces mozzarella, shredded
1/2 Cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 Cup parsley, chopped
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste


While the stuffing is cooling, place in a large pot 
4 quarts water
Over high heat bring the water to a boil.
Add 
salt to taste
Add
340 grams jumbo shells
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked but slightly chewy.
Drain the shells and rinse with cold water.
Stuff the shells.
If freezing, see above.
If cooking, see below.

If the shells are for tonight's dinner:
Have on hand
Ma's Tomato Sauce

Preheat oven 400º

Place a layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking pan.
Place the stuffed shells in a single layer on top of the sauce.
Add sauce over the shells.
Sprinkle over the shells
1/2 Cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Bake, uncovered, 25 minutes, until hot.
Serve hot with additional
grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Serve with crusty bread to sop up the sauce.
A salad or cooked vegetable would also be a good idea.

And the rest of the wine would be a great idea.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Slurpees and Winnipeg by Margaret Ullrich


Winnipeg still owns its Slurpee supremacy.
Yesterday we, and 63,998 other Winnipeggers did our patriotic duty and had free Slurpees.
We have the brain freeze headaches to prove it. 

Yes, I know Slurpees are pure sugar.
But we were willing to make the effort to walk to a 7/11 and join our fellow citizens as we filled cups with the free syrupy slush.

The manager walked by us as we sat outside sucking the slush and freezing what few remaining brain cells we have.
“It tastes better when it’s free, doesn’t it,” he asked.
Oh, yeah!!

Back to that series I did two years ago about our travels across Canada…
July 11, 1972 we had driven from Ontario to Saskatchewan.
We spent the night at Prairie Oasis Trailer Park, near Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
As we had arrived a little after noon we had time to walk there.


July 11 seems to be our day to walk and get our bearings.
Yesterday we walked for three hours and saw how our neighbourhood was doing.
Some of the plants and trees were the worse for wear.
The hard winter had had an affect.

But there were some good signs, too.
Most homes were well maintained.
Some would’ve met with the approval of Property Brothers.
And some, well, gloried in unique, quirky touches.

Rock on, Winnipeg!
Long may you endure your Slurpee induced brain freeze headaches!!


About tonight’s full moon in Capricorn…
It’s also called Hay Moon, Buck Moon, and Thunder Moon.
Here in Winnipeg it could also be called Slurpee Moon.


According to the folks at astrology.com:
Pay close attention to your goals, because this isn't just a full Moon, it's a Super Moon! The first of three this year. (The other two are on August 10 and September 9.)

Super Moons increase the potential for powerful tidal forces, strong storms and possibly seismic activity… these forces affect not just the Earth, but also our bodies and minds, making us emotional and perhaps agitated.
If you've followed the map you drew up as 2014 began, you should be seeing the fruits of your labor now.

Capricorn, if nothing else, is the most practical sign... If your career feels out of balance, analyze what your capabilities truly are - and where you can go from here.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Stuffed Chicken, Maltese Style - Tigiega Mimlja



I’ve been watching Property Brothers in awe.
Each person gets his or her own bedroom and, if it doesn't come with an ensuite bathroom, then at least each person gets a personal sink.

During the 50s my home life was a little cozier.
Ma and Pop owned a duplex with a storefront.
Each apartment had two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room and a bathroom.

That was one bathroom with just one sink and a shower over the tub for my parents, their three children and Ma’s brother and mother.
We managed.

Ma had to cook for seven people, seven days a week.
Man does not live by bread alone.
Or by rabbit alone - even when it’s cooked Maltese style.
When Pop's homegrown bunnies were too small to make a decent sized meal, Ma went to plan B and served Stuffed Chicken.

Ma’s Stuffed Chicken is not for vegetarians.
She extended it by using bits and pieces of what was in the fridge.
It was delicious and we were fed.
What more did we need?

Hints:

When cleaning the chicken be sure to save the liver.
It can be chopped and added to the filling.
Even Julia Child (or Dan Akroyd) knew to Save The Liver!

If you’d like the chicken to be crisper, rub lard on the surface after you have placed it in the roasting pan.


                        Stuffed Chicken

Grease a baking dish with
1/2 Cup lard

Quarter
2 pounds potatoes
Place the potatoes in the greased baking dish.
After the stuffing has been prepared
Preheat oven 350º 
Place the potatoes in the oven.

Clean 
1 chicken

Filling
Place in a medium bowl
1/2 pound ground beef or pork or a mixture
the chopped chicken liver
1 Cup dry breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 hard boiled egg, chopped
Mix well.
Add
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
Fill the chicken with this mixture.

In a dutch oven place
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 kohlrabi, chopped
the stuffed chicken
enough water to cover the chicken
Bring the water to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour.

Remove the pan of potatoes from the oven.
Push the potatoes from the centre of the pan to make room for the chicken.
Carefully lift the chicken from the broth and place it in the pan.
Sprinkle with
1 teaspoon rosemary (optional)
Return pan to oven.
Roast, uncovered, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. 

About 1/2 hour before serving the chicken add to the broth
1/2 Cup rice
Cover and bring to a boil.

Serve the soup as a first course.
Serve the chicken as a second course with the potatoes.
Peas or a tomato and lettuce salad would be a good addition, too.
Or some of Ma's Green Bean Salad.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Baked Rabbit, Maltese Style


Rabbit is a basic menu staple in many Maltese households.
It sure was in my parents’ home.

Ma had two favourite go-to rabbit recipes:
Fenek fil forn (Roasted Rabbit, Maltese Style)

Fenek bit-tewm u bl-Imbid (Rabbit with Garlic and Wine, Maltese Style)

They are really good traditional Maltese recipes, but they do take a bit of effort.
When Ma was in a rush she had a third recipe that was easier, but just as good.
It’s just perfect for summer, when you’d rather be enjoying the warm weather.
And perfect for when you’re busy at any other time.

Ma often served this with her Green Bean Salad.
Did I mention Pop loved to garden, as well as raise rabbits?


                        Baked Rabbit

Preheat oven 350º  
Grease a baking dish with
1/2 Cup lard

Place in the bottom of the pan
1 pound onions, sliced
Top with
a rabbit, cut into pieces
2 pounds potatoes, quartered

Add
1 Cup red wine
1/2 Cup water
Roast, uncovered, 1 1/2 hours. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Sweet Frittata

Last weekend Paul and I saw the movie Morning Glory.
The weather wasn’t exactly the best for any outdoor activities.
It seems to be one of those summers where it rains every weekend.
Things could be worse.

The movie is a light comedy.
Rachel McAdams has to deal with grumpy serious news journalist Harrison Ford.
He's a Walter Cronkite type.
Well, it’s been a few years since Harrison was flying around in Star Wars.

When Diane Keaton tells Harrison that NBC wants Rachel because she’s done such a good job handling him, Harrison goes to the studio kitchen and shows the viewers how to make a good frittata. 
During her job interview Rachel sees the show, is touched and returns to her job.
Like I said, it's a light comedy, and not supposed to make too much sense.


Back to the frittata…
As Harrison’s character explained, frittata is an egg-based dish, enriched with meats, cheeses, vegetables or pasta.
It’s an omelette with enough stuff in it that it could be served as a complete meal.

If you’re curious, here’s a recipe for Ma’s regular Frittatas.

Yeah, well, there’s more than one way to make a frittata.
My Ma used to make a light dessert out of cream of wheat.
You know how it is… you buy a few bags of oatmeal and such at the beginning of winter, planning to start the day with a good hot meal.
The kids ask for their favourite cold cereals.
Suddenly it’s April and the bags are still sitting there, untouched.
Time to cook up plan B.


I don’t know if Sweet Frittata is the right word for these things.
But that’s what Ma called them.
And they’re good.
Even when it’s not April.


                        Sweet Frittata

Serves 8 

Peel the zest from
2 lemons
Chop finely. 

Place in a large pot
3 1/4 Cups milk
3/4 Cup farina
Pinch of salt
Stirring constantly, bring to a slow boil.

Just before it begins to thicken add
1/4 Cup sugar
the finely chopped lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Stir until the mixture becomes thick enough to spread.
Pour into a 8 inch square pan.
Put the pan into the refrigerator.
Allow it to cool and harden enough to be able to cut into pieces.
When firm, cut into squares about 2 inches long.

In a small bowl place
2 Eggs
1 Tablespoon water
Beat together.

Place in a small plate
1/2 Cup bread crumbs
Dip the squares into the eggs and then in the bread crumbs.
Set aside 5 minutes so the crumbs will stick better.

Place in a fry pan
4 Tablespoons butter, or oil
Heat over medium heat.
Fry the squares on both sides till golden.

Before serving dust with
Confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil and Chili Pepper


Yesterday we wished Canada a Happy 147th Birthday.
The weather has been a problem here in the prairies, but that didn’t get in the way of folks getting into the spirit and celebrating all we have to be grateful for in Canada.

Hey, we’re Canucks, and the weather is something we’ve learned to ignore.


Yesterday was also the 26th Anniversary of our moving into our present home.
While our previous home had been built in 1911, this one was built in the 1980s.
I cringe when folks on Property Brothers dismiss a house because it looked like it was last furnished and decorated in the 80s.
I mean, that was only about a quarter century ago.
The 1911 house is still standing, so this one is practically new.
When did popcorn ceilings go out of style?

Summer is the time most folks move.
Especially if, like us in 1988, they have to respect a child’s school schedule.
Life is hectic enough without transferring a kid during a school year.
Twenty six years ago we woke up to face a bunch of packed boxes.
We didn't have a clue which box held our dishes.
So, we went to Sal’s for a pancake breakfast before we tackled the boxes.


Sometimes it’s fun to pull out all the stops and make something like Carmela Soprano's Sunday Gravy (Tomato Sauce with Meat) and Homemade Meatballs.
And sometimes, especially when you’re unpacking, a quickie meal is handy.
A quickie is also good when you’re older and just want to put something on the table.

Ma had put in enough years making big Sunday dinners for a big family.
But, when it was just Pop and her, a quick meal with less leftovers fit the bill.
She found this recipe to be handy.
And, lately, so have I.

Hints:

Ma left the garlic cloves as they were.
If you would prefer not biting into a chunk of garlic, you can also mince them.
In a pinch - or if your garlic has gotten nasty looking - you can also use garlic powder.

The recipe can be mild or very spicy, depending how much chili pepper you add.
This isn’t a contest.  Suit your tolerance.


                        Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil and Chili Pepper

Serves 4 

Separate and peel the cloves of 
1 head of garlic 
Do not chop them.

In a large pot place
4 quarts water
salt to taste
Bring to a boil.
Stir in
1 pound spaghetti 
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente.
Set aside 1 Cup of the cooking water.
Drain the pasta.


WHILE THE WATER IS BOILING:
In a large fry pan or dutch oven pour
1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil
Add
the garlic cloves
crushed red chili pepper (amount - your choice)
Cook, stirring over medium heat, for about 2 minutes.
You want the garlic to be lightly golden.
Stir in
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Add the pasta to the sauce in the pot.
Over medium heat, toss the pasta until it is coated.
Add some of the reserved cooking water if it seems too dry.
Remove from heat.
Serve hot.