Saturday, June 25, 2016

Safeway Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake by Margaret Ullrich

I notice that the post for Eaton’s original Red Velvet Cake is currently among the top posts, both for the week and the month.
I posted that recipe in January, 2014.
It’s a sentimental favourite for anyone who remembers Eaton’s Department Store in all its retail glory.

Eaton’s was the place that gave us a bit of warmth every winter, when the staff would “Uncrate the Sun”.
In the midst of a -40º C Canadian winter, we could escape to exotic places like Mexico and Spain for a week without boarding a plane.

Eaton’s, founded in 1869, was a department store chain that strove to be the perfect department store.
It lived by the slogan "Goods Satisfactory or Money Refunded.”
There you could find everything needed or wanted by every member of your family, including pets, and for every room of your home, including your yard and garden.
Eaton's had it all: furniture, appliances, clothes, food, books, toys, tulip bulbs.
You name it, Eaton’s had it, either on its floors or in its catalogue.
Unfortunately Eaton’s didn’t survive long into the twenty-first century.
And people still miss it.

We recently lost another store that we once thought was as permanent as the wide prairie sky - Canada Safeway Limited.
American Safeway Inc. started its Canadian subdivision with nine stores in 1929.
For almost 85 years Safeway was a major grocery chain, especially on the prairies.
It was sold on June 12, 2013 to Canada's second-largest supermarket chain, Sobeys.
And people still miss it.

Safeway, under Sobeys ownership, carries groceries, in a way.
It once could be counted on to have practically any food item you could want.
Since Sobeys took over the inventory has been changing.
Where we used to find staples such as margarine, Sobeys is now stocking bottled carbonated and non carbonated drinks.
Frozen vegetables have been replaced by frozen fried potatoes in an amazing assortment of shapes and sizes. 
French fries instead of broccoli - not exactly what moms want to serve their families.

Safeway's milk products, under the brand name Lucerne, was a mainstay.
Milk, ice cream, sour cream, yogurt, cheeses of all kinds - everyone knew that Safeway would have it.
Now, thanks to Sobeys love of bottled drinks, there isn’t room on the shelves for the items we once took for granted.

About the milk… Safeway also carried instant skim milk powder in family-sized containers, a real boon for the budget.
It seems Sobeys is trying to wean the west by selling smaller bags of milk powder.
Along with the loss in savings, we lost some old favourite recipes which had been printed on the bags.

You know how it is with recipes on packages - you just take for granted that it will always be there.
A neighbour was saying how much her family missed Safeway’s coffee cake.
She wasn’t talking about anything from the store’s bakery department.
There had been a nice simple recipe on the back of the milk powder bag.
Luckily I had a copy of the recipe.
And now so do my neighbour and you.


Don’t have walnuts? Chopped pecans or almonds also work in the recipe.

Ma also had a recipe for a coffee cake:
Don’t usually have sour cream in your fridge?
Then Safeway’s recipe is the recipe for you!

                        Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake

For the Cinnamon Swirl
Place in a small microwave-safe bowl
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
Stir in and mix until blended
1/3 Cup packed brown sugar
1/3 Cup finely chopped walnuts
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon flour
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Set aside.

For the Cake
Preheat oven to 375º
Grease an 8 inch square baking pan

Place in a large bowl
2 1/4  Cups flour
3/4 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 Cup instant skim milk powder
Stir together.

1/3 Cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 Cup water
Stir until combined. The batter will be lumpy.
Spoon half the batter into the greased 8 inch square baking pan.
Sprinkle half the cinnamon swirl over the top of the batter.
Spoon remaining batter evenly over the cinnamon mixture.
Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon swirl over the batter.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is well browned.
A toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Anna Sultana’s Baked Penne with Cauliflower, The Strawberry Moon and The Summer Solstice

Sometimes a meal’s menu is based on cravings.
You know… you’re in the mood to have something.
No logical reason, just in the mood to eat it… Now.

And sometimes a menu is based on what’s in season.
Something, usually a vegetable, is available in large quantities and at a great price.
Saving a bit of grocery money is a very logical reason.
It’s always good to set a bit aside for upcoming holiday meals.

But sometimes logical reason gets trumped by illogical reason.
Case in point… Cauliflower was selling for a good price.
So, impressed by the price, I picked up one.
Then illogical reason came into play.
Paul reminded me that he doesn’t like cauliflower.
He loves broccoli, hates cauliflower.
Go figure.

Okay… Ma had faced a few meal planning problems in her day.
One of her solutions was to hide the problem ingredient, usually in a soup or stew. 
I mean, who pokes through all the bits in a tasty bowl of soup or plate of stew.

Another trick was to hide the problem in a baked favourite, such as Imqarrun il-forn.
Ma's Imqarrun il-forn is basically Timpana without the crust.
When Ma was in a rush, she would skip adding the crust.
And, if she was trying to use something, she would add it.

Back to the cauliflower…
It can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed, pickled or eaten raw. 
The florets should be broken into similar-sized pieces so they cook evenly. 
Eight minutes of steaming, or five minutes of boiling, gives you soft florets. 
Try not to disturb them when they are cooking as stirring can break the florets into uneven pieces.
The leaves are edible, but usually people toss them.

Cauliflower is very bland, so have fun with your favourite spices.

Low carbohydrate dieters can use cauliflower as a substitute for potatoes or rice.
Cauliflower can also be sliced a quarter-inch, such as a steak, lightly coated with olive oil, and broiled; or fried in a hot oiled heavy iron pan.
Serve with a good cheese sauce and your vegetarian friends will love you.

Cauliflower trivia…
Like certain legumes, including chickpeas, it can be turned into a flour for making pizza or biscuits.

Cauliflower has distinct fractal dimension, about 2.8.
One of the fractal properties of cauliflower is that every branch, or "module", is similar to the entire cauliflower. The angle between "modules," as they become more distant from the center, is 360 degrees divided by the golden ratio.
I know, who comes up with these things?


This recipe can be made hours, even a day, in advance.

About the macaroni…
Usually Ma used penne, rigatoni or ziti.
In a pinch, elbow.
You want something that can survive baking. 
Spaghetti would form a brick.
Not a good thing.

If you like a stronger tomato flavour, add a can of tomato paste.
You can also add a large can of plum tomatoes, undrained.

The cheese / bread crumb topping is optional.
If you like it and have time, do it.
If you don't, then don't.

                        Baked Penne with Cauliflower

Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan or two 8 inch square pans

In a dutch oven pour
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 pound cauliflower florets 
Fry until lightly browned.
Remove the vegetables from the pot.

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
Cook for about 3 minutes.
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Cup chicken or beef stock or wine
Stir in the cooked vegetables.
Simmer for 15 minutes.
Season with
salt and pepper to taste.

While the sauce is being prepared, in a large pot place
4 quarts water
salt to taste
Bring to a boil.
1 pound penne 
Cook, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
You want it to be a bit firm, al dente
Drain the pasta well and stir it into the sauce in the dutch oven.

4 large eggs
Mix them into the sauced pasta.
1/4 Cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Stir everything together.
Pour into the prepared pan or pans.

Combine in a small bowl
1/4 Cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/4 Cup dry bread crumbs
Sprinkle over the top of the pasta.

At this point you can refrigerate for several hours, covered.
Preheat oven to 350º        
Place the pan, uncovered, in the preheated oven.
Bake the 9 x 13 inch pan for about 45 minutes; 
the two 8 inch square pans for about 30 minutes.

You want to see a few burnt spots.
Then you know it's perfect, a la Maltese style.

About the sky this week, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac

June 20: Full Moon at 7:02AM - The visible Moon is fully illuminated by direct sunlight. See a video about June's Full Strawberry Moon. The Summer Solstice arrives at 6:34PM EDT. This is when the Sun reaches its farthest point north of the celestial equator. Summer is officially here.

June 21: The Sun rises and sets the slowest right before and after a solstice. The quickest sunrises and sunsets are during the equinoxes. This holds true in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

June 27: Last Quarter Moon at 2:19PM. In this phase, the Moon appears as a half Moon. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is decreasing, heading toward the New Moon phase. 
Tonight’s sunset is the latest in 2016.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Father's Day, The Summer Triangle and The Summer Solstice

During the 90s I was a regular on CKUW radio - first on 2000 & Counting, then on Better Than Chocolate.
It was a great learning experience as I wrote stories, read them live on air and learned how to do the technical work.
About Better Than Chocolate - picture the Television show Frasier.
I was both Frasier Crane performing live, and Roz Doyle, clicking for the various prerecorded bits, and keeping an eye on the sound levels and clock.

In 2006 I wrote this piece for Father’s Day.
It got a few laughs then and I hope it gets a few now.
Goodness… 10 years have just flown by!
I wonder what the Papa-razzi Package costs now?

     People talk about how Christmas has changed over the years.  Well, I think Father's Day has changed even more than Christmas has.

     In the fifties, Father's Day was pretty simple.  It was a snap to shop for Dads.  Moms were hard.  There were so many different toilet waters.  Lipstick colours changed every year.  One year Lucille Ball Red was popular.  The next year every lady was wearing Flaming Fuschia.  I mean, how was an elementary school kid supposed to know what to get?  
     Dads were easy.  They always needed a pair of socks or another tie.  There WAS something about an Aqua Velva man.  The bottles of blue water came in a variety of sizes and they were all cheap.  If you had to soften Dad up for the report card that was coming, you could splurge on Old Spice or English Leather for a few pennies more.

     If you'd blown all your money for Mother's Day - an easy thing to do - you could get another tube of Brylcreme.  Those little dabs went fast and Dad always needed another tube so he could look debonaire and Mom could run her fingers through his hair. 

     Keeping the family car spiffy has always been a Dad's job.  Remember when they were unwrapping their presents in the movie A Christmas Story?  Dad Darren McGavin was thrilled to get a tin of Simonize for his car.  It was big.  It was heavy.  It was cheap.  

     That was the Golden Age for Dads gifts.  But now?  Let's just say that Dads are getting to be as big a problem as Moms are, gift-wise.

     I always thought of men as being rough and ready in their grooming needs.  I raised a son.  He once took a bath, answered nature's call, then went straight to drying everything - and I mean everything - with the bath towel.  He thought cutting out a small step would save some time.  At least that was his explanation when I asked him about the skid marks on the yellow towel.  

     Now men have discovered their inner Alan Alda.  They know about brands like Nivea.  Soap on a rope has lost its oomph.  Blades and a can of Barbasol just won't cut it anymore.  Guys have discovered grooming sets: shower gels, body washes, face scrubs, after shave balms and a post shave soother that the nice sales clerk swore will control his beard's growth.  You know, the same crap and sales pitches they've been throwing at women for years.  

     And for the guy who's really into his feminine side, there are events like the Papa-razzi Package at the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver.  The 36 hour getaway includes an hour-long massage, a facial, foot care, a souvenir shaving kit and a round of golf.  The package costs $2,165 plus taxes and airfare if you don't happen to live in Vancouver.  Hey, femininity never came cheap. 

     Tools have always been popular gifts.  Something is always getting lost or broken, right?  Time was when, after being showered with a 32 piece wrench set, a 14 piece clamp set and a 65 piece screwdriver set, every Dad was ready, willing and eager to wrench, clamp and screw any and everything in the house.  

     Fellows, I was wondering… if a man receives a 205 piece drill and screwdriving set (consisting of screw driving bits, nut driving bits, spade bits, high speed drill bits, hole saws, masonry drill bits, sanding drums and a countersink which, I've been told, are ideal to use on wood, metal, plastic, brick, mortar and concrete) would he really use them all or just stick to a half dozen favourite pieces?  You know, the way we women use the same favourite spoons and pans in the kitchen.  Sometimes wretched excess is just, well, excessive.

     Speaking of the kitchen, a Dad's cooking used to be basic.  Raw meat plus fire equaled hard small hockey pucks served with ketchup and relish in a bun.  Raw onion slices were added for the July first weekend.  Up to now the most exciting thing I'd ever seen a man do at the barbecue was to stick a can of beer up a chicken's butt so it could stand and roast.  It looked almost patriotic.  

     Dads made simple basic food.  And healthy.  No E coli bacteria could ever survive a Dad's barbecue.  

     Now folks are dropping like flies because Dads have discovered cuisine.  Ketchup and mustard have disappeared.  Guys who flunked Geography and can't find their way to their in-laws across town without a CAA triptik are now into Japanese, Mexican and Thai recipes.
     While at the Liquor Commission, I picked up the freebie Flavours magazine.  On the cover it said, Sassy sauces for your grilled goodies.  Uh, huh.  I don't know what my Dad would've thought of things like sorrel-spinach sauce.  On salmon, yet. 

     There was also an article about the joys of salt water.  According to the folks at Flavours, soaking food in brine is the key to a killer barbecue.  I don't know.  I remember one picnic forty years ago when the boat tipped over, everyone and everything fell out and everything got doused with good old salty Atlantic Ocean water.  No one thought that was anything worth repeating ever again.
     Shish kebabs used to be simple.  Meat, onion, green pepper… meat, onion, green pepper… meat, onion, green pepper until you ran out of everything.  Well, now bamboo skewers aren't good enough anymore.  Oh, no.  One recipe in Flavours should earn a cook a Boy Scout badge.  Get this: Peel fresh ginger and cut into several four inch long skewers.  Then carve the ginger on one end into a sharp point.  If your local grocer is out of long chunks of ginger, don't panic.  You can also do the same thing to lemongrass stalks.  

     Oh, pull-lease!!  If God meant us to spend our short summers carving little sticks He never would've made those nice clean bags of bamboo skewers.  Life - and a Manitoba summer - is way too short for that kind of nonsense.     
     There was a time when a bag of coal big enough to burn down a house could warm the cockles of a Dad's heart.  It could keep a fellow busy for a whole summer's worth of Sundays.  Now charcoal has some competition.  Have you been exposed to Mesquite Flavoured wood chips?  Our neighbour, Lou, really loves mesquite.  He chopped some chips up and sprinkled them on the salad.  Okay…  Lou isn't quite right in the head.  Last week he served up what he called grilled pizza.  Uh, huh.  Like we didn't notice the take out boxes stacked next to his recycling. 

     We have an old gas barbecue that chugs along with 11,000 BTUs.  It has been doing a dandy job of turning meat into blackened briquets for quite a few happy family gatherings.  Have you seen the new barbecues?  When did guys start pimping their grills?  The big selling feature for these monsters is how many BTUs are under the hood.  

     I checked the dictionary.  BTU means British Thermal Units.  Well, that was a big help.  I needed to get BTU into terms I could understand.  I looked around my house and found that my gas water heater has 30,000 BTUs.  The heater is plastered with little notes from Furnaceman.  Cheery messages like: Third degree burns can occur in six seconds when the water is 60º C.  Death is also possible.  
     Hmmm…  My water heater has 30,000 BTUs and it can get water hot enough to kill somebody.

     A Kalamazoo Bread Breaker Two Dual-Fuel grill with an infrared rotisserie cradle system and a side burner has a 154,000 BTU capacity.  It has a temperature gauge that reaches 1000º C.  It also has nighttime grilling lights.  Why?  Would a middle-age hubby, after his 3 a.m. pee, get an uncontrollable urge to wander out to the Kalamazoo and grill a couple of turkeys?  

     According to the manufacturer, it's geared to the Man cook with fire market segment.   

     Middle-aged men, who normally think it's a hassle to reheat leftovers in a microwave, are gathering around these monster barbecues and acting like a bunch of teenage boys.  They're checking under the hood, twisting dials and rattling off phrases like Mounted smoker box… warming rack… hi-dome cooking lid… porcelain coated cooking grid… heat plates with the same slobbering enthusiasm most had for their first car.

     There are also barbecue accessories.  I'm not talking long handled forks and aprons that tell folks to kiss the cook.  

     The Centro food prep station is a buffet, cooler and more.  It can be connected to the barbecue to create a complete outdoor kitchen.  Hey, fellas!  There's a room that has all this stuff.  You're welcome to come and flex your cooking muscles all year round.  Sorry the oven only goes to 500º C, but, we girls have been able to crank out complete holiday dinners in it.  it's called the kitchen.

     Maybe the Discovery Channel was trying to do a public service.  On Father's Day they had a special on the 1883 Krakatoa catastrophe.  When Krakatoa went Kabooie, it produced an ash cloud.  The ashes and gases reached 1000º C.  Most of the people in a 30 mile radius were killed by the extremely hot air which liquified their lungs. 
     Dads, if some fool gave you the Bread Breaker, think of Al Gore and take it back.
     The ozone layer will thank you.
     The environment will thank you!
     The lungs of everyone within 30 miles will thank you!!
     And, most important, the family's burgers and wieners will thank you!!! 

About the sky this week, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac

June 4: New Moon 11:00 PM. Tonight should  be a great night to spot the Big Dipper.

June 5/6: Look up at the sky at sunset and see if you can see the thin waxing crescent Moon sitting very low in the sky. The sighting of this young Moon this month means, Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims, begins.

June 10: If the sky is clear, you may be able to see the waxing crescent Moon in the western sky. Jupiter is the brightest looking “star” nearby, and Regulus is the fainter one on the other side of the Moon.

June 11: Tonight is a good night to see Moon and Jupiter. The Moon is less than five degrees from Jupiter, so you should be able to see both without having to look very far.

June 12: First Quarter Moon, 4:10 AM. 

June 13: Looking east during early nightfall you should start seeing the Summer Triangle in full force. While summer hasn’t officially started, this triangle is viewable by mid-June at evening dusk. To spot it, look for a triangle that’s composed of the three brightest stars in the sky. 

June 13: Earliest sunrise in 2016. The earliest sunrises of the year happen around mid-June, despite the fact that the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, comes about one week later.

June 14: Spica sighting. Find the Moon then see Spica, a very bright star and closest star to the Moon– less than five degrees away.

June 15: Moon is at apogee, its farthest point from Earth.

June 16: Look for the waxing gibbous Moon and Mars, the red planet, brighten up the sky after sunset. The planet Saturn and Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion, can be seen as well, but Mars is the brightest.

June 18: As darkness falls look to the south-southeast part of the sky for the Moon sitting about 2 1/2 degrees to the upper left is a very bright star shining sedately with a yellowish-white hue. That “star” is the planet Saturn.