Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Anna Sultana’s Meatloaf and Red Cabbage and A Christmas Story

It seems to me that the flood of Christmas-themed movies begin earlier every year.
This year they began right after our Thanksgiving, and, to be honest, I don’t know where they find these movies.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s the same movie and they just changed the intro and end credits.
Oh, well, they’re a bit of mindless fluff to have playing in the background while we plow through our holiday baking.

One Christmas favourite I’m actually looking forward to seeing is the 1983 movie A Christmas Story, which was based on Jean Shepherd's stories about his childhood.
If you haven’t seen it, it takes place in the 1940s, and is about a boy who is desperate to convince his parents, his teacher, and Santa that a Red Ryder BB gun really is the perfect Christmas gift.

I know, a kid wants a gun for Christmas… well, trust me, it’s a nice movie, filled with scenes that bring back a lot of memories of how kids really are, especially as Christmas is getting closer.

The film also has quite a bit of food in it.
Ralphie tries to bribe his teacher with a huge fruit basket.
The family’s Christmas turkey is devoured by the neighbour’s dogs, and the family has to go to a Chinese restaurant for dinner.

And then there’s Randy, Ralphie’s kid brother, who is refusing to eat dinner.
Apparently he hasn’t eaten voluntarily in over three years.
There he sits, pushing his food around, muttering: 
Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double beetloaf. I hate meatloaf.

Don’t worry, his Mom has a way to make him eat his meatloaf.
No crying, no bloodshed. She’s THAT good.

In honour of this paragon of motherhood, I usually make a meatloaf dinner around this time of year. Since Ralphie’s family doesn’t look Italian, let alone Maltese, I use the German recipes Ma made when her American sister-in-law came by.
Aunt Liz never quite knew what to make of a hard boiled egg in a meatloaf.
Ma served the meatloaf with red cabbage and mashed potatoes.

And, when you’re eating like the family in A Christmas Story, the German recipes are more proper than either Mediterranean twinkie meatloaf.

Another Christmas favourite of ours is the 1989 classic, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Who can argue with Ellen Griswold: 
I don't know what to say, except it's Christmas and we're all in misery.


These recipes make enough for 8 - 10 people.
If you’re family is smaller, no problem. Meatloaf is great the second, or third, time around. The leftovers are also good in a sandwich.

Sometimes Ma made this meatloaf using half ground beef and half pork - more or less in those proportions - depending on what she had in the fridge.

If you don’t have fine dry bread crumbs you can use 2 Cups soft bread crumbs. 

If you want to be fancy, turn out the meatloaf onto a warmed platter. If you want to serve it family-style, like Mrs. Parker, serve it from the loaf pan. 

Mrs. Parker served the meatloaf and cabbage with mashed potatoes. I don’t know if she made them from scratch or from a box of instant. Ma always made homemade. Suit yourself.

                        Red Cabbage

Place in a large pot
4 Tablespoons butter
10 Cups finely chopped red cabbage
2 Cups sliced green apples
1/2 Cup sugar
Season with
4 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 Cup apple cider vinegar
3 ounces water

Bring to the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the cabbage is tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.


Grease well a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan

Finely chop
1 medium onion

Place in a large bowl
2 pounds lean ground beef 
3/4 Cup fine dry bread crumbs
the chopped onion
1 Cup milk
2 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Mix lightly.

Preheat oven to 350º F
Place the mixture in the prepared pan.
Bake uncovered for 1 1/4 hours.
Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes before serving. 

If you’re curious, here are the other meatloaf recipes:

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

November 18 - New Moon at 6:42 a.m. The Moon is completely invisible.

November 20 - Look for Saturn in the southwest after dusk, about 40 minutes after sunset. Catch it early; the ringed planet sets more than an hour after dark at the beginning of the month, but before the end of evening twilight by November 30th. This evening, look about 10° above the west-southwest horizon to sight a slender sliver of a crescent Moon. Mercury will also be hovering near the west-southwest horizon, directly below the Moon and Saturn.

November 23 - Look to the west after sunset to see Mercury right below Saturn. Mercury is usually difficult to spot but now it’s at its greatest elongation from the Sun so it’s a good time to see this “elusive” planet.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Anna Sultana’s Scrapple and North Taurids and Leonids Meteor Showers

November 9th is National Scrapple Day!
It was cooked in the 17th century by German colonists who settled in Pennsylvania.
Well, Pennsylvania is New York’s neighbour, and, like all good neighbours, the folks there shared the recipe with the folks in New York.

College Point, a town in the borough of Queens, New York, was home to Irish and German families in the 1950s.
I don’t know if Ma learned the recipe for scrapple from a German neighbour or a co-worker at Lily Tulip, but learn it she did.
And of course she gave it her own touches. 

The original Scrapple recipe was a way to use up pork scraps (including head, brains, heart, liver and skin) which were boiled with the bones.
After discarding the bones, the bits of meat were then simmered with cornmeal, wheat or buckwheat flour, onions, and spices like sage and thyme.

Okay… that was the original recipe.
Ma found that the holidays usually left her with turkey, rather than pork, carcasses.
Being Ma, she wasn’t about to let those bits and bones go to waste.
So she made turkey scrapple.

The holidays are coming up. 
Why not file this recipe in your holiday survival file?


If your large pot and its lid are oven proof, place it, covered, in a 350º F oven for 2 hours to simmer the carcass.

Don’t have a food processor? A blender - or sharp knives - will do.

If, while it’s baking, some of the crust sticks to the side of the pot, scrape and stir the bits back into the scrapple.

You can coat the slices with flour before frying to make it crustier.


Scrape the bits of meat off the bones

Place in a large pot
Turkey bones, wings, scraped bits and skin
5 cups water
Simmer for 2 hours.
Drain the broth into a measuring cup.
You want to have 4 Cups of liquid (you can top it off with water).
Discard the skin and bones.

Place the turkey in a food processor and grind - you want to have 4 Cups of meat.

Grease well a small roaster or Dutch oven
Preheat oven 350º F 

In a large bowl combine 
1 Cup cornmeal
1/4 Cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sage or thyme (or a mixture)
the ground turkey meat
the broth / water mixture
Stir well.

Pour the mixture into the greased roaster or pot.
Bake for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Put the mixture into 2 loaf pans.
Cover with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator.

To serve:
Slice into half inch thick slices and pan fry in butter or oil over medium heat until golden brown. 
Serve with eggs and toast at breakfast with apple butter, ketchup, mustard, honey, jelly or maple syrup.
It’s also good served hot, as is.

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

November 12-14 - About 45 minutes before sunrise, look to the east-southeast horizon to see an incredible planetary pairing: Jupiter and Venus will appear spectacularly close together, rising side by side on the morning of November 13th. 
Make sure that your view is free of any tall obstructions such as buildings or trees. Both planets will appear quite low to the horizon, so you’ll need a nice “wide-open” view.

North Taurids Meteor Shower are expected to peak at this time, with the best viewing is from 12 - 2 a.m. local time; and good news— the sky will be nice and dark due to the tiny waning crescent Moon.
The Taurids are actually two annual meteor showers created by the comet Encke. They are named for constellation Taurus, where they are seen to come from in the sky (near the Pleiades). But they can be spotted anywhere (simply look up!).

November 14 – 15 - Look to the east, one hour before sunrise, to see the tiny sliver of a waning crescent Moon paired up with the planet Mars. On the 14th, the Moon is above Mars; on the 15th, it is below it. Closer to the horizon you will find Jupiter and Venus.

November 17 -18 - The Leonids Meteor Showers peak. Best viewing time is between midnight and 5:30 a.m. local time. This meteor shower, named for the constellation Leo, is typically one of the more exciting showers of the year, producing an average of 20-30 meteors per hour. And it should be nice and dark this year as the Moon is in the new (dark) phase.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Anna Sultana’s Orange Cranberry Bread and The Beaver Moon

During the holiday season it’s a bit tricky to know how much food to have on hand.
Bake too many cookies and you’ll be munching on gingerbread during Lent and, maybe even at Easter.
Don’t bake enough and you’ll be padding the cookie platter with oreos which nobody believes you baked.
It’s a tricky time, alright.

Managers in grocery stores also face the same problem.
If the meat department runs out of turkeys or hams, well, do you remember that scene in Christmas with the Kranks, when Nora can’t find the Honey Glazed Ham (Blair’s favourite) and has to settle for smoked trout?
It can get embarrassing.
If the manager ordered too much, well, there’s just so much turkey or ham that anybody can face.

Then again… one man’s mistake can be another man’s treat.
If your produce manager ordered too many bags of fresh cranberries and has to sell them at half price, take pity on him and grab as many as you can.

Cranberries have vitamin C, manganese and quite a few vitamins and minerals.
The cranberries can be frozen in the bag, as is, and will keep for nine months.
They can also be used, without thawing, in a few baked desserts.


This recipe also works with blueberries.
Don’t have chopped walnuts? Chopped pecans or almonds would also work.

Want a milder orange flavour?  Use vanilla instead of the orange extract.
Almond extract would also work, especially if you are using almonds.

Did a great job of stocking up on cranberries? Here are two more cranberry recipes:

Wondering what to do with you Halloween pumpkin? Why not make a pot of soup, as Ma would:

                                                Orange Cranberry Bread

Makes 2 loaves
Grease 2 9x5x3-inch loaf pans

Combine together in a large bowl
4 Cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
2 Cups sugar
Stir together.

Preheat oven to 325º F

Place in a 2 Cup measuring cup
4 tablespoons vinegar
Add enough water to make 1 1/3 cup

Place in a bowl
2 large eggs
2/3 cup orange juice
the water/vinegar mixture
1 Tablespoon orange extract
1/2 Cup oil
Stir to combine.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid mixture.
Stir just enough to moisten. Do not overbeat.

Fold in
1 Cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
2 Cups fresh whole cranberries 

Divide the mixture between the 2 prepared loaf pans.
Bake for 1 hour, until golden brown and a tester inserted in the centre of the loaves comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes, then remove loaves from the pans.
Place the loaves on a wire rack and let cool completely.

Slice and serve as is, or with butter and/or jam.

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

November is the month of the Pleiades star cluster, which will shine all night long on November nights. 

November 2 - Look for Algol, the demon eye, winking this month. Read more about this celestial event here!

November 2-4 - Southern Taurids Meteor Shower peaks. Best viewing anywhere in the sky, from 1-3 a.m. EDT. Unfortunately, the bright gibbous Moon will making viewing difficult. There’s a good possibility of catching 5-10 meteors each hour. The Taurids are actually two annual meteor showers created by the comet Encke. They are named for constellation Taurus, where they are seen to come from in the sky.

November 4 - The full Beaver Moon at 1:23 a.m. People have asked us: Isn’t the Moon following the Harvest Moon always the Hunter’s Moon? The short answer is no. When the Harvest Moon comes late (as was the case this year in October), the usual procedure is to by-pass the Hunter’s Moon and go straight to the Beaver Moon in November. Why is it called the Beaver Moon? Find out in this short Farmers’ Almanac video: November's Full Beaver Moon

November 5 -  “Fall back!” Daylight Saving Time ends: Don’t forget to set your clocks back 1 hour.

During the early evening hours, a nearly full Moon will cross in front of the orange 1st-magnitude star Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus, the Bull. This occultation will be visible anywhere to the east (right) of a line extending roughly from Inuvik (Northwest Territories of Canada) to Pensacola, Florida. To the west (left) of this line, Aldebaran’s disappearance will be unobservable because the Moon and star will be below the horizon and either only the star’s reappearance will be visible (just after moonrise) or the occultation will be missed because the Moon and star will be below the horizon for the entire event. Visit this link to see a map of the visibility zone, as well as a listing of nearly 1,200 locations providing times of the immersion (disappearance) and emersion (reappearance) of Aldebaran.