In light of the COVID-19 precautions...


Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use hand sanitizers that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Avoid close contact with anyone who appears sick.

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then toss the tissue in the trash.

Disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces.

Talk to your doctor if you develop symptoms.

Stay home if you develop symptoms.

Avoid nonessential travel to areas with active COVID-19 outbreaks.


Visit the website for your local health department for updates.


If you are caring for an older adult:

Know what medications are needed and help them have extra.

Monitor food and medical supplies and have a back-up plan.

Stock up on non-perishable food to reduce shopping trips.

If a loved one is in a care facility, monitor the situation, ask about the residents and know the protocol if there is an outbreak.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Eaton’s Chicken Pot Pie and Toasted Asparagus and Cheese Rolls / April's Full Pink Moon

Happy Earth Day!
It’s been a long winter here on the prairies, and we have just gotten into double digit temperatures this past week.
Everything is a bit behind schedule, including the return of our geese.
We’re a bit late seeing greenery, but at least it isn’t a test of endurance to go outdoors.

Hope you’re enjoying Earth Day with proper Spring weather, birds and foliage.


A few years ago I posted the recipe for the Red Velvet Cake that was served in Eaton’s, a local department store.
Eaton’s was a mainstay of downtown Winnipeg, providing the complete department store experience, plus many delicious meals.
It was torn down and replaced by Bell MTS Place, an indoor arena.
A few people have asked if I had any other Eaton’s recipes.

These recipes are from the book A Store Like No Other: Eaton's of Winnipeg by Russ Gourluck, a book filled with the history of the store and its importance in Winnipeg.
It also had a few surprises. 
Apparently Eaton’s Grill Room had a slightly pudgy ghost!

The chapter The tastes of Eaton’s brought back many memories.
The introduction to the Chicken Pot Pie recipe and Asparagus Rolls says that the recipes come directly from food services manager Alan Finnbogason.
In Winnipeg the individual Chicken Pot Pies were served in oval green bowls.
The Asparagus Rolls were served, three on a plate, with a generous serving of Eaton’s own Thousand Islands Dressing in a silver sauce boat.
A meal in Eaton’s was not eaten with plastic cutlery or on paper plates.

Yes, a meal in Eaton’s was a dining experience.
But times change, and some places are just a memory now.

I hope that pudgy ghost is happy in Bell MTS Place.


Hints:

About the Chicken Pot Pie:
If you have chicken stock you can use 4 Cups of that instead of the water and chicken soup base mixture.

You can also use the puff pastry that can be found in the frozen food section.

These notes weren’t mentioned in the book, but they answer a few questions:
Tuck the crust into the ramekins or casserole and pinch the edges against the sides of the dish. 
Place the ramekins on a baking sheet. The casserole doesn't need a baking sheet. 
Cover the pie(s) loosely with aluminum foil before placing in the oven. 
Check the pie(s) a few minutes before the end of baking time. If the crust isn't browning properly, remove the foil and continue baking.
Bake until the crust is golden brown and crusty: 18-20 minutes if using ramekins, 25 to 30 minutes if using a large casserole.

About the Toasted Asparagus and Cheese Rolls:
Some people add a bit of garlic.
A few people insist that sandwich bread is better than regular bread in this recipe.
In a rush? You can use processed cheese spread and/or canned asparagus.
The rolls can also be served with a spritz of lemon.

                        Chicken Pot Pie 

6 servings

Heat in a medium pot
4 Cups water
Stir in
1 - 1 1/2 Tablespoons chicken soup base

Place in a dutch oven
1/3 Cup margarine
Heat over low heat.
Add
3/4 Cup carrot, sliced
3/4 Cup onions, chopped
3/4 Cup celery, sliced
Cook a few minutes.
Stir in
1/4 Cup cornstarch
Stir in
the heated chicken stock
Bring to a boil.
Add
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon savoury
1/4 teaspoon basil
3/4 Cup green peas

Place cooked chicken in 6 ramekins or a large casserole.
Cover with sauce, mix, then top with raw pastry.
Bake at 350º F 
Bake until the pastry is browned and the contents are heated thoroughly.


                        Toasted Asparagus and Cheese Rolls

Cut the crusts from one large fresh loaf of bread and cut into 3/4 inch slices.
Place a slice of good quality cheddar cheese, sliced thin, on each slice of bread and place some butter and a fresh asparagus spear in the centre of each slice.
Roll each bread slice and hold it together with a toothpick and place them on a cookie sheet.
Add a bit of melted butter to the top of each slice and place under a broiler for 2 minutes, or until golden brown.
Remove toothpicks and serve with Thousand Islands Dressing.


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

Hope you enjoyed the Lyrid meteor showers this weekend. Its meteors are often bright. The Lyrid meteor shower has been observed for more than 2,600 years; Chinese records say “stars fell like rain” in the shower of 687 B.C. Quite spectacular displays have also been witnessed at least a dozen times since. These meteors are the dust left behind by Comet Thatcher, which visited the inner solar system in 1861.
If you missed them, don’t fret. They return every April when Earth passes through the dusty tail of the Comet Thatcher, consisting of debris traveling at 110,000 mph, disintegrating as ‘fireball’ streaks of light when they hit the earth’s atmosphere.

April 22 - First Quarter Moon, 5:46 p.m. In this phase, the Moon looks like a half-Moon in the sky. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is increasing, on its way toward full.

April 29 - April's Full Pink Moon will be astronomically full at 8:58 p.m. In this phase, the visible Moon is fully illuminated by direct sunlight. Though the Moon is only technically in this phase for a few seconds, it will appear full for about 3 days. This is the first full Moon of the spring season.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Cheesecake with Strawberry Glaze from the 1960’s Argo® Cornstarch Box and Mercury Retrograde

Tax time AND Friday the 13th? Sheesh!!
I don’t know if today’s being Friday the 13th is as bad as when Mercury is in retrograde, but it does spook some people.
Some people do stress out for one or for the other or for both.
And wouldn’t you know it, Mercury is in retrograde until April 15th this year.
So, when they come together during tax time it seems to me that it’s time to do whatever you need to do to calm yourself.

A slice of cheesecake works for me.

I recently posted a recipe for a ricotta cheesecake - Ricotta and Cream Cheese Pie.
A reader asked if I had the recipe for the cheesecake recipe that used to be printed on the Argo® cornstarch box, from back in the 60s when it came in a cardboard box. 
Of course I do. Ma made it, so it’s an old favourite.

It’s amazing how many different cheesecake recipes there are in the world.
This recipe uses small curd cottage cheese instead of ricotta.
The texture is a little different since the curds add a bit of bite to the filling.
That can be fixed (see Hints), if the lumps bother you.
If they don’t, make a cheesecake, have a slice and relax a bit.

After eating a slice please get back to your taxes.
Mercury retrograde doesn’t work as an excuse with the tax folks.
Trust me.


Hints:

On the box it said about the cottager cheese: 
“Use as dry a cream style variety as possible.” 
It also said: “Sieve cottage cheese into large mixing bowl.”
You can also put the cottage cheese in a blender and blend until it is as smooth as you want it to be.

This recipe can also be made in an angel food cake pan, preferable with a springform pan bottom.

The cake will rise above the pan, then settle back down. 

This cake has been known to get cracks on top.
Some people put a pan of water next to, or on the rack below, the cheesecake. Others wrap the springform pan with foil and then put the cheesecake pan in the pan of water.
But sometimes the cake will crack on top, even with a pan of water placed in the oven.
No big problem. It’s still delicious.

About slicing cheesecake…
I’ve heard of people slicing the cake with unflavoured dental floss. Really. 
They just stretch a longish piece of floss across the cake, hold it tight, and bring it down. Then they let go of one end and pull the floss through to cut the cake in half.
Then they turn the cake, and repeat as needed for the number of slices they want.
I think most folks just use a big knife or pie server. 
I know I do.

The cheesecake can be frozen whole or in slices. 


                        Cheesecake

Serves 12

Preheat oven to 325º F

Grease a 9 inch springform pan
Dust with 
2 Tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
Set aside.

Sieve in large mixing bowl
2 Cups small curd cottage cheese
Add
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
Beat at high speed until well blended and creamy. 
Beating at high speed, blend in
1 1/2 Cups sugar
4 eggs, slightly beaten
Reduce speed to low.
Add 
1/3 Cup Argo® corn starch
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat until blended. 
Add 
1/2 Cup margarine, melted
2 Cups sour cream 
Blend with low speed.

Pour mixture into prepared pan. 
Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, until firm around edges. 
Turn the oven off. Let the cake stand in the oven for 2 hours. 
Remove the pan from the oven, and cool completely on a wire rack. 
Chill overnight for best results. 
Remove sides of pan and serve plain, or with your favourite fruit topping.


While you have the box of Argo® Corn Starch out you can make

                        Strawberry Glaze

Place in a saucepan
1 Tablespoon Argo® Corn Starch
1/4 Cup water
1/3 Cup Karo® Light Corn Syrup
Stir together.
Add 
1/4 Cup crushed fresh or frozen strawberries, peaches or blueberries
Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil 1 minute. Strain. 
Stir in 
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Cool slightly.
Drizzle glaze over cake and top with fresh fruit just before serving.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Anna Sultana’s Ricotta and Cream Cheese Pie / The Hyades Star Cluster


Easter is over.
All that holiday work and the drowsiness from the tryptophan in the turkey distracted us from the monster in the room.
Income Tax is due this month.
Yeah, Big Brother wants his share of your money.

Worse, you have to read through a bunch of government papers, filled with tons and tons of legalese gobbledygook.
No other word for it than gobbledygook - that’s language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of technical terms.

I mean who writes this stuff? 
Why don’t they turn their talents to writing science fiction. That makes just as much sense, right?
And there’s also pages of math to do. Sheesh!

Okay… you’ve done this before and you can do it again.
You’ve got your bits of papers in a nice box… or two… or three.
Anyway, they all somewhere in the house, and that’s a start.
Take this in baby steps.
Gather the papers, then eat some cheesecake. Really.
This is no time to pretend to be a hero.

You’re still weighed down from an Easter dinner that totally wiped out all the good you did during Lent.
Not to worry. Make your cheesecake with ricotta.
Combined with eggs and cooked grains, ricotta is in La Pastiera and Pizza Rustica, which are traditional Easter dishes.
So there’s a good chance you have a tub or two leftover in the fridge.

Ricotta is low in fat and is similar in texture to cottage cheese, but lighter.
And, like cottage cheese, it is a dieter's friend.
Ricotta can be a substitute for mayonnaise in egg or tuna salad.
It can also be used as a sauce thickener.
Add cinnamon sugar or chocolate shavings, and serve it as a quickie dessert. 
Ricotta, combined with chopped pistachios and candied citron, is the filling of the Sicilian dessert cannoli.
Ricotta is also used in main dishes: pasta, calzone, manicotti, lasagne, stuffed shells, and ravioli.


Ricotta and Cream Cheese Pie isn’t as sweet as a regular cheesecake.
But it will get you through the Tax Guide at the very least.


Hints:

You can use whole milk or part skim ricotta.
Use crushed ginger snaps or graham crackers, or regular pie dough, for the crust.
You can also leave the crust out.

Instead of almond extract, you can try using 1/4 Cup Amaretto liqueur.

Do not use a springform pan. The filling needs the support of the pan. Trust me.
You can also pour the filling into six 4-inch diameter individual ramekins without adding a crust. It’ll be more like having a bowl of dairy-free custard, which also feels comforting. Win-win!

If your pie plate isn’t deep, or you went heavy on the crust, you can put the excess filling in a ramekin or two and bake along with the pie.

Allow the pie to cool for at least an hour before serving. Two hours is better.

The leftover cheesecake can be stored, wrapped, in the refrigerator.


                                                Ricotta and Cream Cheese Pie

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Spread over the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate or a 9-inch square pan
2 Tablespoons butter, softened

Place in a bowl
1 to 2 Cups ginger snaps
Crush to medium-sized crumbs and stir in
4 to 6 Tablespoons butter, melted
Press the mixture over the bottom of the plate or pan and halfway up the sides. 
Set aside.

In a large mixer bowl place
8 ounces ricotta cheese
16 ounces cream cheese
3/4 Cup sugar
Beat until creamy. 
Beat in 
6 large eggs
Add 
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt 
2 teaspoons grated lemon or orange zest (or 1 teaspoon of each)
Mix until well combined.

Preheat the oven to 350º F. 

Pour the filling into the prepared pan. 
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until it is lightly browned around the edges. A thermometer inserted into the centre should read about 160º F. The pie will still be soft in the centre, but will become firmer as it cools. Do not over bake.
Remove the pie from the oven and cool the cheesecake on a wire rack.
Serve at room temperature or refrigerate to chill.


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

This month, be sure to check out Jupiter, which starts rising about 90 minutes evening twilight, but it comes up earlier and earlier each week. As soon as it clears horizon obstructions in the east-southeast, it grabs the attention of any sky watcher. Telescopic views of Jupiter during April are best in the middle of the night, when the planet has gotten at least moderately high. April is also a good month to locate the Big Dipper, even though this month, it’s upside down!

April 8 - Last quarter Moon, 3:18 a.m. In this phase, the Moon appears as a half Moon in the sky. The half-Moon will also be at apogee, its farthest to Earth in its orbit. Lunar apogee will happen less than 2 hours before the Moon reaches its last quarter phase.

April 15 - New Moon, 9:57 p.m. At this stage, the Moon is not illuminated by direct sunlight and is completely invisible to the naked eye.

April 16 - Right after sunset, look low toward the west-northwest for a view of a slender 2-day old crescent Moon, just 5 percent illuminated. And situated about a half-dozen degrees to its upper right is the steady, dazzling light of the planet Venus. Earth’s “sister planet” gets a little higher each week during April. It remains small and roundish in telescopes this month, but from early April until early September, Venus will be at least 10° above the horizon 45 minutes after sunset (though never very high), and during that period we will see its disk grow and enter its crescent phase.

April 18 – Look for the crescent Moon as it appears to float near the bottom of the beautiful V-shaped Hyades Star Cluster, marking the face of Taurus, the Bull. Initially, in the bright evening twilight, only the Moon will be visible, though once the sky has become completely dark soon after 9 p.m., the Hyades stars should be readily evident with the unaided eye.