Monday, August 20, 2018

Anna Sultana’s Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake (Old-Fashioned & Light), the Full Sturgeon Moon and Orion

In less than two weeks it will be September.
September… Autumn… heavier meals, holiday dinners, family get-togethers.
And then there’s getting ready for the mother of all holidays - Christmas.
Yes, it feels like it was Christmas a month ago.

Time may fly when you’re having fun, but when you’re past 60, both fun and misery whiz by at warp speed.

Just the thought of the upcoming ‘festivities’ is making me nervous.
Time to follow The Golden Girls’ example and have a slice of cheesecake.

About a week ago I posted the recipe for Ma’s Quiche Lorraine.
Not a cheesecake, but a nice dairy dish.
It’s been a few months since I posted Ma’s Ricotta Cheesecake recipe.
That was back in April, and I posted it to get us through preparing our taxes.
I know, tax season feels like it was just a couple of days ago.
At this rate we’ll be doing taxes again next month.

I digress. Back to the cheesecake…
Ricotta cheesecakes give you that comforting texture with a bit less fat and calories.
For more ways to use ricotta check this post.

For us seniors time has speeded up, while our metabolism has slowed down, so we have to keep an eye on what we eat.
No problem… some of the lighter calorie foods, like ricotta, have charms of their own.
Ricotta makes a lovely cheesecake, with or without the lemon.
Be good to yourself and bake a cheesecake.
And remember to stop at one serving.


If you’d like to make this recipe a little healthier, use 6 ounces oil instead of 1 Cup butter - or 3 ounces oil and 1/2 Cup butter - in the cake layer.

Don’t have grated lemon rind? A teaspoon of lemon extract is just as good.

                                   Old-Fashioned Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake

Serves 16 to 20 

Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan

Cake Layer
Combine in a medium bowl
2 Cups flour
1/2 Cup confectioners’ sugar
Cut in
1 Cup butter
Pat the mixture into the greased baking pan.

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Preheat the oven to 350º F

Place in a large bowl 
3 eggs, lightly beaten
30 ounces ricotta cheese
3/4 Cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
Beat until well blended.
Spoon the ricotta mixture on top of the cake layer.

Bake for 60 minutes, or until lightly browned and a knife inserted 2 inches
from the centre should come out clean.
Turn off the oven and leave the door open a crack - prop it with a spoon.
Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the oven.
Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for one hour. 
Refrigerate overnight. 

Before serving dust with 
confectioners’ sugar
Cut into squares. 

The leftover squares can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator.

                                   Light Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake

Serves 10 to 12

Combine in a medium bowl
1 cup graham cracker crumbs 
3 Tablespoons melted butter
Press into bottom of 9-inch springform pan and chill. 

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Preheat the oven to 325º F

Place in a medium bowl 
15 ounces light ricotta cheese 
1/2 Cup light sour cream 
1/2 Cup sugar 
3 large egg yolks
2 Tablespoons flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind 
Beat until well blended.

Place in a large mixer bowl 
3 large egg whites
Beat egg whites until stiff.
Using a spatula, push the beaten whites to one side.
Pour the cheese mixture into the empty space next to the beaten whites.
Fold in the beaten whites just enough to combine. DO NOT OVERMIX.
Pour into prepared springform pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes.
A knife inserted between edge and middle should come out clean, while the middle will quiver a tiny bit.

Remove from oven and run a knife all around the inside edge of the pan. 
Place pan on a rack and let cool to room temperature. 
Cover and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.
Serve garnished with, or without, fresh fruit

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

Here are a few more cheesecake recipes:

Carmela Soprano's Cassata / Iced Sponge Cake with Ricotta Filling

Carmela Soprano's La Pastiera - Easter Ricotta Pie, Italian Style

Carmela Soprano's Pasticiotti / Tartlets with Vanilla Cream Filling

Anna Sultana's Qassatat ta I-Irkotta (Small ricotta pie, Maltese Style)

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

August 23 – The Moon is at apogee at 7:11 a.m., meaning it’s farthest away from Earth in its orbit. An easy way to remember: Apogee “A” = Away

August 24 – Set your alarms for 90 minutes before sunrise to see an unobstructed view of Mercury along the horizon.

August 26 – August’s full Sturgeon Moon at 7:56 a.m.  In this phase the visible Moon is fully illuminated by direct sunlight. Although the Moon is only technically in this phase for a few seconds, it is considered full for the entire day of the event and appears full for three days.

August 27 & 28 – The Moon is now in a waning gibbous phase following a full Moon, so a daytime view is visible after sunrise the 27th in the eastern sky, and in the western sky on the 28th.

August 29 – Orion the Hunter rises before dawn and can be seen by the three stars that make up Orion’s belt. See if you can also spot the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, a.k.a., the Dog Star.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Anna Sultana’s Quiche Lorraine & Pat-in Pie Crust / Mercury Goes Direct

In a couple of days Mercury will go direct.
For those who know about these things, that’s a good thing. 
Well, there may be something to that idea.
I mean, I don’t think that even planets find it easy to go backwards.

Some people just love to look back and to talk about the “good old days”.
Well, sometimes the stuff we did in the past was downright dumb.

It’s hard to believe, but in 1982 there was a book named Real Men Don't Eat Quiche by American author, Bruce Feirstein.
On the New York Times Best Seller list for 55 weeks, it sold over 1.6 million copies.
Real Men was meant to be a humorous book, focusing on the worries of middle class men who just didn’t know how they were supposed to act when feminists were becoming more a part of the mainstream.
Yeah, I know, men confused by feminists’ wanting to be treated fairly… Big yucks…
So much for the 80s being a great time.

With a name like quiche many people thought it was a French recipe, something really fancy, not for simple, meat-and-potatoes type of folks.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The English - the creators of meat-and-potatoes dishes - have been eating eggs and cream in pastry at least as early as the 14th century, while the Italians have been making dishes like this as far back as the 13th century.

As you might expect, a recipe that’s been around for a few hundred years has seen a lot of variations. In addition to the eggs and cream and / or milk, it can include cheese, vegetables, meat or seafood.
It's a handy way to make use of bits and leftovers one usually finds in any kitchen.
As you can see, there's nothing fancy about this recipe at all.

A few of the most popular combinations are:
quiche au fromage (quiche with cheese) 
quiche aux champignons (quiche with mushrooms)
quiche florentine (quiche with spinach) 
quiche provençale (quiche with tomatoes)

But it’s definitely not limited to those mixtures.
My Ma often made a Greek Spinach Cheese Quiche, using Feta cheese.
She made a Mushroom and Ham Quiche when she had ham leftover from the holidays.

Quiche Lorraine, named after the Lorraine region of France, originally was an open pie with eggs, cream and lardons (fatty bacon or pork fat). 
Modern recipes can also include mature cheeses, such as Cheddar cheese, and vegetables, while the lardons have been replaced by regular bacon.


Quiches are perfect for brunches or light suppers, as well as for when a friend or two have popped in for a casual visit that's lasted until mealtime.

Quiches can be made in advance and frozen. Ma kept a few in the freezer so she'd have something easy for when the relatives hadn't notice how late they had stayed.

Quiche Lorraine is a recipe that is very accommodating.
Instead of the Swiss cheese you can use Gruyère or Cheddar. 
You can also add sautéed onion, leeks or shallots to the filling.
Or you can add whatever else is beginning to look a bit sad in your crisper.

Have chives in your garden? 
Finely chop enough fresh chives to make 4 teaspoons to replace the onion powder.

Want to avoid the eggs and dairy?
Make a vegan quiche with spinach, onions or green onions, and green herbs like dill, parsley or celery, olive oil and a little wheat flour. Top off with leeks, chard and / or sorrel, then bake until the top vegetables are a bit crisp. 

You can also use tofu instead of the cheese, or your favourite pastry recipe or a frozen pie shell instead of the pat-in crust.

About the pat-in pie crust recipe below:
If baking an empty shell: prick and bake 15 minutes at 425º F. 
If baking it with a filling: use the filling's instructions

If you’re using the pat-in pie crust to make a dessert pie that’s being baked with a filling you could use this crumb topping:
1/4 Cup brown sugar
1/2 Cup flour
1/4 Cup margarine
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix together and sprinkle over the filling in the pastry-lined pie pan and bake.
You can also double or quadruple the ingredients and store what’s left in a covered container in the refrigerator for topping other pies.

                                                Pat-in Pie Crust

Place in a 9-inch pie pan 
1 1/2 Cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar         
3/4 teaspoon salt
Mix together.

Place in a measuring cup 
1/2 cup oil
3 tablespoons cold milk
Beat together until creamy.
Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture and blend well.
Spread the mixture in the pan and pat in to line the pan.
Set aside.

                                                Quiche Lorraine

Cook 4 slices bacon.
Cool slightly and chop the cooked bacon.

Shred enough Swiss cheese to make 1 Cup.

Place the oven rack in the centre of the oven. 
Preheat oven to 325°F

Place in a medium bowl
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon onion powder, more or less
3/4 Cup 18% light cream
1/4 Cup milk
Beat together. 

Sprinkle the prepared bacon and cheese over the pie crust.
Pour the egg mixture over the bacon and cheese. 
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes (the filling is set but still jiggles slightly in the centre) 
Remove from oven, place on a wire rack and let stand for 15 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature. 
If you’d like to make it more of a meal, serve it with a salad.

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

August 18—First Quarter Moon at 3:48 a.m. In this phase, the Moon looks like a half-Moon — one-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is increasing, on its way to full.

August 19—Mercury is no longer in retrograde, instead goes direct at 12:25 a.m.

August 20—As darkness falls, look for Saturn well to the lower left of a 75% illuminated gibbous Moon. Saturn can be easily located by going out in late twilight and looking south-southeast at the beginning of August, or due south around month’s end. Saturn is the bright “star” roughly a third of the way up in the sky; the farther south you are the higher it will be. Later in the evening, Saturn swings low to the southwest. Below Saturn is the Teapot in Sagittarius. The pot starts August upright during twilight, then gradually tilts as if pouring in the following hours and weeks.

August 22—A wide gibbous Moon can be found sailing far above Mars, which dominates the sky east of Saturn. Fresh from last month’s opposition and close approach to Earth, Mars is still very bright and fiery. But it fades noticeably during August.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Anna Sultana’s Irish Tea Cake, the Solar Eclipse and The Perseid Meteor Shower

Folklorama is in full swing here in Winnipeg!
it’s a wonderful way to travel the world - you can visit forty countries in two weeks, yet still sleep in your own nice comfy bed.
For a senior it can’t get much better than that!

Visiting some of the pavilions reminds me of meals I enjoyed when I was a child in College Point.
We had neighbours from around the world - especially folks from Ireland, Germany and Poland.
We would eat leftovers for lunch at school, and bored with the familiar, often traded our lunches.
It was a fantastic way to enjoy really good home recipes which had been prepared by very experienced cooks.
Just like going to a Folklorama pavilion!

One of the recipes Ma got from a neighbour was Irish Tea Cake.
It’s an easy recipe - just perfect for when it’s too hot to go to too much trouble with something complicated.
The cake is similar to a pound cake, and can be served with fresh fruit as is or topped with whipped cream or ice cream.
Or you can serve it just as it is.


This recipes can also be baked using two loaf pans.

Want a bit more flavour? Use lemon or almond extract instead of vanilla, or a mixture of 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2 teaspoons lemon or almond extract.
Or use a mixture of 2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 teaspoon lemon or almond extract.
You know what your family likes and what is in your cupboard.

If the batter is too stiff, you can add up to two tablespoons of additional milk.

If you’re using loaf pans, let them bake 1 hour.
After they’re baked, remove them from the oven and let cool for an hour, then remove the loaves from the pans.

Ma used a generous dusting of confectioner’s sugar.
The cake is also good without the dusting, or with a lemon frosting:
Place in a medium mixer bowl
2 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
Beat at medium speed until light.
Beat in
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
Turn down the speed to low and add, 1/2 Cup at a time
1 1/2 Cups confectioners’ sugar
Spread over the cooled cake.

                                                Irish Tea Cake

Grease and flour 2 9-inch cake pans

Combine together in a large bowl
3 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350º F

In a large mixer bowl place
1 Cup butter, softened
2 Cups sugar
Beat together until light and fluffy. 
Beat in, one at a time 
4 eggs
Stir in
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Making 3 dry and 2 liquid additions, add the dry ingredients alternately with
1 Cup milk
Divide the mixture between the 2 prepared pans and spread evenly.
Bake for 50 minutes, until golden brown and a tester inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool 45 minutes, then remove cakes from the pans and turning them out onto serving plates.

Before serving dust each cake with
1/4 to 1/2 Cup confectioners’ sugar
Slice and serve as is, or with fresh fruit.

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

August 11—The Dog Days of Summer come to an end. Beginning on (or about) August 11th, Sirius comes above the east-southeast horizon just far enough ahead of the Sun to be visible against the bright morning twilight. In the days that follow, Sirius rises a little earlier and gets a little higher in the sky with each passing morning. Although we have come to say that the Dog Days end with the first appearance of Sirius, actually seeing it strongly depends on your location and clarity of the sky.
New Moon at 5:58 a.m. This New Moon (also a “supermoon”) brings in a partial solar eclipse in the daytime in the Arctic, far-northeastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia and most of Asia for about 3.5 hours. Read more about this eclipse here!

August 11-13—The Perseid Meteor Shower peaks. August is often regarded as “meteor month” with the appearance of one of the best displays of shooting stars of the year. These showers are named for the constellation Perseus (hence “the Perseids”) where they appear to emanate from, but are bits and pieces of the Comet Swift-Tuttle which visited the inner part of the Solar System in 1992. These meteors, no bigger than grains of sand, enter the Earth’s atmosphere about 80 miles above its surface. This year’s display is expected to be one of the best because the Moon will be gone from the night sky. Read more about this year’s shower.

August 13—Look to the western horizon after sunset to see the thin crescent Moon with Venus. But better catch them before the dip below the horizon at nightfall!

August 14—You have a chance to spot Venus with the Moon! Look to the east, one hour before sunrise.

August 14-16 — After sunset both Venus and Jupiter can be seen alongside the waxing crescent Moon. Because it’s moving east, throughout these nights the Moon will move closer to Jupiter as its path takes it away from Venus.