Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Anna Sultana's Floating Fruit Cake / COVID-19 Precautions

We’re going through a major pandemic.
Many towns and cities have instituted measures to reduce the virus’s spread.

Staying home is very important.
Our parents went to war.
We can manage to stay home to help protect our families, as well as our neighbours and friends.

On Facebook some friends have been mentioning that they were having trouble focusing on anything on their ‘To Do’ lists.
We’ve all been hit with a major shock.
I think we're just a little stunned by what is happening, but we will get back to normal after we've adjusted to the new reality.

A quick review 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.

Seniors are particularly susceptible to this virus.
We’ve been asked to avoid going out as much as possible.
Meanwhile we still have to eat, and that usually means going to a store.
Especially during a Manitoba Spring, when our gardens are still under a foot or two of snow and nights can go below freezing.

Before going to a store, why not shop your kitchen.
If you’re like me over the years you’ve picked up a few tins of food that are sitting quietly on a shelf in your kitchen.
Now is the time to use them.
Think of clearing our kitchen shelves as the one silver lining of this cloud.

Ma’s floating fruit cake recipe is perfect for now.
She would use it when the budget was tight or she was too busy to go out.
It uses a tin of pie filling or fruit and doesn’t need eggs, which I found were missing from the shelves when I went to our grocery store on Monday.
We’re going to have to make do.
People have done that before.
We’re going to have to stay indoors.
Anne Frank and many others did that and more during WW II.

We’re all in this together.
We can do this.
Stay safe and well.


Don’t have pie filling but do have a can of peaches, pears, apples or some other fruit?
Use the fruit and syrup, and take pride in knowing you’ve finally found a way to use it.

Don’t have sliced almonds? Chopped walnuts are also good.
About the dash of spice…Nutmeg goes well with peach, apple, or passion fruit.
Cinnamon sugar goes with just about any fruit.
You know what your family likes, and what is on your kitchen's shelf.

You can also leave the spice, as well as the nuts, out.

                        Floating Fruit Cake 

grease 2 8-inch square pans
preheat oven to 350º           

Sift into a large bowl
2 Cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Cup sugar
Cut in
4 Tablespoons margarine or butter
1 Cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
Mix well.
Spread half of the batter in each of the prepared pans.

Spoon over the top of each pan of batter
1/2 can of fruit pie filling
Pour over each layer of fruit
1 Cup boiling water

Sprinkle over each
1/4 Cup sliced almonds, more or less
a dash of spice (see hints)
Bake 40 minutes.
Serve warm.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Anna Sultana’s Onion Soup & Lamb Barley Soup / St. Patrick’s Day & St. Joseph’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is on Tuesday.
Thursday, officially the first day of Spring, is also the feast of St. Joseph.

Do you ever wonder how St. Patrick and St. Joseph feel about the fact that their feast days always happen in Lent?

Sometimes St. Valentine’s also falls in Lent.
Lent or not - people celebrate St. Valentine's.
A loved one's fury, and revenge methods, are a lot scarier than God's judgment.
And, anyway, church rules have been known to change.

But, for Pat and Joe, it’s guaranteed that their big days will land in the no-frills, no-fun, no-treats-for-you, season of Lent.
It’s enough to make a saint curse.
I mean, Pat went to Ireland and Joe, well, who has better family connections?
What does a guy have to do to get a decent holy day?

Well… I think that this is not the time to worry about Lent.
Not when there are so many great traditional recipes to enjoy!

Here are a few traditional dishes for St. Patrick.
Don't forget to toast him with a few traditional Irish drinks:


Enjoy a pastry or two - Italian or Maltese style - in honour of St. Joseph:

Next Tuesday we'll have a new moon.
No big whoop… pretty much a night like any other night.
Well, we can say that about most days.
But we still have to eat.
Warm weather is still a long way off, so why not make some soup?


For the Onion Soup…
For something a bit different use one pound each of red onions, sweet onions and yellow onions.
The red onions’ colour will bleed into the broth, but it’s the thought that counts.
Also it’s a way to use onions before they start to sprout.

The soup can be prepared, cooled, then refrigerated up to 2 days. 
When ready to serve, bring it to a boil, ladle into the bowls and continue.

If you want to omit the dry sherry, increase the beef broth to 7 1/4 cups.

About the Lamb Barley Soup…
If you have a lamb leg or chops dinner, be sure to save the bones. 
Place them in a large pot, cover with water, add a diced onion or two along with a few bay leaves, and simmer for a few hours. 
If you have an envelope of onion soup mix handy you can add that, too.
A teaspoon or two of chill powder adds a nice touch.
Let the broth cool and then strain it.
Pick any meat off the bones and add the bits to the broth.

If you haven’t had lamb since last Easter, use broth or water.
Ground beef will work with beef or vegetable broth.
Ground chicken or turkey is good with chicken or vegetable broth.

                        Onion Soup

Cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into thin slices
3 pounds onions
Place in a large pot 
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil 
Heat over medium heat and add
the sliced onions
Stirring frequently, cook 10 minutes.
Lower the heat and, stirring occasionally, simmer 40 minutes until the onions are golden brown.
2 teaspoons dried thyme 
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 Cup dry sherry 
Cook and stir on medium-high heat 1 minute.
7 Cups beef broth
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tablespoon vinegar
2 bay leaves 
Stirring occasionally, bring to a boil. 
Cover, simmer on medium-low heat 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Remove the bay leaves and discard. 

While the soup is simmering, toast 
16 French bread or baguette slices (1/2 inch thick)

Heat the broiler. 
Ladle soup into 8 ovenproof bowls.
Top with 
the toasted bread slices
1 1/2 to 2 Cups shredded Swiss cheese 
Broil, 4 inches from heat, 3 to 5  minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown. 
Serve with a mixed green salad and crusty rolls or bread.

                        Lamb Barley Soup

Finely chop
2 medium onions
4 medium carrots
Place in a large pot 
1 pound ground lamb 
the chopped onion
Heat over medium-high heat and stir until the meat is evenly browned and the onions are translucent. 
Discard any excess grease. 
Stir in 
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
6 Cups lamb broth
1 can condensed tomato soup 
the chopped carrots
1 Cup barley 
1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper 
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
Cover and simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes.
Serve with crusty rolls or bread.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Anna Sultana’s East Coast Seafood Chowder & Bacon Cauliflower Chowder / Full Worm Moon

On Tuesday we were thrilled to be walking on snow-free concrete.
We were sure that Spring was just a few days away.
Manitoba Merv had promised us an early Spring.
He couldn't lie to his fellow citizens.

Yeah, well, this is Manitoba, and it’s never wise to put away the snow shovels until the middle of May.

On Wednesday afternoon it started snowing, the heavy wet type, and by Thursday morning we had received another 10 to 13 cm of fresh snow.
We were not amused.

I packed away the light, Spring type recipes and made a pot of chowder.

As a kid growing up in Queens, New York I loved Manhattan Clam Chowder.
I had first tried it in the restaurant at Jones Beach.
It was served with a small bag of little round crackers and was much better than the soup one got from the Campbell soup can.
I have no idea why either item was called a chowder.

Soup is a rather light weight thing, made by adding meat and/or vegetables to a liquid, such as water or stock. 
A chowder is a creamy soup that can be almost as thick as a stew.
Like a soup, chowder can be seafood or vegetable, such as corn or potato chowder.
But, unlike a soup, the liquid is thickened with potatoes, cornstarch or flour.
Manhattan Clam Chowder is definitely not thickened.
False advertising, for sure.

About Monday’s full moon, the Full Worm Moon...
Not one of the nicest names for a full moon, but it got stuck with that name because the ground is thawing and earthworm casts are appearing, attracting robins.
U. S. tribes called it the Full Crow Moon, since the cawing of crows announced the end of winter, while other folks, mostly in the east, called it the Full Sap Moon, since it was time to start tapping maple trees. 

In Manitoba natives knew they’d still have snow and called it the Full Crust Moon, since the snow thawed during the day and froze at night, becoming crusted.

The European settlers called it the Lenten Moon, since it usually happened after Lent had begun, and it was considered the last full Moon of winter.

On March 9 and on April 7 we’ll be having very large full moons, known as super moons, which will appear about 14% larger and 30% brighter than a normal full moon.
April's supermoon will be the bigger of the two, since the moon will be at its closest point to Earth.

Hopefully the snow will be gone by then.


Starchy russet potatoes release the starch into the chowder and thicken it. 
Red potatoes and Yukon golds aren’t as starchy, but will do if that’s what you have. 

About the fish… a mix of salmon, halibut and cod makes a nice blend.
If you only have one or two of them, that’s fine.
Just don’t use something like sole - it will disappear into the creamy base.
Relax about the amount of seafood you're adding. The recipe is just an estimate. 
A chowder is just a type of soup, not a cake.

If you want to get a bit fancy you could replace some of the fish with lobster tails.
Add with the shrimp, clams and mussels.

About the cauliflower chowder…
You can leave the bacon out and replace it with 4 Tablespoons olive oil.

                        East Coast Seafood Chowder 

1/2 Cup celery
1/2 Cup onions
3/4 Cup potatoes

Place in a large pot
1 Tablespoon butter
Melt butter over low heat.
Add the diced celery and onions.
Sauté for about 5 minutes, or until onions start to brown.

Stir in to form a thin paste
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Stir in
1/2 Cup heavy cream
2 Cups milk
Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon pepper  
the diced potatoes
Cook until the potatoes are almost tender.

While the potatoes are cooking cut about 12 ounces of fish into spoon-sized chunks. (see hints)

Place in another large pot 
2 Tablespoons butter
Melt butter over medium heat.
Add the fish chunks.
Cook until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
6 shrimp
1/4 C shelled clams 
box of mussels in wine, undrained
Once the mussels have opened (discard any that did not open), transfer the seafood into the chowder base.
Simmer 3 minutes.
Ladle into bowls.
Place dill and a dab of butter on each serving (optional).
Serve with crusty rolls or bread.

                        Bacon Cauliflower Chowder

1 medium yellow onion
2 medium carrots, peeled
2 stalks celery

Cut into 1" pieces
4 slices bacon

2 cloves garlic

Place in a large pot
the bacon pieces
Cook over medium heat, until crispy.
Remove the bacon and drain all but 3 tablespoons of fat from the large pot.

Add to the large pot the onion, carrots, and celery.
Season with salt and pepper.
Cook the vegetables until soft, about 5 minutes. 
Add the minced garlic and cook 1 minute. 
2 Tablespoons flour
Stir in to form a thin paste, and cook about 2 minutes more. 

the chopped cauliflower
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 Cups vegetable broth
1 Cup whole milk
1/2 Cup heavy cream
Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer until the cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes. 
Season with salt and pepper.
Garnish with the cooked bacon pieces before serving.
Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty rolls or bread.