Monday, January 31, 2011

Design: Object of Lust 5: Bodum Santos Vacuum Coffee Maker

I bought a decaffeinated coffee table. You can't even see a difference.  - Unknown

©Julius Schorzman (Wiki creative common license)
A friend of mine said she doesn't know why people drink decaffeinated coffee. I can't drink caffeinated past noon or I'm up all night. My tolerance for caffeine is very low, although I believe she's right.

One brew I can't resist is coffee made in our Bodum Santos. Sometimes called Bodum Pebo, it's a vacuum style coffee maker.  It was designed by a Dane, Peter Bodum, in the mid 1950s. At the time he felt that vacuum brewing was the preferable way to brew, but the coffee makers available at the time did expensive, yet unsatisfactory, results.

To quote the greenbeanery web site below: "With this in mind he set out to develop the first Bodum vacuum coffee maker in cooperation with one of Denmark's first product designers, the architect Kaas Klaeson. Their slogan, 'design should not be expensive,' is one that Bodum still stands for."

Essentially it looks, and works, like a chemistry experiment. Water goes in the lower bowl, and coffee in the top. There's a "filter" that holds the coffee in the top bowl. When the water heats, the pressure forces it to the top bowl and it simmers in the coffee grounds for five minutes. After it's taken from the heat, vacuum pressure sucks the brewed coffee down into the lower bowl.

I have had one in my possession for the last 15 years. Only a couple accidents, and wear, led to replacement.

You can purchase them locally at Cucina Moderna at City Centre Atlantic, and occasionally at Liquid in Park Lane. Parts, unfortunately, are further afield. You can purchase both online at the Greenbeanery in Vancouver. Click their name for the link.

Cost: $99.95, but maybe a little cheaper closer. Try it. You won't be disappointed.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Recipe: If you want new Chinese recipes, talk to old Chinese people.

If you can't understand something then it's best to be afraid...
That's a lyric from the band "Bright Eyes". From experience, I tend to disagree.

Asian grocery, not exactly as illustrated.

Many years ago I lived in the North End of the city where many immigrant families have settled. One such family was Asian and they had a store.

This store was amazing. For a boy from the country, it boasted the most exotic things you could imagine. Jars of "stuff" that had eyes looking out at you, bottles of gray "sauce" for who know's what, and dried unidentifiable ocean creatures. And in the freezers…

The store was dim and dusty, with full shelves that looked like they hadn't been painted since the house was built. It was the kind of place you'd expect to have an opium den in the back. (But I'm sure it didn't.)

Pork—NOT liver.
Behind the counter was an Asian grandmother who spoke no English. Well, very, very little. You had to read the cash register to know how much to pay. I used to go in and pick up "caucasian/chinese" items regularly. "Hello" was the extent of our conversations.

One time I picked up a package of cured Chinese Style Sausage. Now this next part is the truth, I swear. She actually said "You know cook?". Of course I did not know cook. Over the next 10 minutes she told me how to make this recipe. I've never seen it on a menu, so I can only assume it's a very homey dish. I thank her greatly.

I'm not sure I even understood it all correctly. What I am sure of is that it's very, very good.

Chinese Sausage with Bok Choy and Rice
30 min  |  serves 4

1 cup short grain rice
2 cups water
375g package Chinese Style sausage (pork - NOT liver)
1 bok choy (or 4 baby bok choy)
1 tbsp oil
2 onions, medium, cut into eights
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp dried shrimp
1 bps ginger root, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
sriracha sauce (to serve)

Bring rice, salt and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile heat oil in a wok. Add the onion, garlic, shrimp and ginger. Fry until onions begin to soften. Slice the sausage into 1/2 inch lengths and add to the wok. Stir fry for about 5-8 minutes.

Cut the leaves from the bok choy, chop coarsely, and set aside. Slice the white remainder into 1/2 inch pieces. Add to wok and fry for 2 minutes. You still want them to be crunchy. Then add in the reserved bok choy leaves and toss until they start to wilt.

Add the rice and toss together.

Serve with some sriracha sauce over the top.

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Design: Object of Necessity - Collapsible Measuring Cups

Silicone is useful for more than the obvious...
I thought I would post this entry because I purchase bulk foods quite often. The problem is when you go to your local Bulk Barn or ethnic grocery it is highly unlikely you will find measuring cups.

It's become a touch annoying. You need to purchase 1 cup of rice, or 2 cups of specialty flour, or the like. What do you find to measure your purchase? It's usually a scoop (or in the case of our local Chinese grocery, a plastic Coke glass). I can't recall a single recipe that calls for 1 coke glass of anything.

Most often the items you're buying are not standard pantry fare, which is why you're shopping bulk in the first place. You try your best to get only what the recipe calls for but when you get home you either have slightly too little, or too much. You end up with bag after bag of unnecessary remnants. Little bits that hang around and clutter up your cupboard, and life.

No more, I say! I'm going to purchase a set of collapsible measuring cups and keep them in my glove box. Weird I know, but a practical solution. When required, I'll simply take the one I need and slip it into my pocket. Then I'll always be able to buy just the right amount.

Over the past several years there has been an upsurge of collapsible cooking utensils, like strainers, bakeware, bowls, etc.. Very practical solutions for the urban kitchen. We have a collapsible dog water bowl, which incidentally already lives in the car.

The measuring cups are widely available. I often see them at our local Winners/HomeSense discount stores for a price in keeping with where I'll be storing them.

If my frustration continues, there may also be collapsible measuring spoons in my future. How many cacia berries does someone actually need to have on hand? Not many, I would posit.

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Culture: Everyone should have Skeletons in their closet

Apart from that Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?
There's a reason I don't go to the thea-tah (movies) very often. Popular cinema has very little to offer anyone who likes to use their brain on a daily basis. It's the same with almost all popular music. More on that at another time, I'm sure.

Both are best summed up by a quick look-up on

Main Entry: unimaginative

Definition: dull, predictable

Synonyms: banal, barren, bromidic, common, commonplace, derivative, dime a dozen, dry, dull as dishwater, flat, hackneyed, ho hum, lifeless, matter-of-fact, ordinary, pabulum, pedestrian, prosaic, routine, square, tame, tedious, trite, uncreative, uninspired, unoriginal, unromantic, usual, vanilla, well-worn, zero.

As far as "popular" culture goes, lowest common denominator wins the day it seems. It's like they're all the moles in a whack-a-mole game. For heaven's sake, don't stick your head up above the crowd. I call it the "Simon Fuller Syndrome." Any creativity that may be present is summarily whacked out.

That's my position. So the result is you have to (most times) look further than your local cinema for something that challenges "ze little gray cells" (to quote Poirot). 

Recently I found a very charming, quirky movie that you may want to look up. It's British and has no "big names" actors. 

Skeletons (2010)

This is the story of the travails of two psychic auditors. Their job it is to clear the air in relationships by bringing to light any emotional debris. One particular family proves a challenge that affects the lives of all involved.  Its US release was March 2010 at the SXSW Festival.

A very nice little movie. Recommended highly.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Recipe: My kitchen smells divine. Is that sacrilegious?

Beef Marrakesh With Apricots and Lemon

2 hours 20 min | serves 6

I love Saturdays in the winter. It's cold outside and makes you want to stay home. So what's better than spending that time in the kitchen with a bubbling pot sending exotic smelling clouds of steam into the air? 

I've made this ahead and will reheat this evening. I'll be serving it with couscous, which literally takes the length of time it takes to boil water, plus a 5 minute sit.

Just so you know: Add the same volume of boiling water to couscous and a little salt (e.g., 1 cup water, 1 cup couscous). Stir, cover and let sit for 5 minutes.

This makes a very tasty, dissolve in your mouth meal. I've just posted this to so it should be up in a couple hours.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 lbs beef, cut into large cubes
2 medium onions
3 garlic, peeled and crushed
28 ounces tomatoes (canned, whole with their juice)
1 cup orange juice
1 lemon, quartered
1 cup apricot, dried (whole)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice or clove
1/4 cup goji berry (optional, see directions)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons water

Heat oil in a large dutch oven. Brown beef in batches and reserve. Add onion and garlic to pan and allow to soften.

Add the tomatoes, with their juice, and 1 cup of the orange juice. Bring to a boil. Then add the apricots and all the spices, including the salt and pepper. Add in the beef and any collected juice.

Cut lemon into quarters and stir into the pot.

Add in the goji berries if using. (They are optional, but are high in antioxidants.).

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Place cover on to allow some steam to escape and simmer for 2 hours. Remove lemon rinds from pot. Adjust salt.

Thicken sauce with cornstarch mixed with water if desired.

Serve over couscous.


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Gardening: Erect a little wood in your garden

How to make a decorative support for climbers
So this post may actually be "news you can use," so to speak. It's actually a get your hands dirty "how to", not only for your garden, but also a "how to" keep money in your pocket.

Last year we erected two supports for grapes. They're sort of summertime privacy "fencing", and also look very nice when the leaves are gone. They add to the "bones" which keep your garden looking nice in the non-growing months. Purchasing these structure would cost upwards of $200. Materials, way less that $100. Sweat equity: priceless.

Click on the image for a printable version. It has materials listed on the right.

The design of these echoes elements of an arbor entrance we also built, and the top of a summer porch. The porch will have wisteria flowers hanging down through it — eventually...

The design and plan above is a freebie from me to you. Use it "as is", or as an inspiration for designing and making your own. They're not rocket science. They just take a little time. You can probably make one, from start to standing in the ground, in about 3 hours. That includes all fabrication, digging holes, mixing cement, and standing up.

The 2x2 pieces which make up the centre of the structure are not cut from their purchased 8' length. That speeds fabrication up greatly. All you have to do is make sure that the inside space between your 4x4 uprights is also 8", or they won't fit.

If there is ONE secret, it's to assemble with screws as opposed to nails. If you use screws, any breakage or rot can be replaced far more easily. Nails are far harder to deal with down the road.

The columnar oaks were there first. They face relocation come Spring.

So the above image shows them "in situ". They still have their side supports because the cement was just poured. They are free standing. In our case, we have planted pinot noir grapes at their base. I fully expect in two years they will be covered with grape leaves which will help screen us from our neighbours. The pinot noir grapes will be a bonus. We don't expect to make wine...probably.

More arbors will be coming, in pairs. We already have two chardonnay vines waiting for supports in the Spring. The garden is actually quickly taking shape with these additions. I will be posting plans for the walk through arbor later. It was easy to make as well.

Remember, treated wood will last longer. Plans and materials list is for one support.

One final word: we used 8' uprights, which meant that 1-1/2 feet goes into the ground. Our frostline is 3 feet, so you may want to purchase 10' 4x4, just to be safe. We like to live on the edge.


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Friday, January 28, 2011

Facebook and I have a very private relationship

How do I love thee? Let me share the ways…

You may want to know there's a facebook privacy setting "Instant Personalization" up and running on YOUR facebook page. I think it's new but I'm not sure. Privacy settings seem to change so darn often...

This setting shares your data with non-facebook sites & it is automatically set to "Enabled".

Want to enable yourself, as opposed to facebook?
Go to Account  
>Privacy Settings  
>Apps & Websites  
>Instant Personalization  
>Edit Settings 
& uncheck "Enable".

By the way if your friends don't do this, they will be sharing info about you as well. Please copy, repost, and or retweet this post (link at right).

Opinion: What a dumb*** idea

City councillor proposes extension of parking ban criteria

Did you know that donkeys are quite useful, intelligent animals?
Besides the usual "burden" use, they are also pastured with horses
who are nervous for their calming effect, as well as being pastured
with smaller, more defenceless animals as a guard animal.
Photo: Moose.Boy Flickr ccl
Now I'm mad. This little tidbit gave me more of a jolt than my morning java. Bottom of The Chronicle Herald newspaper today: David Hendsbee, city councillor (Preston-Lawrencetown-Chezzetcook) has proposed the ability for the city to call a parking ban when there is the potential for bad weather, regardless of the time of year, to aid street cleanup.

To quote the CH, quoting the councillor: "A parking ban should 'not be seen as only a wintertime application, but how can it be applied across all seasons,' Hendsbee said."

Now I take issue with this. I do understand how it would help the city to be able to command all cars off the streets whenever they would like, BUT not everyone has a driveway to put their car in.

I own my own house downtown—not in the suburbs as does Councillor Hendsbee—and do not have a driveway. I can only imagine the driveway he has, capable of parking, at the least, one full car. Luxury. Our block used to have a lane behind the houses which owners could use to access back yards for parking. Similar areas in the city still do. There's one just up the road.

But our street has it no longer. Why, you ask? Because the city appropriated it and GAVE it to a developer so they could build an apartment building. So now not only do we not have access to park in our own back yards (thanks to our happy-give-lucky councillors from decades ago) but we have a 10-story brick monstrosity towering over our 2-story Victorians. It makes for great backyard use in the summer, what with all those windows looking down at you.


This is an old scar, but it still itches. The apartment building has been standing since probably the early 1980s. Just like an old wound, when the weather turns cold the pain comes back.

Every winter, starting the middle of December through to March 31, all of us on this block have go begging to that self-same apartment building to purchase indoor parking for the winter ban period. To add insult to injury, I couldn't GET any there this year. I have to park nearly two blocks away. Walk that in a driving storm, Mr. Hendsbee.

In a glaring but typical oversight, the council at the time—even though they took away our parking ability—didn't build into the agreement with the developer that they would have to supply parking to the houses that the city "relieved" of theirs.

I'm seeing red. Our parking, by the way, comes in at $103 per month. So the current parking ban costs us $360.

Now wise Councillor Hendsbee wants to make it so that it's open-ended. Any time the city feels they can make the cars disappear. In essence, I would need 12 months a year parking. Quick calculation at current monthly rate: $1,236 per year. Of couse, we know that will go up. Indoor parking has increased every year I've had to purchase it. Does he think this will increase my property value? Probably.

Staff has taken his suggestion "under advisement." Hopefully it ends up where most of the rest of Council's suggestions end up—file "G".  This is one stupid idea that needs be nipped in the bud.

Email, write or otherwise contact your councillor and voice your opinion on this matter. In fact, contact them all.

HRM councillors contact information can be found at

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dogs: How to teach the "Come" command

Would you come to me if I was raving like a crazy man? May I suggest probably not.

Possibly  the most important command to teach your dog, and among the first, is to "Come" when you call. It will at some point save your pet's life.

Thankfully, puppies learn their new names quickly. It doesn't hurt that when we first start using our puppy's name it is with unbridled joy. It's completely natural, because they fill our hearts with love. Simon had his name down pat in just a few days.

Knowing their name is stage one. When you say it you have their attention. Then you have to teach them the actions required when using other words with it, such as "Come". 

So what are the fundamentals to successfully teaching "Come"?

First, only teach commands when you are capable of enforcing the desired response. In the case of "Come" this means having the dog on a leash or long lead. You have to be able to make the dog (gently) come to you when the command is given. Regardless if the dog comes to you under their own volition, or if you have to pull the dog to you, praise exuberantly. Go over the top. Associate a successfully completed "Come" with "I made my master happy." You can even almost make it a game.

Second, remember to always give your command "in full". Puppies only know doggie language so we have to teach them ours from scratch. A full command consists of the dogs name, followed by an instruction. "Simon, sit", or "Simon, come". Think of the conversation this way: "Simon!"… "Yes, what do you want?". You have to finish the sentence for your puppy to know what to do.

Third—and this is difficult—watch your language (verbal and body) in using the word "Come" when your dog has done bad, or didn't listen to you. A negative reaction will reinforce in the dog that "Come" means "I'm in trouble". They may come to you cowering, but that is far from the desired result. The alternate response is to either ignore you, or worse yet run away.

When Simon wouldn't come right away I would calmly walk over to him, grab him by his collar, and walk him over to where I had originally given the "Come" command. Don't continually repeat the ignored command—act. End result? Master gets his way, so why resist?

Say whatever you want when you're doing it. For example "Simon, Come (you [insert expletive here])" but say it in a voice that belies what you mean. You get to vent, and the dog won't associate the term "Come" with anger and punishment. I know it's difficult, but you must master it.

Remember, if your dog has done something wrong, you can only effectively punish if you catch them in the act. Their long-term associative skills are not like a human's. Cause and effect have a short connection time in our four legged friends.

Some trainers suggest using treats to "bribe" your dog to come. Anyone who reads my blog knows my opinion on treats as success rewards. Sadly, in some difficult cases they may have a (limited) use. I would suggest interspersing the treats with lots of praise. The treat should be a rare incentive, as opposed to the reason for obeying. And it should be stopped as soon as possible and replaced only with praise.

Teaching an effective "Come" response will help keep your dog safer. And as importantly, it will give you peace of mind. Less time worrying when you're out in public gives you more time to enjoy each other's company. 

Isn't that really what our friendship is all about?

Recipe: Pickled Jalapenos

Round about the cauldron go; In the poison'd entrails throw.

Apologies to Shakesepeare. Image, Wiki CC

I just ran out of these little devils last night, so it's time to brew up another batch. Devils is the correct word too. My spouse won't eat them. Stays a mile away.

This is a fiery concoction. If you like hot leave in all the seeds and white ribs of the peppers. If not, remove both, or make yours somewhere in-between. This recipe requires no hot water bath processing, so is quite easy (and quick) to make.

If you have anyone who's difficult to buy for, but loves spicy food, these make a novel gift. I gave a jar to my brother-in-law last Christmas and it lasted no time at all. I had to gift him again on his birthday.

These taste far better than store-purchased pickled jalapenos. I can't remember where I found this recipe but it's a good one. Before this blog post, it was handwritten on a piece of tattered, stained paper. We all have those hanging around. It certainly bodes well for a recipe being good.

It might have come from now that I think of it…

For a different take on how to preserve jalapenos look at my recipe for "lacto-fermented jalapenos." Very easy and are, as my brother-in-law said "the best ones he's ever tasted." Look HERE.

Hot Pickled Jalapenos
Makes two 500ml jars

Photo: Andreas Duess, Flickr ccl
2 500ml mason jars, well washed and rinsed
1-1/2 lbs jalapenos, washed and sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, small, sliced thinly
1/2 carrot, in small dice
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp oregano, dried
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup water
1 cup vinegar

Sauté onion, garlic and carrot in the oil until softened. Do not brown. 

Add oregano, bay leaves and salt. Then add in vinegar and water. Bring to a boil and add in jalapenos. Bring back to a boil and remove from the heat.

Divide the jalapenos, onion, garlic and carrots between the  jars, ensuring that one of the bay leaves is in each.

Top with the hot liquid, leaving a 1/4" space at the top of the jar.

Seal and let cool. These are best after 3 weeks.


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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Design: Simplicity for complexity's sake

"If you want old ideas, look in new books. If you want new ideas, look in old books."

That's a quote from Hanno Ehses, the Chair of the Design Department during my time at NSCAD. It has remained with me ever since. And I actually do believe it. New (design/advertising awards) books are nearly always full of everyone doing variations of the same thing. That's how we recognize one period style from the next. "That's so 50s", or "that looks hippie", etc.. 

On the surface, it appears panel judges routinely award the trendy over the substantial. Some design programs in Canada (at least when I went to school) didn't even spend much time on what makes good design, but taught style over substance. You had graduates who could mimic what was going on, but didn't have a clue why it was effective (or not). That's just unfathomable to me.

But back to the topic... If you want a new way of doing things you need to fertilize your mind with different ideas. That's usually comes from old information that has been forgotten—which is almost exclusively found in old books.

This graphic is an old idea. No it's not a fancy scripts rendering, flash or real-time animation. It's an animated gif – a 12 step gif, but a gif nonetheless. Simple delivery, complex thought process. Yes, they can be cheesy and ugly when done poorly (as can anything), but this one is not. 

In case you're not familiar with the ins and outs of gifs, here's some info from Wikipedia: "The Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) is a bitmap image format that was introduced by CompuServe in 1987 and has since come into widespread usage on the World Wide Web due to its wide support and portability. 

The format supports up to 8 bits per pixel thus allowing a single image to reference a palette of up to 256 distinct colors. The colors are chosen from the 24-bit RGB color space. It also supports animations and allows a separate palette of 256 colors for each frame. The color limitation makes the GIF format unsuitable for reproducing color photographs and other images with continuous color, but it is well-suited for simpler images such as graphics or logos with solid areas of color."

Very rudimentary technology, but look at the effect that was achieved. An idea well suited to the vehicle by which it is delivered.

It's easy to forget that we should always use the tool best suited for the job at hand. Sometimes that's new technology, and sometimes it's not. Here's an example. Many years ago, there was someone in one of my NSCAD classes who spent hours, literally, on the computer trying to render a realistic paint brush stroke. This person never thought to just pick up a brush....

That being said, it's not only the delivery method that makes our communications effective or not. It's the quality of the idea within that makes a success or failure. That's what we need to remember. Once again, to close with another Hanno quote, our design solutions should never be "all sizzle and no steak."

Note: I haven't been able to find an attribution for the graphic, but would gladly do so if anyone could tell me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gardening: Complexity for complexity's sake

Cutting the Zone 6 Gordian Knot

A touch over the top for our side yard... Photo: Cross Duck, Flickr ccl

There's no time like the dead of winter to start thinking about Spring. Since temperatures hit -16°C last night, it seemed like any excuse to think of warmer weather was not only warranted, but a necessity.

Actually I had been mulling a particular idea over in my mind for some time. This year I think I'll establish the bones of a small herb knot garden. 

Different plants can create a stunning knot garden.
Photo: freshelectrons, Flickr ccl
There have been gardens arranged in geometric patterns throughout history and in most cultures. Knot gardens, as we know them, gained widespread popularity in Tudor England, when many of the designs were based on contemporary embroidery. Often constructed entirely of aromatics, they were meant to act not only as a medicinal and culinary resource, but also as a relaxing oasis from the smells of everyday life, which at that time could be quite pungent. 

Originally, common plants would have included germander, marjoram, thyme, hyssop, camomile, sage and the like. Over time fashions changed, and most now have their defining shapes made of shaped boxwood. So technically they are more parterres than actual knot gardens. 

I know they're complicated to plan, grow, and maintain, but that's OK by me. My madness will hopefully solve two other problems. The first is winter interest, as the plants most usually used for the main shapes are woody evergreen perennials. Secondly, within the "holes"—those sweet little microclimates—I can experiment with some of the more borderline zone plants (like hardy rosemary). I may just pull some of them off.

A knot garden generates micro-climates in the spaces between its "bones."
Perfect for flowers or herbs that need more warmth and protection.
Photo: Lawrence OP, Flickr ccl
Most likely a design that is not too complex or difficult (or expensive) to maintain would be ideal. At the same time, it will need to be hardy enough to create those microclimate spaces that I am so coveting. Perhaps a semi formal arrangement like the image at right. I even like how the surrounding plants (I'm assuming lavender) break the formality somewhat.

There's a flat area in the side yard that's just aching for something interesting. I think I'll fill it.

(Donations to purchase boxwood plants will be gratefully accepted.)


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Monday, January 24, 2011

Recipe: Pork Stroganoff with Mustard and Yogurt

Pork or Beef. What is this—a Teriyaki joint?

Pavel, you da man.
"Count Pavel Stroganov, a celebrity in turn-of-the-century St. Petersburg, was a noted gourmet as well as a friend of Alexander III. He is frequently credited with creating Beef Stroganoff or having a chef who did so, but in fact a recipe by that name appears in a cookbook published in 1871, well ahead of the heyday of the genial count. In all probability the dish had been in the family for some years and came to more general notice throughout Pavel's love of entertaining."
--Rare Bits: Unusual Origins of Popular Recipes, Patricia Bunning Stevens [Ohio University Press: Athens] 1998 (p.103). 

I can find no reliable documentation on any of the above, and even the particular Count Stroganoff in question is up for interpretation. The more I dug, the murkier the whole affair became. Alexander III dates 1845-1894. Old Pavel at left lived from 1772-1817, so apparently Patricia Bunning Stevens has some explaining to do. Perhaps she doesn't know how to count her "turn-of-the-century" dates. 18th century refers to the 1700s, Patricia.

Another problem, no other source than Larousse Gastronomique notes that several similar dishes were being prepared since the 1700s, and versions are common in nearly all Baltic countries. Stroganoff is essentially a meat, mushrooms and sour cream concoction. The flavourings vary by locality.

 I care not a whit for potentially unreliable publications, or persons unable to ever have met due to the misfortune of not living at the same time. But I do care about food, and Stroganoff is food, so here's my entry into the canon. I have just made this for dinner, and as of typing time, I haven't fell ill. Yet...

1 lb boneless pork loin, cut into wide strips 1/4 inch thick (You could use beef if you must…)
2 onions, halved and quartered
1 lb Portobello mushrooms, sliced thickly
3 tbsp oil
1/3 cup vermouth
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cardamom, ground
1 tsp thyme, dried
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 cup balkan style (thick) plain yogurt
2 tbsp lemon juice

Combine the paprika, cardamom, thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper and set aside. Sauté the strips of pork in a wide saucepan using 2 tbsp of the oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the spice mixture and sauté until just cooked through. Remove pork from the pan.

Add the remaining 1 tbsp of oil to the saucepan. Sauté the onions until they begin to soften. Then add the mushrooms and continue to cook. Add more oil if necessary. When they onions and mushrooms come back to heat and fry for a little while, add the vermouth. Cook until onions are softened, the vermouth has evaporated, and the mushrooms have reduced in size and darkened considerably.

Sprinkle the mushrooms with the remaining spice mixture. Add the yogurt and mustard and stir. Add the pork and bring back to heat. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Just before serving squeeze the lemon juice into the pan and mix.

Serve over wide egg noodles.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Opinion: Seeing the Unexpected

Stay where you're at. I'll come where you're to…

The title of this entry is a Newfoundland saying I learned from a friend of mine from "the Rock". What I saw today made me think about it in an entirely different light.

Fox are not a common sight in residential areas. © Alison Clair
I saw a quite uncommon sight this morning when I was driving through a residential area just outside Bridgewater. A red fox ran across the road in front of me. It crossed from an open field right beside someone's house to another open field. A strawberry field operation is also adjacent. The whole area is houses, fields and lakes much of which is highly cultivated. It's pretty much a normal "bedroom community" usage mix.

The fox was a beautiful sight and quite healthy looking. You could tell it was somewhat timid as it ran well up into the field before it turned around to look at me. The morning was cold and crisp so I assume it was out hunting for breakfast. It must have stood about 20 inches high, so not really a small animal.

What worries me is that breakfast might have included someone's pet cat or small lap dog. 

Clear cutting in southern Nova Scotia is (still) a common occurrence. As we reduce forest coverage we progressively force animals, both large and small, into smaller habitats and closer to where we live. I understand the need for economic activity in areas that rely on resource exploitation, and do not have much more to offer than those jobs. It's the norm for much of the South Shore. 

At the same time we have to be good stewards of the land we have inherited, and manage it in ways that benefit ALL who use it to live, and that includes the diverse woodland creatures and plants that inhabit the areas we so easily destroy.

This overlap of animals and humans is happening at an alarming rate. For an example, I only have to mention the prevalence of coyote/human interactions over the last few years throughout our province. If you didn't know, coyotes are not native to Nova Scotia. Coyotes are historically a "Plains" predator and their first confirmed sighting in Nova Scotia wasn't until 1977. Nova Scotia used to have wolves, which are a coyote predator, but we killed our wolves off many years ago. No major predators means coyotes are multiplying while forest habitat is shrinking. Not a good combination.

In the village where I grew up, I am told that people can hear coyotes howling at night. This disturbs me greatly. I don't even like to let my (very large) dog out at night for very long. This closeness is happening even though there is a large area behind the village where a lumber mill is located. With the accompanying human activity and open space you would think it would act as a buffer. Apparently not.

Of course the coyote problem is far more complex than simply explaining it away by clear cutting. But it is PART of the problem. The less territory we have to use, and the more of us there is to fit into that space, the more instances of undesirable interactions we will have. If we use the land responsibly, we should be able to minimize these occurrences.

In this short diatribe I don't mean to offer any great wisdom or profound solutions. But if we continue on as we have in the past, we will see that more and more wildlife will be "coming where we're to."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Recipe: Baked Shrimp Newburg

MmmMmm Good

Tonight I'm cooking dinner for my mother. Ever since I can remember she's made a "quickie" version of "Shrimp on Toast" for a fast lunch. It was buttered toast, canned shrimp and a cream sauce. Fast to do, and tastes fast. Tonight I'm ratcheting it up a few notches for her. Hope she will like it. I know there are other baked versions of Newburg but I don't seem to be able to find one quite like this.

Here it goes:
1 loaf crusty French bread
1 lb shrimp, raw in shell (any size)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
3 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sherry
1/4 cup water, or chicken stock
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp paprika, hot
1 tsp pepper, coarse ground
1 tsp salt
1 cup mozzarella, grated

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Slice the bread on the diagonal about 1/2 inch thick, and toast. You have to have enough slices to cover the bottom of a 9x9 ovenproof pan twice. Set toast aside.

Peel the shrimp and roughly chop. Set aside.

Heat the butter in a medium saucepan and sauté the onion and celery until softened. Add the flour and whisk. Slowly add in the milk and simmer until thickened. Let cook for one minute to get rid of the raw flour taste. 

Stir in the sherry, water, curry, paprika, pepper and salt. Remove half of the sauce and set aside. (Note: the better the sherry the better the sauce will taste.)

Reheat remaining sauce in the saucepan to a simmer and add the shrimp and half the cheese. Cook until shrimp are almost done, about 1-2 minutes.

Place one layer of the toast in the bottom of the pan. Pour the shrimp mixture over the top and smooth out. Arrange remaining toast on top. Pour reserved sauce over the final layer of toast and sprinkle on remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until slightly golden and bubbly on top.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Design: Those crazy Japanese and their pop culture

File Under "Just when I thought I had seen it all..."

So earlier this evening I was looking for a sewing machine that allowed for an easier time to hem pants than my current hand me down. Lo and behold, the following popped up. It's not particularly cheap either. The lowest on ebay was just under $300. At first I laughed, but now I think I may be in love. Can you imagine—an adult-sized Hello Kitty sewing machine. Well I never...

This is directly taken from I take no credit for it, or the accuracy of the informtion. 

"Hello Kitty as a First Sewing Machine or Second for Experienced Sewers

If you are considering a sewing machine to teach your child or grandchild to sew on—Hello Kitty might be a good choice for you. This model, the 11706, is a ¾ size sewing machine. There is another Janome Hello Kitty that is ½ size. That sewing machine, model 11702, is NOT being reviewed in this article. The Janome 11702 sewing machine is more like a toy than the 11706.
Here are some reasons that owners like this Janome sewing machine (model 11706):

  • Size - not too big and not too small, the Hello Kitty weighs in at just 12 pounds. It is totally portable and can be easily taken to classes or quilting groups. Many owners use it for smaller projects at home, instead of dragging out their heavier sewing machine.
  • Features - This Hello Kitty Janome Sewing Machine is a real sewing machine, not a toy. As such, it has features like:
    • a built-in 4 step bartack buttonholer
    • 6 built-in stitches
    • reverse stitching
    • a 4-point feed-dog system to keep fabric feeding straight
    • a free-arm design for sewing hard-to-reach areas
    • a handle for moving it easily from room to room
    • a snap-on foot system.
    Pretty nice for a beginner sewing machine or a machine for travel!
  • Quiet and smooth - Owners love the smooth, almost noiseless operation on so small and simple a machine.
  • Heavy duty construction - Made to last. Since the machine is constructed well, you can travel with it and not be concerned that it will fall apart.
  • Built-in light and on/off switch - The blue Hello Kitty (model 11702) does not have these features.
  • Instruction book - has clear, step by step instructions. Great for beginners.
  • Cute - I don't want to de-emphasize this. Reviewers just love sewing on this machine. Working with a fun design on the machine makes sewing more fun!

As you can see, the Hello Kitty Janome Sewing Machine is more than a children's sewing machine or a first sewing machine. Many experienced sewers choose to get one for craft projects, scrapbooking or for simple projects that don't require their more complicated sewing machines. If you are considering a gift for a sewer or a sewer-to be, make sure you don't overlook the Janome Hello Kitty 11706."

You too can "sew pretty with Hello Kitty", indeed.