Wednesday, May 11, 2016


I texted a friend of mine a couple of days ago to make sure he was okay. He was due to fly into Fort McMurray where the wildfires have reeked havoc and I was more than a little concerned. I got a text back that his flight had been cancelled. I talked to him at length today about it. It turns out that not only was his flight in cancelled but his room in camp had been given away.
The big, bad, evil oil company Suncor that so desperately deserved karmic retribution from the heavens had opened up their camp to house and feed hundreds of displaced and desperate families with no where else to turn. Not only that, he told me that more than a few co-workers that were still on-shift in camp had given up their rooms voluntarily, handing in their keys so that families and individuals that had no where else to go had a roof over their heads at night while they chose to sleep on rec-room couches and theatre seats instead of their comfortable beds. I hope Karma is watching. I find it interesting that I have not seen any stories about what these companies are doing to help those in need, perhaps they have but I haven't seen it.
Tom Moffatt
Undoubtedly you've heard about the douchecanoe former NDP candidate for Tom Moffatt karmic tweet former NDP candidate in the Lethbridge-East Riding Riding/constituency. As 88,000 people scrambled to evacuate the Fort McMurray area, he posted this on his twitter account:

He later deleted the tweet and made a haphazard apology. He told the CBC that perhaps it was “not the best adjective to use, because it can be interpreted in different ways.” Really? Because “Karmic climate change fire burns Canadian oilsands city” really means something totally different?
The provincial NDPs, embarrassed by the tweet, tried to distance themselves from Mr. Moffat, saying they didn't know him. However there are several photos where he is captured standing next to a smiling Government House Leader and Minister of Infrastructure Brian Mason and other NDP members.
Fortunately his current employer, the Town of Taber, where he is their IT Manager, has unanimously approved a resolution suspending Moffatt indefinitely pending an investigation into the comments. They released a statement:“A recent post made by a town employee on a personal account in no way reflects the Town’s views on this terrible tragedy. Employee’s views and opinions in no way reflect the views of the Town. The Town of Taber apologizes unreservedly. We are discussing this matter with the employee.”
The Lethbridge Public Library board, where he volunteers, also released a statement. They said “his view on the Fort McMurray fire, does not in any manner reflect the view of the Lethbridge Public Library Board or the Lethbridge Public Library staff or volunteers.”
Personally, I hope Karma comes back to bite him in the nether regions. I hope that the Town of Taber and the Lethbridge Library sever all ties with this idiot.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May also had much to say regarding the cause of the wildfires. When asked if there was anything about the fire that is linked to global warming, she said, “Of course, the temperature records were being smashed through last month for northern Alberta." While noting that no single event is caused by climate change alone, "it's due to global emissions.”
The fact that the forest-fire season has arrived so early in northern Alberta is very likely a climate event. Very likely related to extreme high temperatures and very low humidity, very low precipitation and it is, as we saw in the quote from one of the firefighters, it’s a firestorm.”
It jumped a highway, it jumped a river,” she continued. “It’s a devastating tragedy right now and I think our focus is always on the right now: to think for the firefighters, for first responders, for people who are losing their homes. It’s a disaster. But it’s a disaster that is very related to the global climate crisis.”
Others also took to Twitter to blame the oil industry for the climate change. Cowards such as TheVeganArchist, who smugly tweeted “you nature-disrespecting, earth-raping sons-of-bitches brought this on yourselves. #FortMcMurray #Fire.” While thousands have lost everything they own, these cowardous envirofreaks use this horrible disaster for their political gain. Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd posted a picture of the fire and tweeted, “This is what climate change does...”
The smoking ruin of Brian Jean's home in Fort McMurray
Who is to blame for this disaster? In April, even though Alberta had an extremely dry winter from El Nino and very little rain this spring and on the heels of the busiest fire season in 25 years, Rachel Notley's NDP government cut $5.1 million from its air tanker contracts and cut a further $9.6 million from its base wildfire management budget. Basically they cut their fire-fighting budget by 80%, the only thing they cut in the whole budget. But this wildfire is karmic retribution on the oil patch? The premier dismissed warnings from opposition leader Brian Jean at the time. There was a wildfire burning at the time near Jasper but Premier Notley called Jean a “Fearmonger” during question period. Brian Jean's own home has since been burned to the ground. Brian had already lived through one wildfire that burned down a large part of Slave Lake when he was an MLA for the Slave Lake riding. I remember the Slave Lake fire as I was working in Slave Lake just weeks after the fire tore through a large residential section of the town leaving most of my fellow co-workers without shelter. I'd say Brian hit the nail on the head.
Is global warming responsible for the wildfires, for the increasing dryness and drought seen everywhere from California to Alberta? What seems to be touted as a forgone conclusion is in my opinion simply a theory. With so little data points (less than 200 years of weather data) climate cycles that range at least in decades if not centuries, we simply do not have enough information to do more than speculate. My mother relates that when she was in high school in the fifties, scientists were predicting another ice age as the climate had cooled in recent years. Now, less than a century later, the next generation of scientists are predicting that unless we stop CO² emissions, we will soon have a runaway greenhouse effect which will destroy our world. The theories move rapidly from one extreme to another.
My friend further excoriated the Premier and the Prime Minister for not going to Fort McMurray in person. On July 14, 2000 a tornado touched down at Pine Lake outside of Red Deer. Premier Ralph Klein got in his car and drove to Red Deer and helped out with the aftermath of the disaster. I'm not sure the situation today is the same. The fire continues to burn out of control. Having a Premier and Prime Minister and the accompanying entourages and press would likely be more of a hazard and take away from the efforts to fight the fire right now. When Premier Klein visited Pine Lake the damage was done, the disaster over. The time for Premier Notley to visit will be after the blaze is controlled and put out.
However, her insistence on cutting the fire-fighting budget in the face of every indication that this year would be one of the worst years on record is foolish and she and her government should be held accountable for their actions. Tweet that, all you Vegan Archists. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Salad and Whole 30 Condiments

I went on a tear for two days making the stuff I needed to make this Whole 30 thing work. This is a trial run for us as the minute we get off the diet, instead of being able to bring things back, it will be a couple of days before Christmas. Yeah, like that's going to work. I'm not turning down a helping or two... or three of Mom's English trifle. Or stuffing. Or pie. With ice cream. Let alone stocking stuffers.
But what this will do is figure out what works and what doesn't. Then we can restart in January with a lot of the stuff made and knowing what works and what doesn't. So the very first night we had meatloaf and potatoes. Couldn't have butter on the potatoes and I hadn't bought ghee yet. Which, by the way is pretty gross. I mean the store bought stuff. Something was wrong with the flavor. Apparently homemade ghee is way better and tastes like butter on popcorn or so I have read. I bought butter but haven't attempted the ghee yet. Oh, and if you're a little confused, ghee is clarified butter used in Indian and Himalayan cooking. They cook it slowly in a double boiler until the water is cooked off becoming clarified butter, then keep cooking it slowly until the milk solids solidify, turn red and drop to the bottom. Then the ghee is poured through cheesecloth or a coffee filter removing the solids and the resultant clear liquid ghee tastes like butter but has a high flashpoint (won't burn like butter) and is very stable, meaning it can be stored at room temperature for up to a year.
But back to the meatloaf. Totally boring. It obviously didn't have ketchup (sugar and other ingredients), couldn't have bread crumbs, crackers, milk, cream, sour cream, cheese, sugar or any of the other possible ingredients. Just meat and an egg and... salt. Booo-oring. And did I mention no ketchup?
So the first condiment on my list was ketchup.

Paleo/Whole 30 Ketchup

¼ tsp garlic powder
small can tomato paste (5.5 fl oz.)
1 Tbsp prepared mustard
½ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp sea salt
4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
⅜ cup water

Add ingredients to measuring cup, mix thoroughly and pour into container and chill.

Easy Peasy. The end result was just OK. I used it on Shepherd's Pie tonight and it wasn't bad. Much better than the nasty Hcg Ketchup I tried a few years ago. That was nasty. This was... well, OK. It wasn't sweet like the typical Heinz stuff we normally buy but it was nice and savory. Better than the alternative which is nothing. I give it a B- for effort.

The next condiment was an unmitigated disaster. I tried to make homemade mayonnaise according to the directions several sites gave out. It never congealed and smelled funny and looked like someone threw up in my blender and then it separated. Blech!
So I gave up and went downstairs to consult the all-knowing, all-seeing oracle Google Chrome, and someone whom I will not name put away my ingredient so the couple of eggs I had assiduously been bringing to room temperature (apparently the mayo will not emulsify if the eggs are cold) were now as cold as Nanook of the North in January in his unheated outhouse. I cussed. A little. Okay, a lot. I gave up for the night.
The next day I took one of the eggs that I have left out overnight... (I wasn't too worried about this, my Grandpa used to store the eggs from our chickens on the farm in the wellhouse for several weeks sometimes and it got pretty hot in there in the summer and no one in my family ever got sick from eggs. They are pretty resilient inside the shell. Get a crack in the shell, or remove the egg from the shell and it's another matter) I took out one of the eggs and started making the mayo.

Whole 30 Mayo

1-2 cups light tasting olive oil or avocado oil (EVOO will overpower the mayo's flavor)
1 egg, room temperature
2 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp dry mustard
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Add egg, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper to blender. Pulse.
Very, very slowly drizzle the olive oil, a little at a time, in the top of the blender while pulsing.
Continue pulsing while drizzling the olive oil in until reaching the desired consistency. The more oil is slowly added in, the thicker the mayo gets. I used about a cup and a half before being satisfied with the thickness.
The mistake I made in Round 1 was that the directions said to blend on low and made no mention of adding the olive oil in after. I added the olive oil in with the egg and it refused to emulsify. The secret seems to be to add the oil in after and in little bits.
We had a little taste test and I will give this recipe a B+ for possibilities. I have not yet used the mayo in a recipe.

Next I made the ubiquitous Ranch Dressing:

Whole 30 Ranch Dressing

1-1½ cup extra light tasting olive oil or avocado oil (again, EVOO will overpower the dressing)
1 egg, room temperature
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar (I use a raspberry infused version I quite like)
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp dill
½ tsp parsley
2 Tbsp coconut milk

Add egg, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder, dill and parsley to blender.
Very, very slowly drizzle the olive oil, a little at a time, in the top of the blender while pulsing.
Continue pulsing while drizzling the olive oil in until reaching the desired consistency. The more oil is slowly added in, the thicker the dressing. Will more than fill a 500 ml container.

I will confess I am a picky salad eater. I've never been a big salad eater, and if I order a salad, I want a salad with body. My favorite is a Cobb Salad which usually has at least 3 meats, sliced turkey, roast beef, ham, sliced hard-boiled eggs, several different types of cheese slices or cubes, cucumber, scallions maybe, grape tomatoes, and so on. Now that's a salad!
I like either thick, hearty dressings like Ranch or Thousand Island over Cobb or similar salad or sweet concoctions like Poppy Seed Dressing over Baby Spinach, Arugula and sliced strawberries, or Caesar Dressing over Caesar Salad that has to have croutons, bacon and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Not that smelly Kraft stuff that sometimes I make do over spaghetti, the stuff my kids call "Stinky Cheese" because they say it smells like wet diapers. Real Parmesan. Freshly grated.
I like a good Ranch dressing on all kinds of stuff, not just salad. I like to dip cucumber slices, carrots, celery and cauliflower in it. I dip my pizza crusts in it and sometimes if the moment takes me, the pizza itself. Chicken is great dipped in it. So this had to be good. I don't even like Kraft's Rancher's Choice all that much, however that's what I usually buy because the ones I like are twice that much and most of the time I'm cheap.
I ate this over green salad (mix of greens, little shredded carrot, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices and sliced scallions) tonight with the Whole 30 Ranch and LOVED it. It's better than Kraft. It's been awhile but I'd say it's better than some of the premium dressings like Hidden Valley. Wow! Nailed it. Give this one the gold medal. Raise the flag. Play the national anthem. Shed tears.
My sister liked it and even my mom, who hates the taste of Ranch said it's not bad (high praise indeed!).
Caveat: Both my nieces stuck their nose near it, took a big whiff and refused to try it. I've just written them out of my will.

Paleo/Whole 30 Caesar Salad Dressing

2 eggs
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon, approx. 3 Tbsp
1 cup extra light tasting olive oil or avocado oil
½ tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp coconut milk

Add eggs, garlic, salt, pepper, vinegar, lemon juice and mustard to blender and pulse.
Very slowly drizzle oil to mixture while pulsing until it emulsifies. Continue adding oil until reaching desired consistency. The more oil added, the thicker the dressing. Finally, add the coconut milk and pulse until mixture is completely blended together.

Had some Caesar Salad the other night and it was passable. No croutons, no bacon (rotten bacon bits from Costco has sugar in it) and no Parmesan cheese. Serious blah. Had some more Caesar Salad last night, this time with bacon (we fried up 3 lbs. of bacon and crumbled it up for recipes and salad). Pretty dang good. I'd give it a A-. Not quite as good as the regular salad, but pretty good.
My sister is not a fan of fish so I tried to convince her that a proper Caesar dressing needs anchovies or anchovy paste. She was very anti-anchovy so after I made the dressing, I split it in half and added anchovies to the second half. I was wrong. (Yeah, yeah give it a rest) The anchovy Caesar wasn't bad but not as good as the non-anchovy dressing.

Paleo Orange Poppy Seed Dressing

Juice and zest of one orange
¼ cup red wine vinegar
 cup extra light tasting olive oil
1 medium shallot
1 Tbsp prepared mustard
2 tsp poppy seeds

Add ingredients in blender and pulse until well mixed.

Not a huge fan of this one. I prefer a sweet dressing with my poppy seeds but Mom loved this one.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Best Spaghetti Sauce EVER!

Okay, it's been awhile since I posted. I was in Australia for a year and a half working for the Devil Global Conglomerate-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. My boss got fired and the new guy drove me crazy until I got so sick I couldn't get out of bed for weeks. But I'm back.
The latest is my sister has gone on this Whole 30 kick. Basically it's an attempt to cut all the sugar, grains and dairy out of your diet so that your guts can heal. I've been doing a lot of reading on the subject and there are a lot of doctors who espouse that most of the ills we have are caused by an imbalance in our gut bacteria. There are two brains in our body: the one we think with, and the one that men... no, not that one! And one that directs the nutrition and healing of our bodies, that one in our gut. When it is out of balance the body can't handle things that happen like cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, etc. Bring the gut bacteria into balance and suddenly the body is able to deal with these issues on its own, like it was programmed to.

I got a kombucha scoby from my Aunt Jan this summer and started to make my own kombucha. I will post something on this later. But this was my attempt to re-balance the bacteria in my own gut. I was a very slim 190 pounds when I got married. But I brought back a virulent strain of strep from Colorado with me and the first couple of years I was married I kept coming down with it. The doctors gave me course after course of antibiotics for 6 months straight to no avail. I begged them to take out my tonsils (believing that was the cause) and they refused. Finally my doctor told me they would have to take out my tonsils. 6 months later. I swore at him and stomped out of the office. My mom gave me a course of tissue salts and I got better finally. But I have noticed that every time I have gotten sick and required antibiotics, I gain 20 or 30 pounds soon after and then plateau until the next course of antibiotics. So I started drinking kefir in Australia but it wasn't enough. Even with drinking about 500 ml of homemade kombucha every day for 4 months doesn't seem to be fixing it.
So Barb convinced me to do the whole 30 things with mom and her. But it's very tough on a dyed-in-the-wool sugaraholic. I love sugar. My body craves anything it can turn into sugar. I have been on diets. I can give up meat. I can give up fat. But giving up carbs? After a couple of days I wake up in the middle of the night to find myself in the all-night Tim Horton's drive-thru trying to crawl through the teller window after some honey crullers.

Anyway, back to the Whole 30. The first day we had a breakfast of grated potato fried crispy in coconut oil with an egg cracked over it and cooked until its done. Fantastic, except no ketchup allowed (waaay too much sugar in it). Some fruit later. Then for supper I made Lemon Halibut and Hedgehogs. I sliced the potatoes very thinly without cutting all the way through and then drizzled ghee, EV olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper on them and baked them at 425°F for 45 minutes. Yum!

The next day I drizzled EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) over a chicken, rubbed in sea salt, ground black pepper, rosemary and thyme, splashed some lemon juice inside the chicken and baked it until it was crispy. We had chicken for lunch, then I pulled most of the meat off the chicken carcass for another meal and dumped rest of the chicken in a soup pot. I fried up some onions, garlic, more rosemary, salt and pepper. Covered the chicken with water, cut up some carrots and celery and let the soup simmer for a few hours. After a bit I cut up half a 5 pound bag of potatoes and dumped them in. That night we had chicken soup and veggies I strained out of the soup. Not bad but I remembered why I never like my mother-in-law's chicken soup. Kept picking bones out of my teeth. Yech.

So last night I decided if I'm going to subject myself to this Whole 30 thingy, I'm going to do it right. I went to the store and bought some stuff.
Today I made some Whole 30 ketchup. Not going to post the recipe as I haven't tried it out yet. Tastes OK poured on my finger, but needs something to dip in it for the real taste test.
Made some Orange Poppy Seed Dressing. Tasted just OK tonight on salad. Needs some serious sugar. Oh wait, right, can't have that...

Next I made some Caesar Dressing for later that night. Then tried to make mayonnaise. Epic fail. Didn't emulsify.
We decided we were going to have spaghetti for supper but Barb had to run to the north end of Edmonton for a hockey helmet she found on Kijiji. It's all on me.
I've never made spaghetti sauce before. I've adulterated hundreds of jars of store-bought stuff with oregano, basil and Italian seasoning, but never tried to make my own before. Wait, not true, a few years ago I made a batch of marinara to top my famous Chicken Parm but wasn't very impressed.
So I went online to see what other people were doing with both regular meaty marinara and Whole 30 spaghetti sauce. Got some ideas and this is what I came up with:

Best Spaghetti Sauce EVER. 
Ingredients 4 Tbsp EV olive oil
1½ pounds of lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped or minced
1 large carrot, diced (yeah I know, carrots in your spaghetti? Too wacky)
1 celery stalk, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
2 tsp red wine vinegar (I used a raspberry infused version, very nice)
½ cup apple juice
1 tsp oregano (normally would have used 2 tsp but Barb isn't a big fan of oregano)
2 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp Italian seasoning (check to ensure no sugar or corn starch, some brands a lot more than herbs in them)
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 small can (5.5oz.) tomato paste
1 large can tomato sauce
1 can sliced mushrooms (or equivalent fresh)
Water as needed
4 cups packed fresh baby spinach leaves 
1 spaghetti squash or spaghetti noodles 
Directions Pour olive oil in high sided frying pan or dutch oven. Over medium heat, start ground beef browning in olive oil. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic as you chop them. Add red wine vinegar and apple juice. Add spices and cook until beef is browned and onions translucent.
Add tomato sauce, tomato paste and mushrooms. Continue on medium heat until sauce is bubbling, then turn heat to low and simmer sauce for at least an hour. Add 1 cup of water at a time when the sauce gets overthick and stir in. The sauce will cook off liquid as it simmers and will need occasional infusion of water to keep from turning into a paste.
Cut spaghetti squash lengthwise into halves with large knife or cleaver. Remove seeds and guts with a ice cream scoop. Drizzle EVOO olive oil and sprinkle liberally with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Turn squash flesh side down in baking pan and pour water in pan to steam squash. Bake uncovered at 400°F for 60-75 minutes until outer rind can be easily pierced with a fork.
Scoop cooked squash flesh into serving bowl, it will easily break into strands similar to spaghetti noodles.
Ten minutes before serving, add baby spinach and stir into sauce.
Serve sauce over spaghetti squash or noodles. Enjoy!

I can't remember the last time I aced a recipe I made up the first time out this awesomely!
It is easily the best marinara/spaghetti sauce I have ever eaten. I'm not a fan of Olive Garden's marinara. Their meat sauce is just OK. My favorite is the meaty marinara sauce at Boston Pizza and this is better than that.

Mom cut up a couple of romaine hearts and added some chopped cucumbers and little green onions to it. Can't have croutons or freshly-grated Parmigiano Regannio on the Whole 30, and to make matters worse, I discovered that the bag of bacon bits from Costco has sugar as one of the top 3 ingredients. Really? Sugar in my bacon, say it ain't so Joe! But the Caesar Dressing I made up that afternoon was really good. Almost made up for missing bacon and Parmesan.

Paleo/Whole 30 Caesar Dressing

2 eggs
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups of light olive oil or avocado oil

I just threw it all in my blender and cranked it on high for 30 seconds. Done. Poured it into a bottle and served it over salad.

The kids were going to have regular spaghetti pasta with their sauce, so I figured I needed another vegetable. So I dug some asparagus out of the crisper. We had poached asparagus and julienne carrots the other night so I decided I wanted something different.

Sauteed Cashew Asparagus

1 bundle asparagus
3 Tbsp coconut oil
⅛ cup apple juice
splash of red wine vinegar
couple of handfuls of cashews

Bend the asparagus stems in half. The asparagus will snap at the start of the woody part of the stem. Set aside the top part and discard the woody stems.
Heat oil over medium heat and add cashews. Once the cashews are nicely browned, pour into bowl. Pour used coconut oil from cashews back into frying pan. Add juice and vinegar. Add asparagus and cook until al dente. Add cashews back, stir to mix and serve.

Whole 30 or no Whole 30, this might be one of the best meals I have eaten in a long time.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again

I was helping to put away the groceries yesterday. Mom handed me a new bag of apples to go in the crisper, but the crisper already had a half a bag of apples. They weren’t soft yet, but they had that “need to use these up quick” look about them and I decided on the spot I needed to make Apple Dumplings again.
Fuji apple

If you’ve never had apple dumplings before, you’ve missed out. It’s a bit like having your own personal apple pie, but in my humble opinion, better.
So I dug out mom’s antique apple corer, fastened it to the granite countertop and proceeded to peel the six left-over apples. I’m not sure what type they were, the bag gave no clue. It seemed to me that they were Fuji when I bought them, but I’m not sure a few weeks later. The recipe might be better served with some McIntosh or Spartans, but I had 6 apples to use up and the family was going to get what they were going to get.

Apple Peeler/Corer
I attached the first apple to the peeler. This contraption peels, cores and slices the apples as you turn the crank. Boom! Six apples peeled, cored and sliced.

I whipped up a batch of Grandma’s pie crust, rolled it out and got it ready for the apples. I placed the cored apple in my left hand, stuffed a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and ground allspice into the core of the apple until it was full, added a pat of butter on top and set it in the middle of the rolled-out dough. Then I formed the dough around the apple and with a little water on the fingers, sealed the top and set it in a 9x13 pan. Another chunk of pie dough, rinse and repeat until all six dumplings sit in the pan. (Please don’t anyone take that literally and rinse the dough!)

Cored and peeled apples
The last step was to make the syrup in a pan on the stovetop and pour it over the dumplings. My pie dough recipe makes more dough than I need for this recipe, so I make a couple pie shells and froze them for later and made up a couple more and poured some Cherry Cranberry Pie filling (which I can only find at Walmart for some reason, I like it more than regular Cherry Pie filling, it isn’t quite so sweet) and baked a pie along with the Apple Dumplings.

Dumpling Ingredients
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 pound shortening, chilled
1 – 355mL can of chilled Lemon-lime pop (Sprite, 7-up, Mountain Dew – I used Fresca this time, the fizz helps make it flaky)
Cooked Apple Dumplings
Apple Ingredients
6 large apples, peeled and cored
½ cup butter cut into 8 pieces
¾  cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ cup walnuts, crushed (optional)
Sauce Ingredients
1 cup water
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

This is How We Roll
1. Preheat oven to 400˚ F (200˚C)
2. Whisk the flour and salt together in a large size bowl. With a pastry knife, cut in the cold shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. The shortening pieces should be no larger than pea sized. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and pour the can of pop into the well. Mix until the pop is absorbed into the flour mixture. The pop and shortening need to be chilled to keep the shortening form mixing completely. As the little balls of shortening melt in the cooking process, they will leave air pockets that are the flaky part of the crust.
3. Gather dough together into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling.
4. Cut dough into about 8 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll one of the dough pieces into a 6 inch circle.

Get Stuffed!
1. Mix the brown sugar, spices and walnuts (if desired) in a small bowl.
2. Place an apple on the pastry with the cored opening facing upward. Divide brown sugar mixture between apples, poking some inside each cored opening and the rest around the base of each apple
3. Place 1 piece of butter in the opening of each apple; reserve remaining butter for sauce.
4. With slightly wet fingertips, bring one corner of pastry square up to the top of the apple, then bring the opposite corner to the top and press together. Bring up the two remaining corners, and seal. Slightly pinch the dough at the sides to completely seal in the apple. Repeat with the remaining apples. Place in prepared baking dish.

Get Sauced!
Keep an eye out for man-eating apples!
1. In a saucepan, combine water, white sugar, vanilla extract and reserved butter. Place over medium heat, and bring to a boil in a large saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes, or until sugar is dissolved. Carefully pour over dumplings.
2. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Place each apple dumpling in a dessert bowl, and spoon some sauce over the top. Top with ice cream if desired (I usually desire very much!) and serve.

As Mom, Barb and I sat around the table eating piping hot Apple Dumplings and ice cream, Mom and I decided that it needed some nuts, so I added the optional walnuts to the recipe!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

All Things Marshmallow

A long time ago, I used to love marshmallows. One day that changed. Actually one night it changed: We were having a bonfire one summer night outside of Raymond on Steve’s grandpa’s alfalfa field. We shot fireworks off mortar-style and played Chubby Bunnies. The idea of the game (other than retching marshmallows) is to have someone count, while everyone pops a marshmallow in their mouths at each count and say “Chubby Bunnies!” and the last person to still articulate “Chubby Bunnies” wins. I had to give up at 16 marshmallows and Ranae, my girlfriend at the time won, as she was still able to say “Shubbby Buh-knees” at 21. I teased her that she had a competitive disadvantage and she was mad at me for intimating that she had a big mouth. That night I was losers all around. My girlfriend was mad at me, I didn’t win the game, and worst of all I hated the taste of marshmallows forever after. Something about gagging on marshmallows for 20 minutes did it for me for the rest of my life.

I don’t like marshmallows, but there was a sale on them earlier this summer the store had these industrial sized, small rodent-killing, HUGE marshmallows on sale in an equally massive bag and for some strange reason I decided that they were too good to pass up. I arrived home to find that there were already 3 normal-sized bags of marshmallows that others had decided to buy thinking we needed them for S’mores or something. Long story short, we got too many mmmmarshmmmmallows in the house and need to use them up.

Therefore, while everyone was gone to Banff last week, I whipped up a batch of Rice Krispie Treats to use them up and have something for the nieces and nephew to munch on when they got home. I looked up the recipe at  and made some up. I added some leftover colored chocolate from last Christmas, added a cup of craisins on a whim and topped them with some sprinkles for good measure. Colorful and yummy!

Tonight I was talking with my sister Barb and we thunked up a great addition to the recipe. I suggested we should add chocolate like before but maybe add graham cracker crumbs or something. Barb countered that we should add Golden Grahams instead. So we did. Man, were they ever good.

Original Rice Krispies Treats

3 Tablespoons butter or margarine (I used margarine)
1 package (about 40) regular marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1 cup craisins (optional)
½ cup chocolate wafers, chopped (optional)

In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
Add Rice Krispies. Stir until well coated. Add craisins and chocolate if desired.
Using buttered spatula evenly press mixture into 9x13 pan coated with cooking spray. (I keep the foil rectangles from the margarine squares in the fridge, take one out and grease the pan with it)
Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.

S'mores Treats

3 Tablespoons butter or margarine (I used margarine)
1 package (about 40) regular marshmallows
3 cups Rice Krispies cereal
3 cups Golden Grahams cereal
1 package Chipits chocolate chips

In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
Add Rice Krispies and Golden Grahams. Stir until well coated. Add craisins and chocolate if desired.
Using buttered spatula evenly press mixture into 9x13 pan coated with cooking spray. (I keep the foil rectangles from the margarine squares in the fridge, take one out and grease the pan with it)
In a double-boiler, melt the chocolate chips until pourable and drizzle all over the marshmallow mixture.
Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.

Rice Krispies Treats are not my favorite, not by a long shot. I got to thinking about what my favorite marshmallow treat was and I remembered these butterscotch marshmallow squares that they use to make when I was working in the oilfield. I used to spend most of a lot of winters buried in the bush. We would be hours from the nearest town or hotel. There have these camps that are brought in to house the workers. They can be as small as a couple of Atco trailers stuck together with a common kitchen (the worst type), to a typical rig camp which is basically 6 or 7 Atco trailers configured with the kitchen and dining room facilities, rec room and washroom/showers are in the middle with single or double rooms all around the outside. Rig camps will house anywhere from 15 to 24 men, with some companies bringing in additional Atco sleeping trailers to add a few more sleeping berths.

Most often we would book into a huge camp, like a mobile hotel (mobile meaning that over the course of a week, the entire thing could be packed up, torn apart and moved with giant “bed trucks” – which at the end of winter, they often are), catering from anywhere from 50 to 250 men (or rarely women).

As the beds… No, I won’t refer to them as such, they are camp cots, nothing more. They are thin, 3” thick single-sized mattresses that lay in wooden 2x4 frames bolted to the wall. Thin, see-through cotton sheets are all that keep you from touching a mattress that has who-know-who sleeping on it for how-many-years; I’m surprised there is not more reported incidences of bed-bugs or worse. They are rarely over 6 feet long, so a fellow like me who is 6 feet tall and over 300 pounds, my feet hang over, my side not in direct contact with the 2x4 slats that the mattress lays on, but very near it, and usually either the heat is cranked up and you don’t have a thermostat and the window is frozen shut, or you are freezing your tail off and thin, itchy woolen camp blankets become more coveted trading commodities than pork bellies at the Chicago Board of Trade.

Most camps are pretty good these days, but I have slept in a couple that have been in the same place since the 60's. The floors are rotten and you have to be careful where you put your feet. One camp up in the Cameron Hills, NWT only had one room left when we got to camp and they wouldn't let us sleep in it. We tried sleeping in our trucks, but it had dropped below -40 degrees and even with the engines revved up, it wasn't warm enough to sleep in them. We begged them to give us the last room and finally they camp boss relented. There were two bunk beds, but the floor where the heat register was supposed to be had rotted off years ago and the heat vent dropped down somewhere out of sight in the black crawl space as was now presumably a condo for a nest of field mice. Basically, there was no heat for the room. By leaving our door open, we could keep the frost off of us, and between the insulated coveralls and an extra couple of wool blankets we stole, we were able to sleep a little.

On this occasion we were working for a fellow named John Wright. We called him All-Nite Wright. We would work all day on the rig, and then as we were eating supper in camp, he would walk by our table and throw a notepad with a dozen well names on it and tell us to have them done by morning. We had to pull the electronic recorders from about 2500m downhole, download them, rig out and move to the next well. We could knock off a well every three hours, so by 7 AM we had perhaps 6 or 7 done and we were back at camp, grabbing a plate of breakfast to go. Back at the rig, we'd work all day, and then John would stop at our table, asked us how we did the previous night and toss another list at us.

After the fifth day, I thought I would die. I was about to tell John where he could stick his list, when a cold snap hit, we hit -50 below zero and the rig froze up. Now we would work all night, come in for breakfast, report to the rig to find cold water dribbling out of the end of the steam lines and head to our freezing bunks. We would sleep all day, getting paid standby to sleep while the rig was froze up, and then get tossed another list at supper, work all night pulling recorders and running plugs before they suspended the wells. We ended up with something like 225 hours on our paysheet for that two week period.

As all camp beds are basically created more-or-less equal by Atco or one of their competitors, what makes one camp stand out from the other is the food. If you come to breakfast and they have great sandwiches made  up in the cooler for your lunch (please, no ½” thick inedible sausage sammies and never egg-salad, no refrigeration, no dice), bacon that isn’t either boiled and gelatin-like or burned to a crisp, scrambled eggs that aren’t still runny and hash-brown that aren’t convinced that they are still last night’s baked potato (they should at least be fried on the grill long enough to be warm), then chances are, you have a good cook and are staying at a good camp. There isn’t space enough to document all the food poisoning stories I’ve heard or attended and I’ve been at several camps where the rig workers banded together and told the consultant that either there was a new camp cook that night, or we were shutting down the rig and driving home that night, it was his choice. Lo and behold, there was inevitably a new cook slinging grub that next night. A couple of cooks have nearly been lynched. Like something out of a Clint Eastwood movie.

A really good camp would have a baker. He would get up at 3 AM every day and start making bread. Once the dough was rising, he was off making cakes, pies, squares, cookies and there was usually a dozen different offering to add to one’s lunch every day. Other than pie (Mmmmm, pie), my favorites were the ginger snaps at the cookie end of things and butterscotch marshmallow squares. About half the camps would offer some version of the marshmallow squares. Almost all would have Rice Krispie squares or Puffed Wheat Squares or both, but a good one would have those oowey, gooey multi-colored marshmallows covered in butterscotch and peanut buttery goodness. I’m salivating as I’m writing this.

Without further ado, here is my favorite marshmallow treat:
Butterscotch Marshmallow Squares

½ cup butter
1 (11 oz) package butterscotch chips
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup flaked coconut
1 package miniature marshmallows

In the lower pot of a double boiler, add water halfway to top and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. In the top of a double boiler, heat butter, butterscotch chips, and peanut butter until melted. Remove from heat.
Once the mixture is cool enough that it won’t melt the marshmallows, stir in coconut and marshmallows.
Pour mixture in buttered pan. Refrigerate and cut into squares. Store in the refrigerator.

I whipped up a batch of these and they were hits. Except with mom. She can't stand peanut butter in any cooking.