Impromptu Soup

Even with the snow and frost we’ve had, the kale in my garden seems to have come through it all unscathed. Several times I’ve used the leaves to make soup and I find that I really like it a lot.

I brought this bunch in from the garden just today, and happened to pass by some parsley and rosemary on my way.

We happened to have some elk short ribs in the freezer,  and I’ve found that these make a wonderful addition to the soup, both as stock and bits of meat.  You could use beef or any other meat too, but you may have to cut off some of the fat. Chicken drumsticks make a great soup too. Once they have simmered for a while, the meat falls off the bones and can be cut into pieces small enough to fit onto a soup spoon.

To make the soup, I sautee onions, garlic, and whatever else I am in the mood for. I’ve added chopped ginger root when I wanted something with a bit of zip. I can’t tell you what I use for herbs and spices because it’s different each time. If I want an interesting taste, I might put in some cardamom, cumin, and coriander seeds, or I might just do the herbs de provence kind of flavouring (Simon and Garfunkel soup – parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme). Or if I feel adventurous I’ll dabble with both.

The kale is washed and chopped quite finely before adding to the onion mixture. Let it cook a bit so it’s wilted and mixed well with the onions.

Usually I sprinkle a bit of flour into the sauteed kale, onions, and spices, and then stir to coat the onions and kale so there won’t be any lumps when I add the liquid.

I use the stock from simmering the ribs. Stir it around and check for flavouring. Add what you feel is missing. Notice I haven’t mentioned salt or pepper? Sometimes I’ve used a dash of steak spice and although it adds a wonderful flavour, it has plenty of salt. I’ve ruined a dinner once before I learned that. So I always wait until the end to add salt if needed. Same with pepper. Taste it first before you add salt or pepper!

Don’t forget to add the chopped up meat to the soup.

Finally, before serving I like to add a half cup or so of cream (half and half, or coffee cream – whatever you call it), or you can add a couple of tablespoons of sour cream to give it more zip.

I didn’t tell you how much of anything to put in the soup, because it’s one that you make up as you go along. Do whatever you feel like doing. It can’t fail to please on a wintery day.


Easy Sushi

Sushi is not hard to make. If I can do it, anyone can. I make the easy sushi, not so fancy, but very tasty. You can make it too, but feel free to experiment with ingredients. There is no wrong way.

Here are the ingredients I use. You can see them on the island, ready to be put together. The rice is Arborio, a short grain (sticky) rice named after the town in Italy where it is grown. It’s usually used for risotto, but it works well in sushi, too. There are several other brands of sticky rice (look for short grain). I add a tablespoon of rice vinegar and stir it around after the rice is cooked. The rice should be made ahead and then chilled. One generous cup of raw rice grains, once cooked, will yield about five rolls of sushi.

The blue dish next to the rice has cold water for dipping very clean or gloved hands in so the (sticky) rice won’t stick to the hands.

I have a dish of mayo on hand and a spatula for spreading it on the Sushi Nori (seaweed sheets).

You’ll see some asparagus and carrot strips that I heated in a tiny bit of water in the microwave for about 2 minutes. They are now drained and chilled.

And most importantly, we have cold-smoked salmon (coho in this case) which will give the ultimate flavour thrill to the sushi. The salmon needs to be sliced into strips before putting into the sushi, of course.

So here we go.

Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the sheet of dried seaweed. I have it sitting on a bamboo mat for rolling it up later.

Put a generous (HUGE) tablespoonful of rice onto the seaweed and with wetted hands, pat it into a thin layer.

My layer of rice is not yet evenly spread. I don’t go right to the top end, wanting some seaweed for sealing the roll. Make the rice layer as thin as possible.

At the end closest to you, make a little ditch in the rice and place the carrot sticks, asparagus, and salmon strips in it. Then, using the end of the mat to help start a firm roll, fold over the seaweed, press it down gently and roll it up. You can drape the mat over it loosely and then press the roll together evenly if you like.

Put the finished roll aside on a small cutting board and get the next sheet of seaweed ready for loading up.

 With a VERY sharp knife, cut the roll in the middle, as shown below. Then place the two halves side by side and cut each in half again.


You should have eight pieces when you’re finished.

Eating the sushi…. There are as many ways as there are mouths in the world. I like to put a tiny dab of wasabi (Japanese horseradish) on a piece of sushi, spoon over some soya sauce, and top it with a thin slice of pickled ginger. Not shown in the photo is my favourite “condiment,” which I remembered to put on the table later, black roasted sesame seeds. Sprinkle these on and it adds a nutty crunch to the already fabulous variety of textures and flavours.

You can vary the foods you put in the sushi rolls. I’ve heard of cantaloupe being used, as well as mushrooms,  avocado, and lettuce. I just googled sushi ingredients and was bowled over by the huge list of possibilities. Just pick some of your favourite foods and give it a try.

Special Delivery

Recently I listened to some of the UN speeches on TV. I like to have the closed captioning feature turned on in case I miss anything they said. I found out that some countries like Cuba, Venezuela, and a couple of others have their food brought in from very far away. Now, I must stress that only a few countries are doing this.

Apparently they have a UFO bringing potatoes in from some other planet, or maybe even from another galaxy. But why just them? Well, the closed captioning said it’s because they have …

a dics tater ship. Honestly! That’s what the closed captioning said: “These countries pretend to have a democracy when in fact they have a disc tater ship.”

I always KNEW there was life beyond our Earth!

Easy Healthy Granola

Porridge is good for you. I’m sorry. Too slimy for me. So I thought, why not eat it baked instead of boiled? Granola was the perfect solution. Trouble is, the store-bought granola is all so sweet, and who needs that when you’re already sweet enough, right?

Solution? Make my own granola. You can do it too. It’s EASY! Big flakes of rolled oats go into the bowl, about 8 cups makes it worthwhile. After that, you add whatever you happen to have on hand or like to eat, in the way of nuts and seeds.

I like to use pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, whatever kind of nuts I have on hand – today it’s almonds and hazelnuts. A cup of each is plenty. Chop the nuts. By the way, the reason you don’t see any sunflower seeds on the table is because the ones I tried to buy yesterday from the bulk bins in the store were rancid. I usually get the salted seeds for that reason but in this case, even the salt couldn’t save the natural oil in the seeds from going rancid. At home I always keep nuts and seeds in the freezer.

So we’re doing without sunflower seeds.

You can use whatever you want in the granola, but keep in mind that fruit and berries or raisins will not turn out well if you toast them. Better to add those later when you are making your breakfast.

Mix the chopped nuts and seeds with the rolled oats in a big bowl. Spread the mixture onto baking sheets, not too thick, but just so the sheets are covered.

Drizzle liquid honey over the granola mix. I had one hand on the wiggling camera and the other hand trying to drizzle the honey. The photo came out pretty bad. Still, I didn’t want you to miss out on that step, so here is the blurry reminder to sweeten the granola a little bit.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 6 to 8 minutes. The granola at the edges of the baking sheet will turn brown. Take it out of the oven before it burns (which can happen quickly).

Important tip***** When it’s done, scrape the granola off the sheet and into a bowl right away, or the melted, baked honey will glue the granola onto the sheet.

Now take out whatever fruit or berries you have on hand (or not), put some granola into a small bowl, add milk (some prefer yogurt), and top it with your berries.

Place the bowl on a lovely mat knitted for you by your friend and enjoy a healthy, tasty breakfast.


Primary Colours and Walnuts

Obsessed by sky watching these past eclipsical (is that a word?) days, I found it interesting that the sky separated into the three primary colours of blue, red, and yellow. Where they overlap, there is a hint of what you get when you mix those colours – yellow and red = orange; red and blue = purple; but I couldn’t get the blue to meet the yellow for green, so not quite a rainbow effect. Still, a pretty good selection for a painter’s palette.

The black walnut (see photo below)  in our front yard has a bit of history. I bought it 25 years ago, thinking it was a walnut tree (the kind that gets walnuts on it). Well, it does get walnuts, but you have to use a sledgehammer to open them and there isn’t a whole lot of meat inside the thick, rock hard shells.

When the Captain and I planted the walnut tree, it was just a five-foot stick. Our yard was bare – no landscaping yet – and it was late February, cool and drippy. The neighbours walked past as we dug a hole in the mud and put this “stick” in the ground, and applauded. I think they thought it was a joke – poking fun at ourselves for the bare front yard.

Now, 25 years later, that stick is a beautiful black walnut. I’m guessing it’s over thirty feet tall. The walnuts are still not meant to be eaten, as it’s more of an ornamental tree. But I did go out and buy another walnut tree for the back yard. It’s almost as tall as the ornamental one but this one gets the kind of walnuts you can eat.

The two types of walnut trees have completely different leaves too.

Here, below, is the tree with edible walnuts.

In the photo below, you can see the walnuts on the tree.


They are still encased in their green shell, but those coatings break open as the nuts ripen and fall when the weather turns chilly. A nutcracker will do the trick for opening these walnuts. No sledgehammer needed.

Currant Affairs

No, that’s not a spelling mistake. I do mean “currant” with an “a.”

Here’s what happened.

First thing in the morning I go into the kitchen to put the coffee on.

Hmph! No coffee ground.

Get the beans and pour them into the grinder. I have dark roast and medium roast. These look like … can’t really tell …should have labeled the jar.

Oh well,  here goes. Put the cap on the grinder and … wait a minute! These look like awfully small beans ….

WHAAAAT? That’s not coffee! I taste a “bean” to be sure. They’re currants!

I’m struggling to wake up. My eyes are only half open. And as you can see in the photo below, one of the pot lights has a burned out bulb. They are connected three to a switch and only two of this set are on.

I made scones the other day and put currants in them. I always put away the ingredients when I finish baking, but I hadn’t put away the jar with currants in them. As you can see below, they look very much like the coffee beans that I keep on the counter because I’m always needing to grind more coffee.

With the poor lighting from the burnt out bulb, I couldn’t see that one jar had something other than coffee beans in it.  So maybe there are two dimbulbs around here.

Of course, I can forgive myself for almost making pureed currants.

I hadn’t had my first cup of coffee yet.

Buttercup Squash

Last year I couldn’t wait to plant the  seeds I had saved from squash given to us by a friend in Montana.  I should have waited a few weeks. The seedlings were ready to transplant into the garden way before it was warm enough. I managed to baby them until I dared to plant them outside and luck was on my side. I ended up with a great crop of squashes.

This year, I thought I’d be smarter. I waited until it was closer to spring and warmer weather. I planted the seeds of the crop from last year and so many popped up I was quite pleased with myself. Until … they grew so well they started stretching for the light too much and were getting gangly.

It was supposed to be getting much warmer by now! Where was that warm April weather? I was STILL too early. Now I’ll put these eager plants into individual little pots, give them a pat, and tell them, “Slow down. It’s not as warm as it should be. You’ll have to rein in your enthusiasm.”

Here is one of last year’s squashes. I hope to have many happy plants this year too.

When I look at this young beauty, I’m encouraged to work at getting a good crop of these buttercup squashes growing again this year. They are one of the tastiest, sweet squashes I know. Great keepers and delicious to eat. If I remember, I’ll share a recipe later this summer.