Friday, October 19th, 2012

Pumpkin Pie

Filed under: how to — alison @ 22:19

Marijn came to visit for a month, and while he was here I put him to work making pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner. This recipe comes to me from my great grandmother, Deborah Ferrier.

Don’t bother trying to prepare a regular pumpkin for pie this way as your mash will be too watery and kind of stringy. Pumpkins may have been more edible and less decorative in Deborah Ferrier’s day.

For the shell, I like to make a nut crust out of finely chopped walnuts or pecans but whatever your favorite crust is will be perfect.

Pumpkin Pie (imperial)

3 cups of either:

  • canned pumpkin
  • baked* and mashed butternut squash
  • steamed and strained carrots
  • 1½ cups sugar or Splenda
    3 eggs, separated
    ¾ cups melted butter
    ¾ cups cream
    1½ t cinnamon
    ¾ t nutmeg
    ¾ t ginger
    1 T vanilla

    Combine all ingredients except the egg whites. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the mixture. Pour into two 9-inch or one deep 10-inch unbaked pie shell. Bake 45 minutes at 375°F.

    *Halve a butternut squash. Bake it cut-side down on a baking sheet for an hour or so at 325°F.

    Pumpkin Pie (metric)

    750 mL of either:

  • canned pumpkin
  • baked* and mashed butternut squash
  • steamed and strained carrots
  • 375 mL sugar or Splenda
    3 eggs, separated
    200 mL melted butter
    200 mL cream
    8 mL cinnamon
    4 mL nutmeg
    4 mL ginger
    15 mL vanilla

    Combine all ingredients except the egg whites. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the mixture. Pour into two 22-cm or one deep 25-cm unbaked pie shell. (I like to make a nut crust out of finely chopped walnuts or pecans.) Bake 45 minutes at 195°C.

    Sunday, February 26th, 2012

    Fish salad

    Filed under: how to — alison @ 13:36

    My father and I were invited to supper with old friends last night. He informed me that I had volunteered to take a fish, which I was more than happy to do. I would take my mother’s cold salmon with caper sauce, which would be doubly appropriate since my friends had loved my mother.

    Except, I realized, that is what I had served these friends at my father’s seventieth birthday party. This would not do.

    Time for a new plan. It should be yummy and interesting for people who know and care about food. It should be easy to get right, since this would be a dish I’d never made before. Most importantly it needed to be good after being transported and sitting around for a while, which is not easy for a fish.

    I’d heard of ceviche, and even thought I might have had some at a tapas bar once. It might do. I looked it up in the Joy of Cooking (from which it was absent) and on the Internet (on which it is present in hundreds of disparate versions, often with specialized ingredients unavailable at short notice). I began to despair, but then realized that if the recipes were all so different that the details must not matter. Citrus juice was a constant, almost always lime, but the amount could vary between half a cup and 20 limes. Soaking time was even more broad, between ten minutes and twenty-four hours. Another constant was something bland or starchy, but this could be avocado, yucca, popcorn, potato or coconut. It should also have onions and a chili pepper preparation. And seafood.

    This would definitely qualify for hard to get wrong and easy to transport. As far as pleasing those knowledgeable about food I would simply ask for suggestions for improvement which would supply conversation.

    I was highly pleased with the results, as others declared themselves to be, which means that guests will almost certainly be offered a variation of Alison’s Fish Salad this summer. Recipe forthwith:

    (for six)

    1 kilo fish. I used tilefish because it was there, but anything fresh would probably do, including scallops and squid. (That’s 2 lbs for my American friends.)
    5 limes
    Red peppercorns
    Bell pepper, diced fine. I used an orange one.
    100 g (4 oz for my american friends) cherry tomatoes, quartered. Italian tomatoes are often suggested.
    1 small sweet potato, boiled and diced fine.
    1 T cilantro, finely chopped.

    Squeeze the limes into a glass bowl. Grate ginger into the lime juice and throw in a handful of red peppercorns. Skin the fish, slice into fine strips and stir into the lime juice. Let sit until shortly before you eat. Stir in the bell pepper, tomato and sweet potato. Transfer to a brightly-coloured serving dish. Sprinkle with cilantro.


    Now is that yummy and easy or what?

    Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

    scrambled eggs for Alston

    Filed under: Alston,children,food,how to,recipes — alison @ 22:12

    Scrambled eggs are so simple that most people don’t know there’s a way to make them. I have often seen people break eggs directly into a hot frying pan and stir frantically until they had a pile of tough, dry crumbs. This does not produce a yummy meal, but scrambled eggs can be very yummy.

    1 tbs milk or water per egg
    Butter to taste
    Salt and chili (not cayenne) powder
    Cheese (optional)
    Heavy frying pan (use a cast iron pan for more nutrition unless you can taste the iron)

    Melt butter in the frying pan on medium-low heat.

    Beat the eggs and milk or water gently with a fork. You aren’t going for perfect uniformity and you certainly don’t want froth.

    Pour the eggs out into the frying pan… and don’t touch them. Not right away. If you want you can lay thin slices of cheese in the liquid egg at this point. Let them cook gently until the bottom 2-3 mm are set. Use a spatula to gently push the set egg into a heap in the middle of the frying pan, letting the liquid egg flow back out to set. Continue until all the egg is set.

    Sprinkle with salt for taste, chili powder for looks.

    Eggs cooked this way will be soft and delicious. If soft eggs aren’t your thing, put a lid on the frying pan and leave it off the heat for a few minutes to let the eggs continue to heat.

    Eat with hot buttered toast and maybe ketchup. Ketchup sounds scandalous, but scrambled eggs are comfort food. If you loved them with ketchup when you were a little kid, then let yourself enjoy the ketchup now.

    Sunday, November 29th, 2009

    watercress soup and (leek) quiche

    Filed under: diabetes,food,how to,Montréal,recipes — alison @ 22:25

    This week we went to Sami Fruits, a wholesaler/retailer of fruits and vegetables with an almost exclusively foreign-born clientèle. We love Sami Fruits. When we have guests from out of town we try to take them there because we think they’ll love it too. As usual we bought more vegetables than would fit in the fridge. I was watching the leeks (12 for $2.99) wither on the counter and thinking I should make leek and potato soup forthwith, but I had bought watercress for soup too and watercress goes bad if you don’t use it right away.

    Mark wandered by, complaining that having diabetes is very boring because you can’t eat cake and cookies. It’s true, and I can’t do anything about it, but I can make an alternate rich baked treat. Quiche to the rescue of both the leeks and my beloved! To be accompanied by watercress soup!

    Watercress Soup
    2 large bunches of watercress
    3 small potatoes
    (other vegetables you might have on hand: spinach, carrots, celery, parsley, zucchini, rutabaga)
    garlic and a little fat for heating it
    2 or more cups vegetable stock (I use vegetable bouillon cubes)
    1 or more cups soy milk

    Cut the bunches of watercress in half at the elastic, separating the stems from the leaves. Chop the stems small, chop the leaves big. Prepare all the other vegetables. You  can leave the skins on the potatoes. Divide them into soft (watercress leaves, spinach, zucchini) and hard (watercress stems, potatoes, carrots, rutabaga, parsley).

    Heat the garlic in a little oil or butter. Before it browns, add all the hard vegetables and cover with stock. Cook until soft. Add the soft vegetables and cook a little more. Spoon most of the vegetables into the food processor or blender. Process or blend. Put back in the pot. Add the soy milk. Thin with more water and soy milk as desired. Heat through.


    Basic Quiche
    1 10-inch uncooked pie crust in a flat-bottomed pie dish
    As much grated cheese as you think is nice (I seem to think about 7 oz is nice) (for the leek quiche I used cheddar and mozzarella, but whatever you like and have on hand will work)
    Vegetable filling
    4 eggs
    1 cup  milk

    Sprinkle a little more than half the grated cheese on the bottom of the pie crust. Fill with vegetables. Mix the eggs and milk and pour over the vegetables. Sprinkle the whole with the remaining cheese and bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let rest 5-10 minutes and enjoy.

    Leek Filling
    5 leeks
    8 oz mushrooms
    Olive oil

    Trim off the toughest, darkest green ends of the leeks. Wash the leeks by cutting down through the leaves towards (but not through) the bulb and root, exposing the insides of the leaves so you can rinse them under the tap.

    Slice the leeks thin. Slice the mushrooms thin. Chop the dill fine. Heat everything in a little oil until soft.

    (You really can use anything for the vegetable filling. Another great version is fresh sliced tomatoes sprinkled with basil and black olives. The same formula but completely different, especially if you use feta or goat cheese for the cheese.)

    Pie Crust
    1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
    1/2 cup butter
    3 T ice water
    1/2 t salt

    Make the pastry dough the usual way: stir the salt into the flour, cut in the butter (I use a food processor, but a pastry cutter is better), stir in the ice water, form into a ball and refrigerate. If you’ve thought ahead, wait four hours. Otherwise use it whenever you need to.

    Try rolling it out, but whole wheat pastry dough doesn’t roll out as well as white flour pastry dough. Rather than working the pastry dough with a rolling pin forever and making it tough and getting frustrated, content yourself with rolling out smaller pieces and patching them together in your pie dish. It’s fine.

    Sunday, August 16th, 2009

    How to change the sheets and make the bed.

    The second instalment of my “keeping tidy” series.

    The traditional way:

    • Strip the bed. Put the bottom sheet and used pillow cases aside to be laundered.
    • Flip and shake the mattress and put back any mattress pads.
    • Take the top sheet, which is only lightly soiled, and tuck it over the mattress to be the new bottom sheet.
    • Put the pillow or pillows in clean cases and place at the head of the bed.
    • Take a clean sheet and lay it over the bed as the new top sheet.
    • Layer on cotton and wool blankets and quilts as dictated by the season, fold down the top sheet and tuck everything neatly under the mattress.
    • Lay a quilt over the whole bed, if needed.
    • If you haven’t used a large, decorative quilt then lay a bedspread or coverlet over everything to keep the dust off.

    Keeps laundry to a minimum (one flat sheet and one or two pillowcases per week/month/season/year) which preserves sheets from wear and tear and reduces labour (especially important when washing by hand). Allows use of inexpensive linens (no contoured sheets; threadbare blankets can continue to be used, just layered on top of one another). Layers can be fine-tuned weekly as the weather and seasons change. Use of a bedspread or coverlet keeps off dust and means blankets don’t need to be washed – yearly at most, but perhaps not ever. Home-made mattresses are turned routinely to avoid lumps.

    May cause problems for people with allergies. Animals must not sleep on – certainly not in – the bed. (Well, if you’re change-the-sheets-yearly type folks, you probably don’t have access to much liquid water in the winter. You might as well sleep with your animals to keep warm, because animals or not those sheets are not going to be pristine at the end of the year.) Flat sheets on the mattress tend to pull out in the night.

    The modern way:

    • Strip the bed, leaving the mattress pads in place.
    • Put the sheets and the pillow cases aside to be laundered.
    • Place a clean contoured sheet over the mattress; replace the pillows in clean pillow cases at the head of the bed, and lay a clean flat sheet over everything.
    • Further layers as above.

    Contoured sheet stays in place throughout the night. Commercial sprung mattress doesn’t need to be shaken and turned weekly (or daily). Use of a washing machine means that the extra sheet can be washed — weekly even! —  without excessive burden. Layers can be fine-tuned weekly as the weather and seasons change. Use of a bedspread or coverlet keeps off dust and means blankets don’t need to be washed – yearly at most, but perhaps not ever.

    Contoured sheets are more expensive than flat ones and they wear out more quickly because they are always on the bottom. Commercial mattresses are much more expensive than home-made. More wear and tear as both sheets are washed weekly. May cause problems for people with allergies. Animals must not sleep on – certainly not in – the bed.

    The way of the Ikea generation:

    • Strip the bed, leaving the mattress pads in place.
    • Put the sheet, pillow cases and duvet covers aside to be laundered.
    • Place a clean contoured sheet over the mattress.
    • Replace the duvet in a clean cover and lay over the bed.
    • Replace the pillows in clean pillowcases and place at the head of the bed.

    Contoured sheet stays in place throughout the night. Commercial sprung mattress doesn’t need to be shaken and turned weekly (or daily). All the sheets are washed weekly and duvets can be washed seasonally or as required, so no dust or musty smell. Duvets can be purchased in varying weights so you can get the weight you need for a given season. Duvet covers mean that duvets can continue to be used even when they get old and you start having to patch them. In-home front-loading washing machine means that washing the equivalent of three sheets per bed per week is not an undue burden, and you can even just throw a duvet in when you need to. Animals are welcome to sleep in the bed because the hair and dander gets washed out weekly.

    Requires storage space for all those seasonally-perfect duvets. If you don’t have a seasonally-perfect duvet you will be too hot or too cold. All that washing causes wear and tear. Threadbare linens have nowhere to be layered discreetly: if you patch them they will show, and you will probably just throw them out.

    My mother and I argue about these approaches. She combines the Traditional and Modern Methods for the advantages of both, using suspender-strap thingies to connect a flat sheet under the corner of the mattress so that it will stay in place like a contour sheet. Very smart and practical. (My mother is very smart and practical in general.)

    Her dust distresses me. I, the profligate modern daughter, am of the Ikea generation. I live with one other adult in an apartment designed for a family of at least four, in a time when sheets manufactured elsewhere can be bought cheaply here. Storage is not an issue. I do not worry about caring for my things: they are disposable. I do laundry liberally. I sleep with my dog. My lack of understanding of economy shocks my mother as not only a failing in self-care and housekeeping, but as a failing at a moral level, of stewardship.

    She’s appalled at the idea of washing duvets. “You mean they have to be washed?” she shrieked when I mentioned it. I tried to explain that this was a feature, not a bug: they don’t have to be washed, they can be. She’s cannier than that. She knows that once something becomes possible, it becomes the new standard.

    While I understand and respect the traditional bedmaking approach, I do have allergies. If I were to adopt traditional bedmaking I’d have to become a much better housekeeper – actually cleaning the house myself, instead of waiting for the dust to float (or be tracked) into my bedding so that the washing machine can get rid of it for me.

    Tuesday, August 4th, 2009


    Filed under: compassion,death,dogs,how to,vet — alison @ 22:13

    We found out about the brain tumour on a Friday. Over the weekend I called the people who needed to know (the dog lady; my ex) and mentioned it to the neighbours. By Monday I had made up my mind, so I called the vet to book the final appointment. Pepe was not in immediate distress, so I just asked for the first sunny day… which turned out to be Tuesday, the next day. I called Mark to tell him, but he just wasn’t ready. I asked if he wanted to wait, and he said yes. So I cancelled the appointment.

    Over the next few days Pepe had ups and downs. Sometimes he would eat; other days he would just sleep. I asked Mark if I could make another appointment, and he agreed so I did. This appointment was again on a Tuesday, a week after the first one.

    On the weekend we took Pepe on a nice long walk along the river.

    When we got back we dug a nice big hole under the patio stones in the back yard.

    Pepe tried out the hole and approved it.

    Today I came home from work at mid day and we took the dogs out for a sunny walk in the park. Pepe peed on things.

    I took off his harness and he stolidly pressed on and followed me. This was poignant because Pepe runs away and is not bright enough to come when called. Today he was slow and tired enough that for the first time ever I could let him off leash and he could walk around on his own.

    When Pepe got tuckered out we dropped our other dog off at home, picked up a towel and continued to the vet.

    The vet handled everything beautifully and quickly. She reassured us that we were not being premature.

    We held and petted Pepe for a few minutes after his heart stopped until we were sure he could not be conscious any more, wrapped him in the towel and carried him home. Mark wanted to bury him right away, but I felt as though he were just sleeping so I insisted we wait until he got cold so that he would feel dead.

    After about an hour I acknowledged that he was cold enough. We put him in the hole.

    I didn’t want dirt to get in his eyes so I put a paper towel over his head. Mark filled the hole halfway with dirt, I used the hose to fill it with water, then Mark filled it in with the rest of the dirt. I put the patio stones back to cover the spot. When the soil settles Mark will reset the patio stones so they are level.

    We went into the house to put away his things – collar, winter sweaters, the baby carrier I used to carry him when we went for long walks, his basket. Then we went out to a Mexican restaurant in his honour and came back to no trace of him left in the house.

    (No need for sympathies in comments or emails; he had a good life and we’re fine.)

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