Saturday, September 24, 2016

It's all about quality of life

My doctors tell me the reason they are doing all the medical stuff is to give me a better quality of life. It has been made very clear that I should be out enjoying life and not wasting precious time worrying about tomorrow. My doctors will do that for me if I just let them.

Today my granddaughter had a birthday party. Pizza was served. I had two narrow slices. There was also birthday cake. I had a small slice of that too. Too many calories and maybe a little heavy on the animal fat thanks to all the cheese. I excused my conduct by explaining I was simply following doctor's orders and enjoying life.

Dinner provided a time for redemption. I stuck with salad: lots of baby spinach with chunks of a sweet Royal Gala apple, a little, very little, halloumi fried in olive oil with garlic, gently candied pecans (I used maple syrup), pan roasted sunflower seeds, dried cranberries with pumpkin seeds, diced green onions and just a little, about an ounce, of chopped grilled chicken (The chicken was a leftover.). I tossed all with a sweet, raspberry dressing, Rootham Raspberry Razzle, that I buy at Remark. I use it very sparingly. I find too much is too sweet.

I'm sure my heart and stroke doctor would groan at hearing about the pizza, two slices is pushing it, but I believe my dinner would put me back in his good graces. He would even give me a thumbs up when it comes to my four ounces of wine with dinner. A glass of wine a day is both a part of my heart healthy diet and a step towards that fine quality of life I should be pursuing.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Two tips: Fall squash and Paese Mio Bruschetta Calabrese

Locally grown fall squash is ready. Move fast. It isn't on the shelves all that long. I've been buying mine at Thomas Bros. Market on hwy 4 south of the city. They have lots of other fresh, locally grown stuff as well. Their field tomatoes are excellent even if they are a little light on the acidity. I fear milder tomatoes are the flavour of the day.

The picture at the top of this post shows spaghetti squash topped with a homemade sauce of fresh field tomatoes plus locally grown mushrooms, sweet peppers, garlic plus some real Greek feta cheese - the kind that comes swimming in a mix of whey and brine. All vegetables are chopped into large, chunky pieces. Lots of flavour and looks good too.

I fried the garlic for possibly a minute, added the sweet peppers, then the mushrooms and finally the tomatoes. The exact proportion is up to you. With fresh ingredients one can hardly go wrong. The squash was halved and placed peel side up in a baking dish with a quarter-inch of water. It was baked for 20 minutes at 375-degrees. When cooked properly, the spaghetti-like squash is easily scraped from the baked squash with a simple fork. One large squash should feed up to three people.

I have left out one ingredient and, unlike the others, it isn't fresh. It's Paese Mio Bruschetta Calabrese. This is a bottled mix of oodles of stuff, all good, with hot peppers dominating. Use caution when experimenting with this. It can be hot. Very hot. But it is good.

Paese Mio Bruschetta Calabrese can be found in London at Unger's Market on Gainsborough Rd. Unger's is open 8 am to 7 pm Monday through Friday. Saturday the market closes at 6 pm and Sunday Unger's is closed.

While we're talking about hours, I should mention that there isn't even a month left before Thomas Bros. closes for the season. Despite the drought, it has been a good fall for fresh vegetables. I'm going to miss the sweet corn.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Camden Terrace not the only historical structure under threat

Recently I read in The London Free Press that "the city was poised to lose a vital part of its history." A grouping of 140-year-old row houses known as Camden Terrace may be torn down. When I tried to talk to others about the impending loss, all too often I simply got a puzzled response: "Camden Terrace? Where or what is Camden Terrace?" People who didn't get the paper didn't get the question.

The brouhaha surrounding Camden Terrace raises issues the London Planning department and others in the city should address. For instance: what is a heritage building? Why is a heritage building important? How many changes can be made before a heritage building stops being a heritage building? And should we be saving single buildings or complete heritage landscapes, areas and districts?

I was surprised that some consider Museum London, despite its relatively recent construction, to be a heritage structure with a "B" ranking. This is a ranking no better than that of Camden Terrace. The London Free Press award-winning writer, Randy Richmond, told readers, "Raymond Moriyama's original design evoked the river, the historical significance of the forks . . . The large arches were painted blue . . . and inside was an airy fan design. . . . " The dynamic shapes filling the arches disappeared at the same time as blue colour. The museum is now grey.

If London cannot maintain an architectural treasure for even a few decades, why are we surprised when row houses which have stood relatively unappreciated for more than a century are now facing demolition.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Pay attention when buying salmon fillets

The salmon was tasty but I won't buy it again. I discovered it was most likely farm raised salmon taken from pens off the coast of Norway. Like so many other areas with numerous salmon farming operations, the Norwegian ones have sea lice problems.

That said, the salmon fillets were about an inch thick and were firm but flaky with only about seven minutes of searing in a medium hot pan. I served the salmon topped with a mildly hot gremolata. Gremolata usually contains only lemon rind, garlic and parsley but this recipe added chopped pistachio nuts, chopped onion and a few hot peppers.

For the recipe follow this link: Boston Globe recipe.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Dining in retirement isn't as expensive as newspapers insist

I am always reading how difficult it is to feed oneself on a budget in retirement. Not true, at least that has not been my findings.

Tonight my wife and I had potato gnocchi with green and yellow beans flavoured with a light coating of two tablespoons of tomato sauce spiked with a couple of teaspoons of Paese Mio Bruschetta Calabrese. I added a couple of bottled artichoke hearts as well. The artichoke helped to dilute the heat from the bruschetta Calabrese.

The broccoli served on the side, like all the vegetables, came from a roadside market on Col. Talbot Rd. south of the city. We find Thomas Bros. carries fresh vegetables at a fair price. Perfect. I love late summer in Southwestern Ontario.

As a finishing touch, my wife sprinkled grated Parmesan cheese on top. This cheese can be expensive. We buy ours at Costco. The price is right, the taste is great and one gets enough to last months if kept wrapped in aluminum foil and tucked into a corner of the fridge.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Let's put on a show!

I love the enthusiasm and imagination of kids. Fiona, left, and her three-year-old sister, Isla, decided to stage an active fashion show the other night. they wore different outfits and danced to music supplied by the radio. It was fun and somewhat revealing of their personalities. For instance, I had no idea that they could put as much thought into an outfit as they did.

When I took Fiona to see Pete's Dragon the other day, I left Isla at home with grandma. Strong imaginations and dragons are not known to always co-exist well. I didn't want to risk Isla having nightmares.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Pete's Dragon: Fiona gives it two thumbs up

I took Fiona to see Pete's Dragon Saturday. She loved it. For her it was a feel-good boy and his dragon story. As we watched the movie, more than once she gave me a big grin and the thumbs up gesture.

I liked Pete's Dragon, too, but I saw the story as having roots reaching all the way back to the '50s science fiction film Forbidden Planet. That film featured a monster from the id. Morbius, played by Walter Pidgeon, conjures up the monster from the depths of his subconscious.

My gut feeling is that Pete's dragon is more symbolic, more allegorical, than flesh and blood. How such a creature comes to life is the question.  But like the animated snowman Frosty, only children have any understanding of such magic. In other words, at its very heart, this is a story but a story with a lesson at its core.

Pete names the dragon "Elliott" after the puppy in his favorite book: Elliott Gets Lost. The dragon Elliott is, at least to me, reminiscent of a large, green, oh-so-furry puppy. When the two, the dragon and the boy, splash about in a large, mountain stream, the bounding, frolicking dragon is at its most puppy like.

Early in the movie, Pete's mother tells her young son, "I think you're the bravest boy I've ever met." Near the end of the film Grace, the Forest Ranger who becomes Pete's adoptive mom, tells him, "You may be the bravest boy I’ve ever met." And I believe it is Pete's bravery and determination that conjures up a now-you-see-it-now-you-don't dragon. Pete's dragon has the ability to fade from sight, to become invisible.

The little boy lives alone in the forest for six years, alone but for his dragon and his bravery. He not only survives but flourishes. Living in harmony with nature, Pete has a depth of understanding of the wild world that easily surpasses our book learning approach. He lived where no one could and thanks to his experiences the boy sees and appreciates the magic that is Nature.

Everyone, even the greedy Gavin, who originally only wanted to cut down the forest to sell the lumber, everyone who comes in contact with Pete learns to understand the unseen and to appreciate the immense value of the natural world. And there is a corollary: mess with Nature at your peril.

In the end, it is not only Pete who sees a dragon. His adopted family, Grace, Jack and Natalie, also see the once invisible flying beasts. Once one learns how to look, how to approach the invisible, the world is filled with dragons.

But one must be brave.