Sunday, 27 February 2011

Compost Tips from Kodiak, Alaska

M-J in the Garden
Any Leafy Plant Scrap Makes Good Compost
Photo ©M-J de Mesterton 2010


Compost Tips from the Great North America:
http://www.plantea.com/compost.htm

Growing Your Own Food, on Coast-to-Coast a.m.

Photo of Home-Grown Vegetables ©M-J de Mesterton, 2010


http://www.coasttocoastam.com/show/2011/02/26
Ian Punnett hosted Marjorie Wildcraft of Backyard Food Production last night on his weekend show. To hear it, click on the link.

The Dirt on Soil-Amendment

Colorado State University has published this excellent on-line guide to soil-amendment.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

A Memorial to Energy-Independence

Photo by M-J de Mesterton of an October 1955 Life Magazine Ad for John Hancock
Click to Enlarge and Read the Inspiring Copy

Elegant Long-Sleeved Tee-Shirts by Gildan on Sale for $6.84

Because the U.S. is mysteriously importing mostly oil produced by countries led by dictators, even though Americans want more drilling of their abundant, renewable natural oil resources, prices of both food and cotton are sky-rocketing. It costs a lot to manufacture and transport these goods, and would cost much less if the country were energy-independent, a fact that the current administration conveniently ignores.

Here are some high-quality cotton tee-shirts with long sleeves, perfect for year-round wear, on sale for $6.84 each, and available in lots of nice hues, from the dependable company, CheapesTees.com.

http://www.cheapestees.com/gilulcotheav.html
Gildan Ultra Cotton Heavyweight Long Sleeve T-Shirt

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Elegant Croque Monsieur

Swiss cheese and Black Forest ham are pan-grilled inside of two buttered pain brioché slices. This dish is a frequent component of an elegant luncheon, accompanied by cream of celery soup, artichoke soup, or carrot Vichyssoise.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Elegant Brioche Loaf

Elegant Brioche Loaf



Elegant Brioche loaf can be sliced for luncheon sandwich bread.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Croques Monsieurs

Using a shallow grill pan, a heavy plate and a lid, croques monsieurs are easily made on the cooker or stove-top. Sandwiches are flipped when the cheese on the bottom is soft. Continue cooking, with the lid on top. I do not bother to replace the heavy plate after the croques monsieurs are turned.

Thinly-sliced ham, together with Swiss cheese, home-made bread and a few spoonfuls of butter are transformed into the French luncheon classic, croques monsieurs. Served with a salad or soup, they are part of an elegant luncheon.
Serve croques monsieurs with mayonnaise and Dijon mustard on the side.
©M-J de Mesterton 2011

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Pain Brioché

Versatile and fun to make, brioche dough has many uses. It can be filled with savouries or sweet ingredients. When formed into a loaf called pain brioché, it makes light and lovely-tasting sandwiches. Sliced and soaked in a spiced egg-milk batter, then fried as pain perdú or French toast, it is magnificent.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Elegant Caran d'Ache Metwood Pen

Offered for a fraction of its original price, a superb example of Switzerland's elegant pens: rosewood Caran d'Ache

Scottish Oatcakes

Scottish Oat-Cakes, Updated

2 cups of Oatmeal
½ cup of regular or unbleached flour
1/3 cup of buttermilk
¼ cup of hot water
1/2 teaspoon-full of Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon of crushed flax-seeds (optional; these seeds make the oat-cakes more health-promoting, and they add nearly no calories)
1/2 teaspoon of aluminum-free baking powder, such as that made by Rumson  or Bob's Red Mill
¼ cup of melted butter
1 teaspoon of coconut oil

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Pat this mixture into a baking sheet until flat and about 1/8 inch thick. Heat your oven to 350 F.
I sometimes use a wafer iron or a quesadilla machine, and cook the oat-cake mixture until it stops steaming and releases from the iron easily. Bake until oatcake is brown and as crisp as possible.
Variations: add two teaspoons of sugar and/or ground walnuts.

©M-J de Mesterton

Scottish Oat-Cakes


Scottish Oat-Cakes, Updated

2 cups of Oatmeal
½ cup of regular or unbleached flour
1/3 cup of buttermilk
¼ cup of hot water
1/2 teaspoon-full of Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon of crushed flax-seeds (optional; these seeds make the oat-cakes more health-promoting, and they add nearly no calories)
1/2 teaspoon of aluminum-free baking powder, such as that made by Rumson  or Bob's Red Mill
¼ cup of melted butter
1 teaspoon of coconut oil

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Pat this mixture into a baking sheet until flat and about 1/8 inch thick. Heat your oven to 350 F.
I sometimes use a wafer iron or a quesadilla machine, and cook the oat-cake mixture until it stops steaming and releases from the iron easily. Bake until oatcake is brown and as crisp as possible.
Variations: add two teaspoons of sugar and/or ground walnuts.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Superb, Warm Swedish Army Coat

Lined with sheepskin and with a convertible collar, this superb vintage Swedish army coat is offered by our friend Peter in Herefordshire. He will ship to the U.S. for a very reasonable sum.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Elegant Handmade Wool Cape

Handmade Wool Cape by Casco Bay Woolworks, 45" Long
Cloak Yourself in Luxury

Monday, 7 February 2011

Elegant Home-Made Hamburgers

You can make your own elegant hamburgers with home-made buns. See The Elegant Cook bread page for M-J's recipe.
Home-Made Green Chile Burgers are a Southwestern treat. Chopped green chiles are available from Old El Paso and Ortega, as well as  Hatch  of New Mexico, where the burger topped with green chile and cheese is king.

Home-Made Brioche

Versatile and fun to make, brioche has many uses. It can be filled with savouries or sweet ingredients. When formed into a loaf called pain brioché, it makes light and lovely-tasting sandwiches. Sliced and cooked as pain perdú or French toast, it is magnificent.

Elegant Brioche

I have located a good brioche recipe, by Dorie Greenspan.
I don't use a machine to make these small, fluffy rolls, or even a written recipe.
And it is more fun to process the brioche dough by hand.
A loaf of bread made using this dough, pain brioché, is ideal for making the traditional French toast known as  pain perdú.
~~M-J~~

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Caveat Emptor: Sleight-of-Hand at the Grocery Store


Food packaging is deceptive. Beware of ungodly-expensive cheese that is more hole-y, smaller loaves of bread that cost more bread, the packet of bacon where you've been taken, and flim-flam bottles of jam.
~~M-J
Article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Shoppers Paying More for Less

As you probably know, the high cost of fuel creates inflated food-prices. Energy policies that allow foreign dictators to drill for oil but forbid any drilling that would benefit the U.S. are very bad for commerce and survival. Punishing coal and oil companies has a deleterious effect on the population. Food must be transported by trucks. When the price of fuel rises to outrageous levels, the price of feeding your family goes up commensurately.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Elegant Dinner Rolls

See Elegant Bread for M-J's Recipe

Pound Cake for Elegant Desserts


Pound cake is expensive to make, and may not turn out the way that you like. Elegant Survival  published the news last year that pound-cake can be bought in three-packs at warehouse stores like Sam's Club for about two dollars each. 

I have used these pound-cakes successfully for making baked Alaska, in combination with vanilla ice cream and meringue. Strawberry or raspberry jam may be layered into the cake as well. Please see my Elegant Dessert page for Valentine's Day dessert ideas.
©M-J de Mesterton 2011

Friday, 4 February 2011

Elegant Baked Alaska for Valentine's Day

Baked Alaska, an Elegant, Traditional Dessert that is Perfect for Valentine's Day Dinner
See the Elegant Cook for M-J's Method

Walnuts: the Health-Nuts

Photo ©M-J de Mesterton 2011

The following information was captured from California Walnut Growers, circa 2007

Walnuts and other tree nuts and peanuts were recently ranked using the Index of Nutritional Quality (INQ) nutrient testing system at the Food Consulting Company of Del Mar, California [i]. According to Karen Duester, MS, RD who conducted the test, “Not surprisingly, walnuts ranked highest among the nuts in INQ. Because INQ relates to nutrient density, we looked at specific nutrients known to be abundant in nuts and peanuts: protein, fiber, omega-3, omega-6, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.”

On another independent scale, the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI)[ii] ranking system to be used by the Raley's grocery chain, walnuts received 82 points on a 100 point scale, an excellent score among foods and nuts [iii]. According to David Katz, MD, MPH a nationally renowned authority on nutrition and the principal inventor for the ONQI system, "When overall nutritional quality is assessed, the verdict is clear: walnuts are a great food -- they pack a lot of nutrient benefits in a nutshell!”



Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University and a member of the Hannaford Scientific Advisory Panel explains, “Walnuts are a whole food rich in antioxidants, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid, protein, fiber, and more. Whole walnuts receive the ‘best nutritional value’ three star ranking (the highest) due to their nutrient profile.”


Walnuts have nutritional qualities that are very important. One of the richest sources of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), the plant form of Omega-3, walnuts are unique among nuts and popular whole foods [v]. A one ounce serving of walnuts provides 2.57 grams of ALA, the plant form omega-3s, which is above the dietary reference intake (DRI) set by the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine. Walnuts are also one of the highest natural sources of antioxidants, according to Halvorsen’s study from American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006 [vi].


15 years of clinical research on walnuts have shown benefits for the heart, and we’re not just talking about cholesterol reduction -- improved vascular function and a reduction in inflammation have also been documented [vii-xii]. Looking to the future and expanding on this base of knowledge, research is underway at a variety of prestigious universities looking into cancer, diabetes and issues of ageing.


[vi] Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jul;84(1):95-135
  
  “Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet, and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”
[viii]   Circulation. 2002 Nov 19;106(21):2747-57
[ix]     Hypertension. 2007 Aug;50(2):313-9
[x]     J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006 Oct 17;48(8):1666-71
[xi]    Arch Intern Med. 2007 Jun 11;167(11):1195-203.

[xii] Ann Intern Med. 2006 Jul 4;145(1):1-11

Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Walnuts

How do Omega-3s work?
Inside your favorite kinds of nuts — walnuts, almonds, pecans and others — you’ll find many vitamins, minerals and other compounds your body needs for good health. There are the antioxidants found in vitamin E; several essential minerals such as magnesium, selenium, copper and manganese; and even fiber for more effective digestion. Thiamin, niacin, folate, phosphorus and zinc are all found in nuts.
Researchers believe that omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of heart disease by making the blood less sticky and less likely to form dangerous intravenous or arterial clots. Studies have also shown that omega-3s may lower the risk of stroke and prevent arthritis. In addition, there’s good evidence that omega-3s can increase HDL (good cholesterol), further reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.
The omega-3s found in fish oil are thought to be responsible for the significantly lower incidence of breast cancer in Japanese women as compared to women in the United States. This may be because omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the tumor growth that is promoted by the acids found in other fats, such as corn and safflower oils.
Finally, the brain itself is composed of a whopping 60 percent fat. It too needs omega-3s to help build and maintain tissue. Brain function itself may be at stake: in treating major depression, for example, omega-3s seem to work by making it easier for brain cell receptors to process mood-related signals from neighboring neurons.
What are good sources of omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are plentiful in cold-water fish such as mackerel and salmon. They’re also found in walnuts, canola oil, soybean oil, tofu and leafy green vegetables. Which would you rather sprinkle on your morning cereal or grab for a nutritious snack?
Walnuts are a delectable, convenient alternative to fish, tofu and leafy greens. In fact, just a handful of walnuts provides as much omega-3s as a comparable serving of salmon. 

Walnuts: the Health-Nuts

The following information was captured from California Walnut Growers, circa 2007

Walnuts and other tree nuts and peanuts were recently ranked using the Index of Nutritional Quality (INQ) nutrient testing system at the Food Consulting Company of Del Mar, California [i]. According to Karen Duester, MS, RD who conducted the test, “Not surprisingly, walnuts ranked highest among the nuts in INQ. Because INQ relates to nutrient density, we looked at specific nutrients known to be abundant in nuts and peanuts: protein, fiber, omega-3, omega-6, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.”

On another independent scale, the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI)[ii] ranking system to be used by the Raley's grocery chain, walnuts received 82 points on a 100 point scale, an excellent score among foods and nuts [iii]. According to David Katz, MD, MPH a nationally renowned authority on nutrition and the principal inventor for the ONQI system, "When overall nutritional quality is assessed, the verdict is clear: walnuts are a great food -- they pack a lot of nutrient benefits in a nutshell!”

Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University and a member of the Hannaford Scientific Advisory Panel explains, “Walnuts are a whole food rich in antioxidants, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid, protein, fiber, and more. Whole walnuts receive the ‘best nutritional value’ three star ranking (the highest) due to their nutrient profile.”

Walnuts have nutritional qualities that are very important. One of the richest sources of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), the plant form of Omega-3, walnuts are unique among nuts and popular whole foods [v]. A one ounce serving of walnuts provides 2.57 grams of ALA, the plant form omega-3s, which is above the dietary reference intake (DRI) set by the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine. Walnuts are also one of the highest natural sources of antioxidants, according to Halvorsen’s study from American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006 [vi].

15 years of clinical research on walnuts have shown benefits for the heart, and we’re not just talking about cholesterol reduction -- improved vascular function and a reduction in inflammation have also been documented [vii-xii]. Looking to the future and expanding on this base of knowledge, research is underway at a variety of prestigious universities looking into cancer, diabetes and issues of ageing.

[vi] Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jul;84(1):95-135
  
  “Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet, and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”
[viii]   Circulation. 2002 Nov 19;106(21):2747-57
[ix]     Hypertension. 2007 Aug;50(2):313-9
[x]     J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006 Oct 17;48(8):1666-71
[xi]    Arch Intern Med. 2007 Jun 11;167(11):1195-203.
[xii] Ann Intern Med. 2006 Jul 4;145(1):1-11

Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Walnuts

How do Omega-3s work?
Inside your favorite kinds of nuts — walnuts, almonds, pecans and others — you’ll find many vitamins, minerals and other compounds your body needs for good health. There are the antioxidants found in vitamin E; several essential minerals such as magnesium, selenium, copper and manganese; and even fiber for more effective digestion. Thiamin, niacin, folate, phosphorus and zinc are all found in nuts.
Researchers believe that omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of heart disease by making the blood less sticky and less likely to form dangerous intravenous or arterial clots. Studies have also shown that omega-3s may lower the risk of stroke and prevent arthritis. In addition, there’s good evidence that omega-3s can increase HDL (good cholesterol), further reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.
The omega-3s found in fish oil are thought to be responsible for the significantly lower incidence of breast cancer in Japanese women as compared to women in the United States. This may be because omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the tumor growth that is promoted by the acids found in other fats, such as corn and safflower oils.
Finally, the brain itself is composed of a whopping 60 percent fat. It too needs omega-3s to help build and maintain tissue. Brain function itself may be at stake: in treating major depression, for example, omega-3s seem to work by making it easier for brain cell receptors to process mood-related signals from neighboring neurons.
What are good sources of omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are plentiful in cold-water fish such as mackerel and salmon. They’re also found in walnuts, canola oil, soybean oil, tofu and leafy green vegetables. Which would you rather sprinkle on your morning cereal or grab for a nutritious snack?
Walnuts are a delectable, convenient alternative to fish, tofu and leafy greens. In fact, just a handful of walnuts provides as much omega-3s as a comparable serving of salmon. 

Elegant Cake

Elegant Cake

French Landscape

Saturday at the Met: Verdi's Simon Boccanegra

Placido Domingo in the Last Act of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra: VIDEO

Saturday, February 5th Live from the Met: Simon Boccanegra, by Giuseppe Verdi
Starring Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Barbara Frittoli, Ramón Vargas, and Ferruccio Furlanetto.

Simon Boccanegra, by Giuseppe Verdi

Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Beauty of Cabbage

Purple cabbage sits in a McCoy cabbage-rose vase, atop a Madoura plate that was made in France
at the pottery studio where Picasso created plates.
©M-J de M.

Famous Gaslighting Victims, Real and Fictional

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented to another person with the intent of making them doubt their own memory and perception, often with the ultimate goal of having them put away in a mental institution or worse. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The person who has been gaslighted eventually believes that he or she is insane, and that they actually deserve to be sequestered from society.

The term "gaslighting," now commonly used for this old technique of mental abuse comes from a 1938 stage-play called Gas Light, and two 1940s film adaptations (most notably George Cukor's 1944 film version of Gas Light). The plot involves a husband who attempts to drive his wife insane by manipulating small elements of their environment, all the while insisting that she is mistaken when she alludes to the odd developments. The title stems from the husband's subtle dimming of the house's gas lights, which she notices, but is told by her husband that she is imagining.

Gaslight victims are most often women, and children of both genders who have undergone sexual abuse.
The motives for gaslighting people have been many and varied.

Queen Joanna of Castile, nicknamed "Juana la Loca" was viciously manipulated by her husband and King Ferdinand II, her father, because they both wished to wrest power from her. A myth created by her sick husband, philandering Philip of Hapsburg, and perpetuated by her father, who was trying to issue a replacement-heir by his second wife, Germaine, that Doña Juana was "mad," kept her from long-term power. "Juana la Loca" was very well-educated. The princess, countess and queen was an excellent student of court etiquette, dance, music, and equestrian pursuits. Doña Juana--Queen Joanna--was fluent in French, Latin and all of the Iberian Romance languages: Castilian, Leonese, Galician-Portuguese and Catalán. Philip, nicknamed "The Handsome" was young Juana's first and only love, and she reacted in fitting fashion to the mental cruelty that he continually wrought upon her during their marriage. When she witnessed his extra-marital dalliances first-hand, he responded with a 16th-century Spanish version of "Who you gonna believe: ME, or your lyin' eyes?" Queen Joanna of Castile was a very capable ruler despite the constant games played at her expense. After the death of her husband and a couple of years as active Queen, Doña Juana was incarcerated in an obscure room within Torresillas, an out-building of the royal palace. For fifty years until her death she languished there, while her son Charles I Holy Roman Emperor ruled in her stead.

The Millenium Trilogy by Swedish author Stieg Larsson features a young woman who was gaslighted beginning at age ten. I do not like to give away any plot details here, thus I'll keep it brief. Unlike Queen Joanna "Juana la Loca," Miss Salander enacts revenge and some measure of justice for the wrongs done to her young life. This is a very violent but ultimately satisfying story written by a man whose mission as an adult was to expose and fight against sexual abuse in all its hideous manifestations. Stieg Larsson died before his Millenium Trilogy was released as three brilliant movies, but his books and the very popular films created from them will stand as object-lessons for those who would physically exploit others while manipulating, dominating, and crushing the human spirit.

©M-J de Mesterton 2011



Wednesday, 2 February 2011

French McDonald's New Burgers

Straight from France, unusual and delicious cheeseburgers:

http://www.mcdonalds.fr/?c=op-fromager&xtor=AD-796
I love Cantal cheese, and it is perfect on burgers. Here is the description from my French Cheese Guide:


Cantal
A very tasty uncooked pressed cheese from the Auvergne mountains, Cantal is a cheese that many consider to be quite close to an English farmhouse Cheddar or Chester. A lot of this “appellation contrôlée” cheese is made on farms, but obviously local dairies in the region also produce it in large quantities.
Cantal comes in two varieties: “jeune” (young) and “entre deux” (between two), meaning cheese that has matured for longer. This cheese’s strength and taste increase with aging, and generally speaking, Cantal cheese is stronger than Cheddar.
Two smaller areas within or bordering the Cantal department produce specific appellations of their own, Salers and Laguiole. These cheeses, made from the milk of cows grazing at high altitude, tend to be more expensive than generic Cantal, and are generally aged longer.