WHEN LIFE HANDS YOU A BAG OF LEMONS . . . MAKE PRESERVED LEMONS!

The other day my favourite local grocery store featured organic lemons twenty five cents each.  A bargain.  I filled my shopping bag  with a couple of dozen of these little darlings to make PRESERVED LEMONS.

PRESERVED LEMONS are one of the indispensable ingredients of Moroccan cooking.  I use it not just in tagines or with lamb and chicken I add the lemons to salads and vegetable dishes and use the pickling juice in salad dressings.  No matter what some food writers  say  their unique pickled taste and silken texture cannot be duplicated with fresh lemon or lime juice.

The important thing in preserving lemons is to cover them with salted lemon juice.  You can use the lemon juice over and over again.   Preserved lemons are not complicated to make.  You partially slice the lemons.  Jam them into sterilized jars, add a few spices if desired and freshly squeezed lemon juice,   You let the lemons ripen in a warm place for thirty days, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice.     To use simply rinse the lemons as needed under running water, removing and discarding the pulp, if desired.

I have preserved lemons with olive oil but I prefer this recipe from  Paula Wolfert’s book on Morocco food.    Join me in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen  for this exotic recipe for PRESERVED LEMONS.

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JAPANESE TREE PEONIES – the brightest star in the garden

Once upon a time (all good stories begin with once upon a time)  many centuries ago a delicate tree grew in China.

The flowers on this tree were so magnificent, so unusual only the Emperor of China was allowed to possess a tree peony.

These  tree peonies would live up to one hundred years, but  they could never be moved for they would die.

Beauty such as this could not be held captive by one man.

In the eighth century the royal court of China shared these blossoms with Japan.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “if the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and stare”.

Truly the Japanese Tree Peony is the star in this garden.    Blossoms,  heavy with fragrance and the size of dinner plate, fill one with rapturous, delirious delight.

One can only stand

and stare

and marvel.

 

THE MAGIC OF GIVING BACK

Early morning.  Five o’clock.  I am alone in a small room.    I stare at the wall facing my bed.    Chipped and battered from beds being pushed in and out.  The only decoration a faded cork board and a sign advising one how to wash your hands. Nothing beautiful to look at.  Nothing to bring me up from the black abyss.  I am alone with various tubes attached to my body.  I  weep tears of utter despair. A few years ago my breast cancer returned.  The first encounter I had a right breast lumpectomy.  This time a mastectomy in the other breast.     I am alone.    Feeling so sorry for myself when my nurse enters my room with a gift  wrapped package.  Pillows!  Soft, comfortable pillows covered in a happy flowered pattern.  Pillows to give me under the arm and breast protection.    In that moment the sun came out.

I’m smiling.  I’m not alone.

The package contained  pillows hand sewn by a group of woman who are members of the Delta Hospital Auxiliary.   The hospital is located in Ladner, British Columbia.   They are post-operative pillows tailored for post mastectomy surgery.    The pillows are a gift from the Delta Hospital Auxiliary.    These amazing women known as THE PILLOW PALS  cut, sew, stuff and package these pillows.  A thoughtful card with encouraging words are enclosed with the pillows.

I am giving back.

I am a proud member of the Delta Hospital Auxiliary.   I search for wonderful fabrics to be sewn into pillows by dedicated woman known with great affection as THE PILLOW PALS.

I am giving back.

 

 

 

 

 

A GLASS OF WINE AND CONVERSATIONS WITH A GENTLEMAN RABBIT

Early evening.  The shadows lengthen.  All is quiet on the farm.  A glass of wine.  A mystery novel.   It is my favourite time of day.   If I’m very, very quiet the rabbits come out to play.

“I beg your pardon, Miss Virginia.  I do appreciate you took the advice of your Texas friend, Miss Jo Nell,  and put a rabbit proof fence around your tulips.”  I looked up from my book to see  Oswald, gentleman rabbit,  had left supervising the play time of two young bunnies and joined me on the patio.

“Just some leaves nibbled and a few blossoms lost.  No worries, dear Oswald.  Tell me, what is happening in the rabbit world?”

Oswald circled the basket wondering if there was room for both him and a rather large shell.  Rabbits like to be quite comfortable when they chat about their day.

“It is tight quarters, but I do so like the smell of the ocean.”  Oswald tucked his rather large feet under him. Wrinkled his nose.  He began to bring me up to date on the comings and goings in the rabbit world.

“Old growth trees on The Island.  They are planning to harvest them.   Terrible, just terrible.     Over 250 years old and when they are gone they are gone forever.  We have a few of our chaps in the Sierra Club.  We’ll see what we can do.    Of course the bee thing.  It’s ongoing.  We’re having the most success in the city.  More flowers there then in the country.    Then there’s NETFLIX.  It is our most ambitious project yet!”

“NETFLIX?     What has NETFLIX got to do with your stewardship of all things growing Oswald?” I asked.

“Watch the movie Watership Down.  The BBC production .  Listen for a deep, and rather ominous  voice, ‘In the beginning Frith made the World’.  It is the  beginning of Watership Down.”  Watch it and perhaps weep a little.  It is our world.

“I had no idea rabbits were involved in the entertainment business?”

“We’ve come a long way from  ‘What’s up Doc? rabbit cartoons” replied Oswald as he tossed back his ears, licked a paw and smoothed  his fur.

And with that my dear Oswald left his basket and the perfume of the ocean shell.  He gathered the two young rabbits and disappeared  deep into  the safety of his burrow.

 

 

 

 

THE TRAGIC TALE OF THE EASTER TULIPS . . . a tale for lovers of rabbits and chocolate

This morning I went out to  my fence garden.  Last autumn I planted dozens of tulips.      I envisioned a glorious mass of breath taking colour.  Magnificent tulips swaying elegantly against a background weathered fence.  Instead I was presented with damp, black earth scattered with the guillotined heads of tulips.    At first I thought the high wind of the previous evening was the culprit.    In a Holmes like manner I examined the scene of the heinous crime.  Rabbit prints.  Rabbit paws.  Small rabbit paws.

“I’ll catch those maundering rascals.  And I’ll do what I always do with rabbits.  I’ll nibble their ears off.    I am so angry”, I muttered under my breath as I stalked off.  I heard a quiet clearing of throat.

“Excuse me”.  I turned to see Oswald, gentleman rabbit.  “You have planted a garden dangerously close to our burrow.    And you know how rabbits like to taste everything, at least once. Chewing a bunnies ears seems a bit excessive”, he quietly pointed out.  “How else are they going to learn about this wonderful, green, growing world we live in”. I had made a rather vocal faux pas .  Now I must confess to Oswald my guilty pleasure.  I do indeed nibble rabbit ears.

“Oswald, dear Oswald.  I would never nibble off bunny ears. If I have to choose between flowers and rabbits I would choose rabbits every time.    When my children were young I always made sure their Easter baskets were filled with the finest of chocolate bunnies.  Bunnies made from the very best Belgian chocolate.  Bunnies with very big, solid ears.  And my children obliged me by sharing their chocolate bunny ears with me.”   My secret was out.  I was a closet eater of chocolate rabbit ears.  Tomorrow I would go to Jarry’s Market in the sweet, little village of Ladner.  I would buy an armful of tulips, and perhaps a chocolate rabbit or two.

 

 

ZEN AND THE ART OF BAKING BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY

There is no perfume in this whole wide world that can match the aroma of freshly baked bread.    To fill your kitchen with this evocative smell.  To cut thick crusty slices  spread thick with butter and jam.  To share this pleasure with friends and family.    This is love in the shape of a simple loaf of home made bread.

You can  accomplish this in just five minutes a day.  I promise you.    It is so simple.  You can do this  if you can hold a wooden spoon, and have a big mixing bowl or container and two loaf pans.   Step one you mix water, yeast, flour, salt, sugar and oil all together into one easily mixed dough.  This is done in a few minutes.  No kneading.   Step two you leave the dough to rise on your counter.  It rises to heady heights but you don’t punch it down.  Step four you refrigerate it and let it have a good rest.    When you are ready to bake your bread you  remove a portion of the dough, form it into a ball, then into a loaf shape and sit it in a loaf pan to rise.  All that’s left it to bake your bread and then indulge in the joy of home made bread.

This recipe is unbelievably simply.  BUT IT WORKS.  You  can mix and store the dough in the same container using only a wooden spoon.  A stand mixer is nice but not necessary.  You need two loaf pans (if baking all the dough).  And that’s it.  You can store the dough for up to seven days in the refrigerator and bake bread when every you like.  This bread recipe is so obliging.  It’s not messy.  It requires little space.  Perfect for small kitchens.  And even better for vacation cottages when the nearest store is ten miles away.

This WHITE BREAD MASTER RECIPE  is from the book HOLIDAY AND CELEBRATION BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY by Zoe Francois.

Go to  MRS.BUTTERFINGERS for this amazing recipe.  Never, ever buy bread again.

 

ESCAPE TO SUNNY CLIMES with SPICY TOFU AND RED CURRY COCONUT SOUP

When it’s not quite winter.   Not quite spring.    When dingy snow piles up in dark corners.   When thoughts of exotic get a ways  dominate your day.     This is the time to ladle out the exotic flavours of  Thailand and Malaysia.  And this is the soup that borrows from these cuisines  and fills your soup bowl with its  spicy taste balanced with sweet and sour back notes.

I like this recipe for its ease of preparation and the readily available ingredients.   The only fiddly  part of the recipe preparation is the  julienned  carrots.    Think of it as   good time to practice you knife skills. The recipe calls for green beans.  When they are out of season I substitute tiny frozen green peas.    In fact I have come to prefer these sweet little darlings.   The recipe is easily doubled.  Step into MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen for the recipe for SPICY TOFU AND RED CURRY COCONUT SOUP.