Saturday, May 29, 2010


I have read several articles and viewed some videos related to dogs being used in the military in Afghanistan or Iraq and also about stray dogs being adopted by soldiers while they are serving in Afghanistan or Iraq.  The stories are very interesting and also touching.

Dogs have served in the military and have been used in combat for centuries.  There is lots of information on the Internet about the role of dogs through the centuries participating in combat.  I recently read an article about special forces dogs parachuting with their handlers from 10,000 feet and gliding down to the ground.  The dogs are not afraid of the heights, they don't have our fear and the roar of the engines bothers them more.  In the particular story that I have provided a link to, the dogs are outfitted with cameras and have been used to go into insurgent compounds so that their handlers can see activity going on.  America's Delta Forces were the first to train dogs to breathe through oxygen masks in order to be able to do high altitude jumps.

As I usually gravitate to stories about Labrador Retrievers, an eight year old British Army black Labrador Retriever named Theo, was recently awarded the Dickin medal for his bravery in sniffing out bombs while serving in Afghanistan.  The Dickin medal started in 1943 and Theo is its 63rd recipient.  Along with dogs, other heroic animals awarded this medal have included 32 pigeons, three horses and a cat.   There is a Canadian connection to the Dickin medal.  Gander, a Newfoundland dog, was killed during the battle of Hong Kong in 1941 when he picked up a Japanese grenade and moved away from a group of Canadian soldiers, thereby saving them.

There are stray dogs brought back to the UK, Canada and the United States from Afghanistan and Iraq.   Stray dogs and sometimes cats get adopted by military units, though Canadian Forces official policy forbids camp pets.  After a unit is moved or soldiers get reassigned or get to go home, none of the soldiers want to leave these pets behind.  Afghanistan and Iraq are tough places for stray animals.  Getting these adopted pets out of Afghanistan or Iraq is a mission in itself.  There are dedicated volunteers who sometimes put their own lives at risk helping to get these animals out of the country.  In the UK, Canada and United States, there are retired military personal helping out to get these animals back to the soldiers' homes.  There is an organization, ( that works to bring soldiers' dogs and cats home.  It is also an expensive proposition.  Private Roy-Hampton raised about $3,000 required to bring a young dog named Guts home to Canada.  Guts has been renamed to Gus and he is now experiencing a great life on the soldier's family farm just outside of Regina, Saskatchewan waiting for his master to come home.   This story touches your heart as Gus was a four week old puppy, orphaned and malnourished when he first appeared in a mess tent for Canadian soldiers at a remote posting in Afghanistan.

You can read more about bringing adopted dogs back to Canada in the May 3, 2010 edition of the Globe and Mail.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


One of my favorite rib recipes is to cut side or back ribs into individual or three rib pieces, simmer the ribs in water until the meat is cooked, (about 15 or 20 minutes) and then open up a bottle of garlic rib marinade and pour the marinade over the ribs in a roasting pan.  I bake them at 350 degrees F for about 50 minutes.  The sugar from the marinade is caramelized and the sauce bakes onto the meat.  I usually find the marinade in the Chinese food section of the local grocery store.

I realized that I could just as easily make my own marinade as it is basically garlic, sugar and soy sauce.  I found the following recipe on and made a few changes.  For the vinegar, I used a blackberry balsamic vinegar and it worked out really well.  To measure out 1/8 of a cup I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup and just fill it to half to get the 1/8th measure.  After baking for 90 minutes, the sauce was very caramelized on the ribs and the picture above shows the sauce baked into the meat.


2 pounds pork spareribs
1/4 cup honey
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup white vinegar or balsamic
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
garlic powder or salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F .

Slice the ribs into pieces. In a large bowl, combine the honey, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and brown sugar. Stir until honey and sugar are completely dissolved, then stir in the baking soda. The mixture will begin to foam.
Transfer ribs to the bowl, and turn to coat.

Cover a cookie sheet with several layers of foil, and arrange the ribs meat side up on the sheet. Baste the excess sauce over the ribs and sprinkle with the garlic powder or salt.

Bake for 30 minutes uncovered and then turn the ribs over.  Baste with the leftover sauce and loosely cover the meat with a sheet of tin foil.  About every half hour, turn the meat over.  Bake for about 90 minutes.  Serves 2 to 3 people.  To serve more people, use 4 pounds of ribs and double the sauce mixture. 

Monday, May 24, 2010


We need to set the stage for a potential opportunity for a partnership.  First you need to meet the suspects and understand the situation.

The dog has several strong preferences including tennis or other rubber balls and shoes. Two recent casualties are a dog statue that was in the way between the dog and catching a tennis ball and my inaccuracy in throwing it.  The second casualty was a shoe that proved too irresistible for him to disregard.  He had to have a good chew on a shoe that was one half of a newly purchased pair.   In fact, I had only wore them once.  The dog has acquired the skill of opening pocket doors and in this instance he went into my clothes closet and found a lid of one of my plastic shoe boxes not snapped on tightly.  The rest is history.  I did take the shoe and chewed leather piece to get repaired and I should get the repaired shoe back in 2 weeks.  There is also minor repairs required to the front strap.

The second suspect is a drawer, cupboard and door opening cat.  The cat likes to open things and I haven't been able to figure out how she gets such strength in her paws to open a variety of things.  In some cases she will take a snooze in a cupboard or drawer she has opened.
My angst is related to the ability of the cat that likes to open drawers and closet doors and a dog that likes to prance around with objects he has retrieved including shoes, socks and gloves.  What would happen if they started to communicate and work together in a collaborative manner and teamed up.  Can dogs and cats understand meows or barks or can they interpret certain looks and glares.  How do they read each other's body language?  They could have access to clothes, shoes, food and outdoor wear and could create mayhem and disorder.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


The rhubarb in the garden started to come up in April and I have been watching to see when we would get our first pick of the season.  I can't remember picking it by the May long weekend.   But that is what I did on the Friday night.  I picked big stalks and picked more than what I could use to make a large pan of rhubarb strawberry crisp.  I used frozen strawberries that we had picked last summer at a local U-Pick farm.  These strawberries are much sweeter than what I would ever buy at the store.  I like the combination of rhubarb with strawberries and also rhubarb with apples.  The following two photos show the topping being added to the unbaked crisp and then the finished product.  Of course I had to have the crisp with some homemade ice cream.



8 cups rhubarb, chopped into small pieces
2 tbsp cornstarch
2-3 cups frozen or fresh strawberries
¼ cup flour
2/3 cup splenda or sugar


1 ¼ cups rolled oats, not instant
½ cup brown sugar
4 tbsp flour
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp melted butter or margarine


In a large bowl, mix the rhubarb with the cornstarch.  Add the strawberries, flour and sugar   Mix well.  Pour into a 9 X 13 inch baking dish.  I spray the baking dish with Pam beforehand. 

Into the empty bowl, mix together all of the topping ingredients.   Spread the topping over the filling that is in the baking dish.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 40 to 50 minutes until the filling is bubbly and the topping is brown.  If the topping is browning too quickly, lower the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


After seeing the beaver by his lodge one early morning and realizing that I didn't have my camera with me, I have started to take my camera on my walks along the creek.  There is all sorts of wildlife to watch and sounds to listen to.   These baby goslings were less than a week old when I snapped this picture.
This pair of mallard ducks started to waddle off when they saw the dog and I coming their way.  They were not in a big hurry.  

These geese are the same ones with the goslings.
I took the picture of these five rabbits from a distance.  I knew that I couldn't get very close to them before they would take off and run in several directions.   
A red winged black bird.

My companion who thinks it is great to go walking each morning.  He is wearing a haltie around his nose.  Same concept as a horse or cattle halter.  It gives you more control than just trying to manage with a leash clipped to a collar.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Last Christmas I got an ice cream maker as a gift.  I love ice cream and it is my once a week treat.  I use to have difficulty having ice cream in the house and being able to resist not having daily sampling sessions with the spoon and the container.  I have overcome that difficulty for whatever reason and can now leave the ice cream alone and just have a single bowl on the weekend.

I have frozen sour cherries in the freezer, pitted and ready to eat.  We have two sour cherry trees in our garden and last year they bore a lot of fruit.  The cherries are not that sour and I have made jam from them.  I had the revelation this week that I should make ice cream from the frozen sour cherries.  The ice cream turned out great.  I followed the recipe provided below except that since the mixture was already so cold and starting to thicken, I couldn't get the ice cream paddle to work when all of the ingredients were in the freezing bowl.  I came to the conclusion that using this recipe and directions, you don't need an ice cream maker to make ice cream from frozen berries.  I added the grated chocolate to the mixture in the freezer bowl once I realized that the paddle was not going to mix the contents.  I empty the contents into a plastic container that had a lid and put it in the freezer for several hours before enjoying a bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce.   The ice cream was enjoyed while sitting outside on the deck and having the dog watching me intently while I enjoyed each spoonful.  Yes, he did get to lick the bowl!

Here is a photo of the everything being mixed before being added to the freezer bowl.  For the heavy cream,  I used whipping cream.

Ice Cream Made from Frozen Berries
2 cups (500 ml) frozen strawberries, sour cherries, or blue berries
3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup sugar, divided

1 cup whole milk, well chilled

2 cups heavy cream, well chilled

1 teaspoons (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/3 dark chocolate bar, grated
In a blender, combine the frozen fruit with the lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the sugar.  If it is too thick to puree, add 2 or 3 tbsp of milk.  Let the mixture sit for a few minutes.
In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed or whisk to combine the milk and remaining granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.  Mix well.  Add the frozen berry mixture.  Mix well and churn with your whisk or wooden spoon for a few minutes.
If using an ice cream machine, pour the mixture into freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Five minutes before mixing is completed, add the grated dark chocolate and let mix in completely.   Empty the ice cream from the freezer bowl into a covered container and store in the freezer.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I like to eat most kinds of fish.  I will eat sushi, pickled, smoked and cooked fish.  When I cook fish, I tend to gravitate towards the standard fish - salmon, steelhead trout, halibut, cod or shrimp.   I will try other kinds of fish when I am out at restaurants besides these standbys.   I do have a weakness for smoked salmon and bagels and the ultimate is a montreal bagel with cream cheese, capers, a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice and nova scotia style smoked salmon.

I also like pickled fish and that is usually herring.  I once made my own pickled herring but it is easier to buy it in the jar.

On several occasions I have had gravalox which is a dry cured salmon and pickled salmon.   I have had the opportunity to eat pickled salmon at a friend's house over the past few years and I believe she got the recipe from a New York Times cookbook.   She graciously gave me the recipe and I have made it before but was reminded how much I liked this past Spring when I had the pleasure of eating it again at their place.

I made the recipe today but only made half the quantity.   I used atlantic salmon and I did not layer the salmon, onions and pickling spices in alternating additions but instead layered the bottom of a plastic container with the salmon pieces followed by the rest of the ingredients.  I also didn't need to weigh down the fish as it did not float in the marinade.  I did make all of the marinade but only used about 2 pounds of fish.  The following photos show the salmon pieces being covered by the onion followed by the balance of the ingredients.

1/2 cup white vinegar
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons kosher salt
12 bay leaves
4 tablespoons mixed pickling spices
4 white or yellow onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 pounds salmon fillet, skin and bones removed

Bring the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to a boil. Let this mixture cool completely.
Cut the-salmon into pieces that are approximately 1 inch by 2 inches. In a ceramic crock, glass bowl or plastic container, place a layer of salmon pieces, then a sprinkling of pickling spices and-bay leaves, a layer of sliced onions, then repeat the layering of salmon, spices, and onions until you have used them all.  Pour the cooled marinade over the fish.  If the fish has a-tendency to float, weigh down the fish with a ceramic plate.
Cover the container. Refrigerate-the salmon for 3 to 5 days.  Yields 4-6 servings

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


As part of my morning routine, the dog and I take our daily morning walk and check out the neighbourhood, the creek, the parks and the wildlife.  Our walks can vary depending on the weather, my energy levels, how much time we have and if the sun has started to rise.

One route we both like to take is a walking/bike path that goes along a creek.  The creek attracts all sorts of birds including song birds, ducks and geese and beavers.  Also I have spotted deer and coyotes near the creek.

Yesterday morning I saw a beaver sitting beside his lodge.  Of course I didn't have my camera with me to get a photo of him/her.  I will call the beaver a him as it looked more masculine and he was big.  I walked close to the edge of the creek to try to get his attention and he couldn't care less about me.  He paid no attention to my voice and didn't even acknowledge my existence.  I am not use to such rejection.  The dog was with me and he could have been over to him in two shakes of a paw by jumping into the creek and swimming over.  It wouldn't have mattered that I would have been at the end of the leash.  I would have been swimming too.  The dog didn't pay any attention to the beaver.  He had his nose to the ground fascinated by millions of smells and breathing all of it in.

This morning I took my camera with me on our morning walk determined to see the beaver again and maybe get a picture of him by his lodge.

In this picture you can see him swimming along the creek with a few ducks in the background.

This is another head shot and it doesn't show the size of this beaver.  These pictures were taken while holding the camera, trying to focus the picture and the dog moving around me while on his leash with his nose to the ground and drinking in all of the wonderful smells that only a dog can love.  This is a perfect way to start the morning - the solitude and sounds of life around a creek.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Lentils are quick cooking and versatile to use in different recipes.  I use lentils mainly in soups and salads.  They can also be used instead as a meat substitute to make loafs and burgers.  I have three different kinds of lentils - french (they are small and green and great in salads), red and brown.  I do enjoy lentil soup and I am providing you with one of my favorite recipes.  I like lemon juice and tend to use 3 tablespoons in this recipe.  This recipe is adapted from a Bonnie Stern cookbook.  If you don't have the red lentils you can use the brown lentils.  The brown lentils are larger and therefore take longer to cook.


2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or minced
pinch of hot red pepper flakes
1 stalk of celery, chopped
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped into chunks
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 cups red lentils
6 cups of chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
2 to 3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley


Heat the oil in a large soup pot.  Saute the onions, garlic, red pepper and celery on medium heat for about 3 to 5 minutes.  Do not brown.   Add the cumin and cook for about 30 seconds.  Stir in the lentils and combine well.  Add the stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer until the lentils and vegetables are tender.  This will take about 30 minutes.  If desired, puree the soup with a hand held blender.  If the soup is too thick, thin with some water.  Add the lemon juice and herbs.  Serves about 6 people.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Couscous has been eaten in parts of the Middle East and Europe for centuries.  Couscous are granules made from coarsely ground duram wheat.  Certain cultures may use other grains than wheat.   There are three kinds of couscous that you can buy at the stores where I shop - regular, whole wheat and Israeli.  I usually buy the regular or whole wheat couscous and find that it is a quick side dish to make.  You can have a side dish ready in less than 15 minutes.  It has a quick cooking time as the product sold in North America has already been pre-steamed and dried.  The traditional couscous requires lots of cooking time and is usually steamed.   Israeli couscous are larger granules and it reminds me of tapioca.  I don't make it too often as I find it has a different texture than the regular and whole wheat couscous.

I do like to dress up couscous as it is quite plain and just like plain spaghetti, it can taste boring on its own.  I made the following recipe and enjoyed the combination of flavours, particularly the cinnamon.



1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
½ tbsp olive oil
1 cup couscous
1 stalk of celery
1/3 cup raisins
½ small shallot, diced
¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 tbsp lemon juice
dash of cinnamon
1 tbsp olive oil


In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil the chicken stock and ½ tbsp olive oil.  Add the couscous to the boiling water.  Cover and remove from heat.  Let stand covered for about 4 minutes.

Fluff the couscous and transfer to a serving bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients and combine well.  Serves about 3.

Adapted from The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I recently read a number of articles in Science Daily on the benefits of laughter in maintaining your health and preventing diseases.   Laughing makes you feel better and even a yoga class using laughter has been developed (hasya yoga). 

What are the health benefits of laughter?   Laughter helps to reduce stress; enhance the immune system; strengthen cardiovascular functions; oxygenate the body by boosting the respiratory system; improve circulation; tone muscles and help with digestion and constipation (Science Daily May 6, 2008).   

How did this connection between laughter and health occur?   In the 1970s, Norman Cousins, a writer and magazine editor was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.  He realized that if stress could worsen his condition, then having positive emotions would have the effect of improving his health.   Working with his physician, he watched video comedies and television shows like Candid Camera.   His disease went into remission   Cousins wrote a scientific paper for the New England Journal of Medicine and also a bestseller on his experience. 

As a result of Cousins’ finding, a number of medical researchers started to examine the physical changes in the body due to positive emotions and laughter.   Beginning in the 1980s, Dr. Lee Berk and his colleagues (Science Daily April 17, 2009) started to measure hormones.  They found that people who watched video comedies had elevated levels of hormones associated with moods and immunity.  They also found in their studies that positive laughter reduced the levels of stress hormones that can be detrimental to the immune system at high levels.   Another interesting finding was in the area of diabetes.   Dr. Berk and other researchers found that good laughter and a positive mood in diabetic patients caused increased levels of good cholesterol, lower inflammation. and lower stress levels.   The researchers have also suggested that these positive emotions may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

On Friday night the DH and I went with friends to see Martin Short perform in person at a local venue.   I haven’t laughed with such vigor in a long time.    My stomach hurt from laughing so much.   I do like to laugh and enjoy comedies, now I have scientific reason to keep on watching some of the crazy comedy shows on television.