Saturday, January 29, 2011


One of my favorite movies, that I never tire of watching is Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.  There are a number of scenes worthy of comment including the shopping on Rodeo Drive, the sports cars, the hotel, and the polo match.  The polo scene in the movie showed everyone dressed up for a charity event at a polo match.  Julia Roberts was wearing a sleeveless brown polka dot dress and a lovely hat.  You don’t need to get dressed up to go watch polo.  I went to my first polo match in casual summer attire.  I may have also been wearing a ball cap.

Polo has been around as early as 500 BC when it was played by Persian noblemen.  The Indian army introduced polo to the Western world and the 19th century British cavalry officers refined the game.  

Polo is really about the horse or polo pony.   Most ponies are about three quarters thoroughbred of needing stamina, speed and the disposition for polo.  If you don’t have a good horse to play polo, you will be left behind the others while chasing the ball.  The original American polo pony was limited to 14.2 hands and was developed from the cutting horses used by ranchers.  Today’s pony doesn’t have a height restriction but usually averages 15 to 16 hands.  The average age of a playing pony is nine years old but they can also play well into their teens.

Polo consists of two teams that play against each other.  Whoever scores the most goals wins.  Each team has four players who play certain positions.  Position one plays offense and stays up front to get the passes and score the goals.  Position two plays defense and offense and goes back and forth.  This player needs to be fast and aggressive.  Position three is like the quarterback.  This person stays more behind and figures out the strategy.  Position four plays defense and tries to stop position one of the opposing team from scoring goals.  Finally the captain of the team can be any one of these four players  How you tell which person is playing which position is by the number on the back of their shirt.  The game I watched had two referees on horseback and they will blow a whistle if anyone commits a foul.  A foul can be called for a variety of reasons.

Each player has a handicap and it is given to them by one of the professional associations.  You are ranked on control of your horse, how well you hit the ball, how well you play.  The higher the handicap you have, the better the player you are.  The games can be described as low, medium and high goal polo.  The high goal games would have better players and horses.

As you can see from the pictures, the ball is hit with a mallet in order to move it down the field.  These horse and riders can be going pretty fast.  They also have a lot of ground to cover as the playing filed is 300 yards long by 160 yards wide.  This is the approximate area of nine American football fields.

Polo is different than hockey or football where you change sides after each period or quarter.  Every time a goal is scored they change sides.  The periods or quarters are called chukkers and each one is usually seven minutes.  Depending on location, a game can have four or six chukkers.  Furthermore, the horses are changed after each chukker.  Three minutes are allowed for changing your horse.  Horses need to be changed after each chukker as they can cover a lot of ground.  Sometimes the horses can cover three miles in each chukker.  In high goal polo most players takes 10 horses to each game while lower goal polo will require less mounts as the game is played a bit slower.
If any of you get a chance to watch a polo game, do so as it is quite enjoyable.  I enjoyed watching the game, the horsemanship, being outdoors, the pace of the game and the skill needed to score the goals.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I have never made falafel before and the desire to try to make this was from another blogger's site that I read vegan epicurean.  She only cooks vegan and has some interesting recipes.  Some of the food combinations are not for my tastes.  However, I made her recipe and also made some changes to it.  The recipe below includes my adjustments.  The falafel tastes great but they look like little pancakes.  They were likely too wet to retain the round ball shape.  I added a bit more tahini than the recipe calls.  Plus the recipe has baking soda so they do expand.  They are low in calories.
Mixing everything in the bowl after the ingredients have been pureed.

On parchment paper and ready for baking.

My pancake shaped falafel.
1 large can of chick peas, drained ( I try to use the salt free can)
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 yellow, white or red onion
1/2 zucchini, cut into slices
4 carrots, sliced
4 tsp tahini
1cup fresh cilantro
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp baking soda
black pepper, to taste

In a blender or food processor, puree the chick peas with the lemon juice.  Place the chick peas in a large bowl.  Into the blender add the remaining ingredients except for the baking soda and pepper.  Blend/puree well.  Add the puree vegetables to the chick peas and mix well.  Add the baking soda and pepper.  Mix well.

Since my mixture wasn't stiff enough, I knew that they would not be perfectly shaped round balls.  Using a tablespoon, place a dollop onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  I sprayed the parchment paper with Pam.  Leave a little bit of space between the balls.  Place into a 350 degree F oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and let it sit on the stove for a few minutes.  You need to allow it a few minutes to cool before flipping each one over.  Flip each one over using a spatula and bake for another 10 minutes.   Makes 36 to 40 balls or mini pancakes.  You can freeze them on the cookie sheet in a single layer and then place them in a freezer bag once frozen.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Since I eat a lot of soups, it is good to have some variety.  I started to think about making this recipe first as corn chowder but it evolved to a vegetable chowder that also included some leftover cooked turkey that was in the freezer.  Adding turkey or chicken is optional and provides additional protein.  This is a great soup for lunches.  You can add other vegetables than the ones I have listed here.  To me, a chowder has to have corn, onion and milk and the other ingredients can vary.
The soup has finished cooking in my big soup pot. 
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
2 tbsp flour
7 cups of water
2 tsp chicken bouillon powder
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
wedge of green cabbage, chopped
2 cups frozen niblets corn
1/2 tsp dried basil or thyme
2 cups cooked turkey or chicken (optional)
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat the oil to medium heat. Saute the onions, celery and carrots for 6 to 8 minutes.  If the vegetables are sticking to the pot add a bit of water. Add the flour, stir and cook for one minute longer.

Add the water and stir.  Add the bouillon, the remaining vegetables and the basil/thyme.  Simmer for an hour.  Puree half of the soup and add the chicken/turkey.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Add the milk and cook for another 5 minutes (don't boil).  Makes about 8 to 10 servings.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Recently I was at Costco doing some grocery shopping.  It was past the lunch hour and even though I sampled a few food products which Costco is famous for doing, it wasn't enough to sustain me for the afternoon. As there were other errands to run after Costco, I knew that I would be hungry in short order.  That was also the feeling of my DH, sister-in-law and brother-in-law.  

We decided to get a soft nonfat yogurt ice cream.  Ice cream is my favorite food.  My brother-in-law said he could share with his wife but we said no, who wants to share a cone?  He could have his own cone.  For some reason I thought we were getting baby cones as the price was $1.35.  We are not talking big dollars here.  I never paid much attention to the photo of the ice cream but had only focussed on the flavours and price.

Saddling up to the counter, I ordered four swirl nonfat yogurt ice creams.  The server goes to the ice cream machine and she comes back with this container of ice cream.  Back and forth she goes from ice cream machine to the counter as each one of the four containers are assembled.  She asks me if I want a lid for each container.  A lid?  Why would I need a lid?  By this time I have the giggles and can't stop myself myself from laughing.  I thought I was getting cones and here I am getting four pints of ice cream.  The server asks if something is wrong and I bumble through my giggles about a $1.35 and all of this ice cream and she responds in a straight face, that is really $1.43 because of paying some taxes to the government.  My sister-in-law comes to the counter and starts to laugh seeing me laugh and these pints of ice cream.

After securing some table space with four chairs, we get to work.  Eating this amount of ice cream was going to take focus and concentration plus laughter as we all had expected, except my brother-in-law, baby cones.  He knew that these ice creams were like pint size and that was his initial premise for sharing.
To illustrate how much ice cream there was, I took this picture of the container against the back of a book I bought.  On a side note, the book involves a dog -  a lab retriever, so once I saw the dog on the cover of the book, I was buying the book.

We all spent some time trying to consume this fair amount of ice cream.  None of us like not finishing the food we have put on our plate or ordered, it is against our better principles.  But, how much ice cream can you eat?  We were beaten, all of us couldn't finish our containers of ice cream.   I can always eat ice cream.  This was a rare occasion for me.  


Thursday, January 20, 2011


Parmesan crisps add a nice touch to salads and other side dishes.  They are really easy to make.  Essentially it is circles of grated cheese that is baked. Instead of using parmesan cheese, you can use asiago cheese or other cheeses.  I used asiago cheese to make these crisps.   I have provided the directions to make the crisps in the following photos.  I left these crisps remain flat like crackers but you can also wrap them against a rolling pin when you take them out of the oven if you want them to be curled.

Shred about 1/3 cup of cheese. 

On a baking sheet, arrange shredded cheese into 2 inch round mounds on parchment paper.   Bake at  350 degrees for five minutes until golden brown. 

Out of the oven and cooling. You can see the oil from the cheese on the parchment paper. 

The crisps are a great addition to a salad.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I have heard about an experiment going on where you wear just six items of clothing for 30 days.  There are clothes that don't count as part of the six items - shoes, accessories, underwear, coats, swimwear, exercise gear or specialized clothing required for work such as in the medical field. The experiment began among a group of friends and caught the eye of others who wanted to be part of the experience.

A paragraph from a NY Times article explains this event: "This self-imposed exercise in frugality was prompted by a Web challenge called Six Items or Less ( The premise was to go an entire month wearing only six items already found in your closet (not counting shoes, underwear or accessories). Nearly 100 people around the country, and in faraway places like Dubai and Bangalore, India, were also taking part in the regimen, with motives including a way to trim back on spending, an outright rejection of fashion, and a concern that the mass production and global transportation of increasingly cheap clothing was damaging the environment.  Meanwhile, an even stricter program, the Great American Apparel Diet, which began on Sept. 1, has attracted pledges by more than 150 women and two men to abstain from buying for an entire year. " (NY Times article).

Recently in the Globe and Mail, an article written by Angela Self, who writes a weekly column, described her commencement of wearing just six items of clothing for the next 30 days.  She reports that one noted stylist feels your style and bank account will come out winners if you are strategic about what you buy.  Her article states that studies have shown that we wear only about 20 to 30 percent of our wardrobes and that we have go-to outfits.  I can believe that!  I do not wear all of the clothes hanging in my closet or packed in my drawers.  Furthermore, I do gravitate towards certain clothes and wear them more than others.  Angela Self writes about testing this theory using a hanger test.  Flip all of your hangers backwards, then whenever you wear something, place the hanger in the right direction.   By doing this for two or three months you will quickly see what you wear and what you may need to think about donating, altering or selling.  Of course you have to be conscious of the seasons particularly if you live with four seasons of weather.

In reviewing several internet sites including that of "Six Items of Less" the comments left by readers support or criticize this experiment.  Much can be said about the home environment you grew up in, your weight and whether you have different clothes for your plus or minus 10 to 15 pounds weight range, your self worth, and your personal style.  One comment made by a reader was that they could cope much easier with 10 items and would prefer that option.  For those that took on the challenge, did their shopping habits change afterwards?  What did they do after the 30 days?

After reading this article, I asked the DH if he could wear only six items of clothing for a month. He replied that he does it already.  In essence he gravitates towards certain clothes and mostly wears the same clothes all of the time.  I have been thinking about whether I could do this exercise or a modified exercise of buying less and owning less clothes.  Would I get bored bored bored from a limited selection?  I do have clothes hanging in my closet that I don't wear very often and can count on one hand how many times I have worn that particular outfit.  I have clothes that I keep for nostalgic purposes; think that I will wear the item sometime soon; it was pricey, bought it on a whim and I need to keep it and wear it to get 'value' out if it; bought the item because I was engaging in retail therapy; bought the item because it was on sale and was such a deal; and finally, I like shopping.  What I do realize and would rather do is buy less but buy an item that is better quality and well made, wear it more often and enjoy it.  Maybe instead of wearing six items, 12 or 20 items is more realistic.  You could also set yourself a budget for the year and use that budget to assist you in your choices if you find yourself indulging in too much retail therapy.  You have to also acknowledge the environment you live in - do you live where the outside temperature can go from minus 30 degrees Celsius to plus 30 degrees Celsius depending on the season?  You do wear different clothes depending if it is summer or winter.

Vivienne Westwood, the fashion designer, has said that one should buy less, choose well and mix it all.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


A friend of ours loves to slow cook meat and one of his favourite recipes uses pork back ribs.  I got this recipe from him and made the ribs one night.  You can't make this recipe in half an hour as slow cooking takes time.  You can vary the spices from the ones I used but you need to allow the time for the meat to slow cook.  The ribs were delicious and I will be making this recipe again.
Mixing the basting sauce.

Back ribs sitting on a rack and cut into portions.

Sauce spread over the ribs and ready for baking.

Just out of the oven and ready to be served.

2 kg of pork back ribs
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried minced onion flakes or powder
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 to 2 tsp brown sugar

Mix the garlic powder, onion, paprika, Worcestershire sauce and olive oil in a small bowl.  Cut the slabs of ribs into smaller portions and place on a rack placed in a roasting type pan.  Coat the topside of the ribs with the sauce mixture.  Bake covered with tin foil for two and a half hours at 275 degrees F.  Then remove the tin foil, sprinkle the tsp of brown sugar over the meat and increase the oven temperature to 325 degrees F for another 45 minutes.  Serves 4 to 5 people. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Eggs are on the menu for one of our supper meals each week.  I usually incorporate vegetables into the egg recipe in order to make it as the main dish.  There is a variety of vegetables you can use - zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, asparagus or green beans.  I decided to make a frittata which is an open faced omelette, cooked slowly in the oven and not runny.  The ingredients used, are provided in the accompanying photos and you can adapt, change the ingredients to your own preferences.

Saute in a frying pan, at medium heat, 1 tbsp olive oil with 1/4 of a chopped red onion and 4 to 5 chopped mushrooms.  Saute for 5 minutes.

Microwave for 2 minutes a cup of mixed vegetables.  I used broccoli and cauliflower. 

Beat 5 eggs in a mixing bowl.

Chop some bread that may be getting stale. I used focaccia made a few days earlier.

Add the bread, microwaved and saute vegetables to the eggs. Mix well. Add 2 tbsp of fresh chopped parsley and salt and pepper to taste. 

Pour into a deep dish pie plate.  I spray the pie plate with Pam.

Top with a few handfuls of spinach.

Add several slices of cheese - whatever you have in the fridge. 

Bake at 325 degrees F for about 30 minutes.  Ready to be served.  This serves 2 people as a main dish.  If serving in wedges as a first course or as part of several dishes it would serve 4 to 5 people. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011


When shopping at Costco, I sometimes buy those big bags of baby spinach leaves.  Spinach can be added to many recipes including salads, omelettes, stir fry, pizza and sandwiches.  I like to saute spinach with garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes.  The recipe is simple to make and the ingredients are provided in the following photos.

In a frying pan, add 1 tbsp olive oil, heat and then saute on medium heat, 1 minced garlic clove and 6 to 7 chopped mushrooms. Saute for 5 minutes.

Add a handful of cherry tomatoes and cook for a few minutes. If you don't have cherry tomatoes, you can add one or two chopped tomatoes. 

Add two big handfuls of spinach leaves, cover and cook on low heat until the spinach has wilted (about 4 minutes).

Ready to serve.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I recently saw the movie "True Grit" directed by the Coen brothers.  It stars Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, Matt Damon as LaBoeuf, Hailee Skinfeld as Mattie Ross and Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney.  This of course is not the first time True Grit has been filmed.  The first "True Grit" movie came out in 1969 and it starred John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn, Glen Campbell as LaBoeuf, Kim Darby as Mattie Ross, Jeff Corey as Tom Chaney, Dennis Hopper as Moon and Robert Duvall as Ned Pepper.

True Grit was a 1968 novel written by Charles Portis and tells the story of a young teenager out for revenge upon the deadly shooting of her father.  She is determined to bring her father's murderer, Tom Chaney, to justice.  Involved in the chase of Tom Chaney is a hard nosed U.S Marshall - Rooster Cogburn and a Texas Ranger - LaBoeuf.

The question you might ask is which version is better.  Both actually have some similar dialogue.  The 2010 version is a bit shorter, by 18 minutes; follows the novel more closely in terms of time of year that the story occurs, Mattie Ross appearing as an older woman and looking back on her life and geographic locations in the U.S.  The Coen brothers are known for their mastery of dialogue in their films and this movie did not disappoint.  The lines, the bantering and the vocabulary was great.  The young actress Hailee Skinfeld (thirteen years old) probably stole the show with her lines. There was an open casting call for the role of Mattie Ross and Hailee Skinfeld beat out 15,000 other girls to get this role.  Overall the 2010 version has better dialogue and filming.   Movie trailer for 2010 film.

The 1969 movie does have some important significance.  This was the only Oscar that John Wayne won.  Barbra Streisand was the presenter for the best actor award and you can see the presentation in this clip - John Wayne winning his only Oscar.  He was competing against Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight (both for the movie Midnight Cowboy), Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole.   

Another interesting fact about this 1969 movie was the Quarter horse used the last scene.  John Wayne fell in love with this horse, a 2 year old chestnut gelding named Dollor.  This horse would appear with him in several more Westerns, including his final movie "The Shootist".  Wayne would not let anyone else ride the horse, the lone exception being Robert Wagner, who rode the horse, after Wayne's death, in an episode of his television show "Hart to Hart". 

What I liked about the 1969 movie was the sound track and song sung by Glen Campbell.
Sound track and trailer sung by Glen Campbell.  The song has a wonderful melody and lyrics and I never tire hearing it.  The DH and I saw Glen Campbell in concert last year and he is still a great singer and an exceptional guitar player.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching him sing. 

One of the songs in the 2010 movie is by Johnny Cash "God is gonna cut you down".  I like Johnny Cash but the song by Glen Campbell is my preference. 

In conclusion, I enjoyed both versions of the movie.  Each had great actors and each tells a wonderful story.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


This past summer a friend of mine made this salad for a supper I was hosting.  It is a great salad.  The basis is bulgar wheat, wild rice and couscous with some added vegetables and fruit.  It keeps in the fridge for several days and can be eaten as a side dish or as a main course.  If eating as a main course you might to add some cheese to the salad such as goat cheese or shredded cheddar.

In making this recipe I added some olive oil and lemon juice as the original recipe doesn't call for it.  I also only made half the recipe as it makes a big bowl.  I intend to bring this salad to work for lunches this week.

Building the salad - bulgar wheat, couscous, wild rice and chopped red onion.

Orange pepper, apricot and apple added.

Chopped parsley is next.

Salad ready for sampling.

Bulgar, wild rice and couscous salad


1 cup dry couscous 
1 cup dry bulgar wheat
1 cup wild rice  
 ½ red onion finely chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 yellow or orange pepper, chopped
1 to 2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 cup dry apricots, chopped
1 ½ cups diced firm apple – add some lime or lemon juice to the chopped apple
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp lemon juice


Place 1 cup couscous in a bowl with 1 cup (plus a bit) of boiling water. Stir and cover for 10 min.  Add the bulgar wheat to another bowl and add 1 cup boiling water, stir, cover, let stand 1 hour.  Some people like to soak the wild rice for 30 minutes before cooking.  Place the wild rice with 1 ½ cup water in a saucepan, bring to boil, then gently boil for 30 -40 minutes.  Drain if there is still water left over. 

Into a large bowel, add all of the ingredients together and mix well.  Serves 8 to 10 people.