Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stay Tuned for a Visit from a Superhero!

Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep

Superhero Zachary can fly higher than Superman!

How is this possible? What does he eat? This superhero is prepared to reveal his secret diet with us at the end of June. 

Zachary is the main character in my wife, Kathy Stemke's new book, Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep.  He will be stopping by this blog on his Virtual Book Tour. 

Check out some reviews here:

In Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep, Kathy Stemke tells a story that children, especially those who have younger siblings, can relate to. Zachary's life takes a drastic change when a baby sister enters it. He puts on his special glasses and uses his creative imagination to become a superhero and quiet all the wild and noisy commotions that disturb her sleep. Each page of this delightful book is filled with bold, colorful illustrations by Jack Foster and has cute rhymes, which add to the fun. As an added bonus, there are games, word puzzles, a song, and rhymes at the end of the book. It's a great book for home and the classroom.
Review by
Connie Arnold
Having a new baby in the house can be a stressful situation for the parents, but don't forget the affect it has on the baby's older siblings. This is the premise of Kathy Stemke's delightful children's picture book, Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep.

Before Layla joined the family, Zachary's time was his own, whether playing, feeding the bird, or going to school. Now, his time revolves around the needs of his baby sister. His mother needs this for the baby and she needs that for the baby. And, shhhh, Zachary needs to be sure Layla doesn't wake up. And, he's just about fed-up.

Escaping the annoying and boring tasks that his mother asks of him for the baby, Zachary dons a pair of black-rimmed glasses and turns into what every little boy would love to be . . . a superhero. And, in superhero-mode he saves his baby sister from a ferocious bear, a tooting train, and a number of other calamities that either scare or awaken little Layla. One action adventure after another.

Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep is a story that children will absolutely love and will easily be able to relate to. How many children get annoyed that they're no longer the center of attention, or that they have to help take care of the baby, or that the family revolves around the baby's needs. Stemke addresses this issue in a fun-filled manner that shows children who feel this way, they are not alone and all is not lost.

With amazing and vivid full page illustrations and witty rhymes that lend themselves to teaching children consonant blends, this story will be a wonderful addition to every child's library, as well as the classroom.

At the end of the book, Stemke includes a "Teacher Supplement" that includes:

* The link to a template of thick black-framed glasses that Zachary wore
* Comprehension questions
* A consonant blend song
* A consonant blend musical chairs game
* A consonant blend worksheet
* Dolch Sight Words Recognition exercise
* Instructions for Beanbag Hoop Toss

Review by
Karen Cioffi

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


The charming old Apple Brown Betty, dating from colonial times, is related to a cobbler or bread pudding. Basically, a “betty” is a baked dessert comprised of a layering of spiced, sweetened fruit with buttered bread cubes or crumbs. The most well known “betty” is the apple brown “betty”, which of course features apples. 

The crumbs for a “betty” can be toasted white bread or oats, but graham crackers, untraditional until the 1950’s, make a fabulous accompaniment to apples, either mixed with or as a replacement for the breadcrumbs. Instead of layering, mixing all thoroughly in a bowl is also good.

I was going through some old materials in a box and came across a recipe my late aunt used to use; I haven’t had this dessert in decades now. Many people I ask have heard of Apple Brown Betty, but none have ever eaten any.

I baked some the other day and it was excellent. Not quite a bread pudding, nor a cobbler, but a delightful hybrid. Many times when re-visiting something from the past, it’s not the same as you remembered, but apple brown betty certainly is a wonderful dessert.

Here is the old recipe.

Apple Brown Betty                           serves 6

1-cup soft bread crumbs (Or replace with crushed graham crackers or a flaked cereal)
4 tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons of grated orange peel
½ cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
4 medium apples; peeled, cored and sliced or diced
¼ cup, approximately, of orange juice

Preheat oven to 375F/190C.
Mix everything except the apples and orange juice in a bowl
Put half of the prepared apples in a buttered baking dish

Cover with half of the crumb mixture
Add remaining apple slices and cover with remaining crumb mixture
Sprinkle with the orange juice. 

Cover and bake for 45 minutes. I didn’t, but you can uncover and crisp the top for ten minutes or so.

You could serve this with cream, custard sauce, vanilla cream sauce, or any dessert sauce. We liked it with vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Basil, from the Greek basileus, which means “King”, is a wonderful aromatic herb that adds flavour to many foods.

The most common use of basil is for tomato sauce and pesto. I like to sprinkle dried basil over salads and sliced tomatoes, for which it has a particular affinity.  Basil also pairs up alluringly with onions and garlic.

Since I use so much basil, when I saw a giant 26 ounce container of dried sweet basil selling for just a couple of dollars, I bought it. A friend calls it “a lifetime supply”, but I doubt it.

This wonderful king of herbs is widely used for Thai dishes as well as Italian cuisine. Soups, stews, compound butters, flavoured oils and of course Pizza, Focaccia and Bruschetta are all enhanced by basil.

I’m happily using dried basil every chance I get but if you don’t make use of it often, here are a couple of applications you might be interested in knowing about.

Simple Lemon Butter Sauce

This goes well on broiled fish fillets or blanched broccoli spears.

3 tablespoons of butter, melted
1 teaspoon of lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon of dried basil

Parmesan Basil Butter Sauce

This easy sauce is fabulous for corn on the cob.

3 tablespoons of butter, melted
1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil

For either sauce, combine all and heat in microwave or stovetop.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Beat the heat during your weekend grilling sessions in a novel way—with soup; a cold soup. Perfect as a first course at any meal, a cold soup is great for a backyard barbecue.

Although always popular in Eastern Europe, cold soups didn’t make their mark in North America until 1917, when Ritz hotel chef Louis Diat invented Vichyssoise, named for a French resort, consisting of potatoes and leeks. Now other cold soups are popular, like Gazpacho, and especially fruit soups.

That’s great, but we just want a no-nonsense, tasty, refreshing, cold fruit soup to compliment our cookout. So here’s a creamy berry soup sure to please your guests and yourself as well, as it is so easy to prepare.

Let’s make some and put it in the refrigerator.

Creamy Berry Soup                           serves 6-8

2 pints of fresh or frozen fruit (raspberries, strawberries etc.)
½ cup of sugar (taste, perhaps adding more for the fruit or personal taste)
¼ cup cranberry juice
1 cup of sour cream

Put the fruit, sugar and juice in an electric blender. If you are using frozen fruit you may want to heat it slightly so the sugar dissolves properly. Cover and blend until well mixed. Remove to suitable bowl and stir in the sour cream. Cover the bowl and chill for 30-60 minutes.

Put it out with a nice ladle and bowls (single- use are welcome), maybe garnish with some berries or a teaspoon of sour cream if you please.

That’s it. Enjoy.

Friday, May 13, 2011


The long cold winter seems to be over and the weather is warming up. People are going to be spending more time outside; I already see charcoal braziers being set up here in the neighbourhood.  One dish I’ve always been fond of with barbecue is a nice, easy to prepare, spinach salad with bacon. The spectacular thing about this salad is its versatility. You can offer a liberal assortment of extras to garnish or enhance this spinach salad in many ways. I always set out my homemade sweet sliced pickles and jalapeno bread & butter pickles, along with a personally variable spinach salad that is always devoured quickly.          

Here is a basic spinach salad method that can be made diverse in accordance with tastes and/or available groceries. Most grocers stock those bags of baby spinach; so tender you can eat the stems. They are not as delicate as lettuces and are very convenient for outdoor get- togethers. What do you say? Come on, let’s do it.

Basic ingredients                  serves 6

1 lb tender, fresh, baby spinach leaves, cleaned
8 slices bacon
1 small red onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
½ cup vinegar (red wine, apple cider or a fruity vinegar)
Salt and black pepper to taste


  • Dry spinach if you washed it; keep in the refrigerator until ready.
  • Cook the bacon until crisp, remove to drain on paper towels.
  • Save the bacon fat, crumble the drained bacon. This can be done earlier.

  • When you are ready, place the spinach in a salad bowl.
  • Heat the skillet of bacon fat; cook the onions and garlic gently for a few minutes.
  • Stir in the vinegar, salt and pepper and bring to the boil.
  • When boiling begins, stir and pour over spinach and then sprinkle on the crumbled bacon.

That’s the basic spinach salad but you can amend it in several appetizing ways.

If you like, add:
·       Shredded carrot or red cabbage
·       Drained tin of mandarin oranges or fresh sliced strawberries
·       Diced red or yellow bell pepper
·       Crumbled blue cheese or shredded cheddar
·       Hard boiled eggs, sliced or quartered
·       Sesame seeds or tree nuts
·       Etc. etc.

Try your own personal spinach salad at your next cookout and you’ll probably discover your own ideal additions too. I’m sure you’ll love it.

Enjoy responsibly.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Chicken is a universal food, and everybody has his or her own favourite way of preparing it. Curried chicken dishes are popular whether from India or the Caribbean, but Indonesian chicken curry is not so well known outside of Southeast Asia.

Indonesia, with its fifteen thousand islands, covers a large portion of Southeast Asia, and in the early twenty-first century its population (209.4 million) ranked fourth among the world's most populous nations.  Indonesia, with so many regional traditions and ethnic diversity, has one of the richest cuisines.

A while back I saw an Indonesian chicken curry recipe in a book entitled “The Encyclopedia Of Asian Cooking” edited by Jeni Wright, Octopus Books Limited, London, UK. 1980. I copied the recipe down but didn’t have all the ingredients such as candlenuts or Salam leaf so I made substitutions.  It was different from other curries and quite delicious.  My BW and I enjoyed it and finished the rest of it the next day, at which point it actually seemed to taste even better. The next time I made it I changed a couple of things, and I believe you will find this an exciting dining treat for a nice change of taste, perhaps during a weeknight. Once assembled it simmers awhile; you could set your timer and do something else while it cooks. Make a pot of rice to go with it.

One would think this curry would be better known, because everyone can agree that it is truly wonderful. I think you will as well.

Indonesian Chicken Curry (Kelia Ayam)             serves 4-6

3 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 macadamia nuts, chopped
20 fluid ounces (600ml) coconut milk
1 tablespoon minced gingerroot     
1 teaspoon ground red pepper (chili powder)
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 bay leaves
Salt to taste
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon cornstarch to coat the chicken

Put the chicken pieces in a bowl and sprinkle on the cornstarch and massage it in all over.

Put half of each of the first three ingredients in an electric blender; add just enough of the coconut milk (3 tablespoons or so) and blend until smooth. Repeat with the other half.

Heat a deep skillet or dutch oven and pour the blended ingredients into it.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir thoroughly while bringing to the boil and then simmer gently for about forty minutes. The sauce should be thickened now. If not, remove the chicken and reduce further. Taste for salt.

This is good served with steamed rice. Enjoy.  

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