Herbs for Cooking and Healing – Rosemary!

Would Maltese food taste as good, if we didn’t add herbs to it? Many Maltese recipes would lose their special taste if we left out certain key herbs and spices. Rosemary (klin in Maltese), a herb which is native to our shores, is one of these. Being indigenous and pertaining to the mint family, this herb tends to grow on rocky outcrops and valley sides. Its habitat and also growth is similar to that of wild thyme, and these plants are often found growing side by side on our cliffs. It does not need a lot of water and grows well even when left to fend for itself.

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Rosemary is a very useful herb. Often called names such as ‘Dew of the Sea’, or ‘Old Man’, it was mostly well-known in folk medicine for boosting memory and improving one’s mood. A study conducted in 2016 by Northumbria University aimed at proving how the scent of rosemary oil could titillate cognitive emotions and researchers in fact found that a percentage of the test subjects exposed to the aroma of rosemary oil could in fact, perform better in feats of memory. It is no wonder that in ancient Greece, students would wear rosemary garlands during their exams!

This perennial evergreen plant has needle-like leaves and small purple, white or blue flowers. Apart from being used as a fragrant essential oil, it is also frequently burnt as an incense and used in cleaning and beauty products. Extracts from its flowers and leaves are also used to treat a variety of disorders, since it contains antibacterial and antioxidant rosmarinic acid. Its oil extracts also contain anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties. Rosemary contains a significant amounts of Vitamin A, which is mostly renowned for providing vision protection, healthy skin and mucus membranes, as well as containing Vitamin C, which synthesizes collagen, the protein required for optimal blood vessels, organs, skin, and bones. It also contains manganese, iron, potassium, fibre and copper, among other beneficial properties.

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It is worthwhile to note that when dried, rosemary is more concentrated. Fresh rosemary on the other hand, can be used to make flavored olive oil, as well as for a number of tasty recipes. A good idea would be to mix fresh rosemary with softened butter or Greek yoghurt to create a delicious sandwich spread. Some well-known traditional Maltese recipes which use rosemary as one of the main ingredients include rabbit in gravy with rosemary and bay leaves, lamb stew, lamb rack with rosemary sauce, and poultry marinated in rosemary and olive oil. Another succulent dish consists of fresh lampuki, or any other kind of fish, baked after being marinated in lemon juice and rosemary.

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Rosemary, both fresh and dried, can be bought from any farmer, spice shop, or apothecary in Malta and Gozo, however if you prefer to grow your own, rosemary plant care is pretty easy. It is better to start the new plant off from another plant’s cutting, rather than the seeds. Rosemary needs well-drained, sandy soil and at least six to eight daily hours of sunlight. Rosemary plants prefer to be dry, so be careful not to water them too much.

This article was written by me and originally published on http://livinginmalta.com/miscellaneuos/maltese-herbs-rosemary/

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PERSONAL – December Ups and Downs

This has been one roller-coaster of a month. Plenty of highs and lows. So, in a nutshell:

During the first week of December, me and my boyfriend went to Sicily for a short 4-day break. You can read the first part of how that went here, but I’ve still got to continue writing about the rest of the trip. You might ask yourself – why is she taking this long to write about a mere 4-day long trip? The point is, I love travelling – I am simply enchanted by the plethora of emotions, new thoughts and ways of perceiving the world which open up whenever I set foot in a country different from my own, with ‘exotic’ mentalities, colors, history and trends, SO I actually don’t find it that easy to describe it all when I come back, because there is just SO MUCH TO SAY! In fact, if you look through my past posts, you’ll realize that I’ve never actually sat down and documented each and every one of the places I’ve traveled to – simply because there are so many of them. However I told myself I’d make an attempt with this 4-day Sicily trip just to see how it would go. Anyhow, there you have it, still to be continued. And don’t worry, it WILL be, all in its own good time.

Got sidetracked there. Sorry.

On our last day in Sicily, I woke up suffering from some serious back-pain. Sciatica to be precise. The pain extended down to my left leg and I could hardly walk. Needless to be said, the last day was the climax of our trip, as we had planned on going for a jeep-trip up Mount Etna… you think I flunked that? AS IF! I still went. Hopping and wincing and dragging my sorry carcass up the whole mountain. And boy, was I glad I did!

More of that in future posts relating to the actual holiday.

We came back on the 12th. Tuesday 13th was a local Public Holiday so I didn’t have to go to work, and spent the whole day in bed resting and hoping my back would get better. It didn’t. On Wednesday, I went to the doctors’ who gave me pills, painkillers, and the advice to get MORE rest. So, that was the second week of December – which I spent in bed sleeping off my pills.

Luckily for me, the pain retreated, and I was okeyish for the weekend. This was important since my birthday was on Saturday 17th, and I knew that my boyfriend had planned the whole weekend with events for me. That is what we do – I plan stuff for his birthday and he plans stuff for mine. We spent some days meeting friends and family, and I really enjoyed that. Kudos luv! Not to mention that one of the pressies I received is a nice voucher from Ryanair to be redeemed by November 2017! Yay!

On Monday I felt a bit better and so went back to work, taking a large cake with me for my colleagues in celebration of my birthday. The cake was in fact so large, that we are still eating from it (we are a small department). And today is the 27th! During the third week of December we also had our ‘official’ Xmas party at work. The food, I admit, wasn’t anything spectacular, HOWEVER I did make up for it with alcohol consumption… enough said. Unfortunately this also meant that I was too tipsy and suffering from a hangover to actually do my Yule ritual. Ah well, I’m sure the Gods didn’t mind all that much since I celebrated with libation anyways.

On the 24th I cooked and slaved the whole day to prepare an enormous family dinner. Family members came late, and I was quite angry about that, but it was ok in the end and the food was a huge success. We still have our fridge packed with delicious left-overs. On the 25th we ate an enormous Indian buffet, after which Aunt Flo came to visit, and actually floored me. I had to stay home and rest to cope with that, so I missed another family gathering in the evening.

I’m so so tired of eating… AND YES my weight has gone up again! Frankly after noticing the first 3 kilos, I stayed away altogether from the bathroom scales… they scare me.

January will come soon enough, and then it will be time to face the music all right!

 

Recipe for a Tasty Maltese Lunch!

FINALLY the weekend is over. I seriously never thought I’d say that. Usually people look forward to the weekend – however this time by Saturday afternoon, I was already looking forward to this particular weekend’s ending. Not gonna go into details – suffice it to say that it is true that bad things come in threes, except that, for me, this time they came in fours… lol

The most I can say for this weekend is that I watched a couple of good horror movies with my bf, and that I cooked some tasty food. So, instead of glossing and agonizing over the details of my unfortunate series of events, I’m going to focus on what I cooked for Sunday lunch.

This is a ‘torta tal-irkotta‘ in Maltese, that is, a Ricotta Pie. I just love ricotta, and hadn’t cooked such a pie in a while.

Here’s my own personal recipe:

Ingredients

1.5kgs fresh ricotta
dough (this can be either home-made or ready-made)
bacon
peas
2/3 eggs
grated cheese
garlic granules
margarine
salt

Method

As you can see, I’m going to omit the making of the pie-crust and just focus on the making of the pie itself.

1. Take the margarine and cook it in a small pan. When it’s done cook the bacon.

2. With the rest of the margarine, smear the borders and all crevices of a large round pie-pan. Open half the dough and place it to form the lower part of the pie-crust.

3. In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, cooked bacon, eggs, grated cheese, garlic and salt to taste. Make sure to mix them thoroughly.

4. Pour the mixture into the open pie-crust and place the other half on top making sure to cover all the mixture.

5. IMPORTANT – Use a fork to puncture the pie-crust in order for the mixture to breathe. This will prevent the dough from inflating due to the eggs.

6. Leave in an oven at medium to high temperature. It will take approximately an hour for the pie to bake to a lovely golden brown.

Enjoy!

Instagram has changed my Life!!

Around 10 weeks ago, I discovered that that most awesome and picturesque (pun intended) of websites – instagram! Better late than never huh?

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So, as of the beginning of November I’ve been having fun taking pics and posting them online. Not only that, Instagram has really made me appreciate the little things in life more, in that now, while in the hunt for possible photos, I see more of the beauty around me and acknowledge it. I was used to taking certain things for granted – for example, I live in a really beautiful country – an island paradise which most people who live in smog-choked cities can only dream of – and yes, I wasn’t appreciating it at all. I’ve been living here my whole life, which is why I was taking it for granted so much I suppose. Thanks to instagram, I am finding more joy and happiness every day, in that I am thankful and proud of where I live more.

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Another thing is that I am living more healthily thanks to instagram. Why? Because instagram has become a great way to keep track of my eating habits! In November I started taking photos of the food I was enjoying, and I realized that all this food consisted of heavy fatty pastry – it as too rich and this was of detriment both to my complexion and my weight. This is why  I started a new regime. Now I am focussing more on eating healthy natural foods like fruit, nuts and white meat. I also purchased a number of natural beauty products to enhance my skin. This does not mean that I’ve gone off pastry, etc, completely, but I’ve just decided to cut it out of my diet five days a week, and only enjoy it in moderate amounts on weekends. I have also cut all caffeine from my life, and am now drinking only herbal mixtures. Which is working like magic because I feel more healthy.

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And all this because of one website! THANK YOU INSTAGRAM!

By the way, if you want to, you can follow me and my adventures here – https://www.instagram.com/melimoonsong/

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Please do!

Monday Morning (What do you think of the GRANNY PORN industry?)

I sigh and prod my face into a mask, trying not to slump. The last session has not gone well. The gynaecologist said that unless I stopped with my current lifestyle, not only would the continual discharge and incontinence continue, but the flow would increase too. I don’t really understand what he said the problem is; a ‘prolapsed cervix due to a weakness in the pelvic muscles’. Pelvic muscles – now THAT I can understand.

Mulishly, I gaze at the veggie-shop beside me. I’m so fed up of eating fruit and vegetables to ‘flush out my system’ as Dr Weiss says. What a load of nonsense. Better have surgery, like Didi, and be done with it. A little nip and tuck is all it takes. Change my way of life? As if.

It’s not that I like my job really, I tell myself, as I cross the street. I don’t. All those sweaty struggling faces trying so hard to look consciously earnest. The newbies are the worse, thinking it’s all real and then unable to do the job with all the lights and coffee-swigging mumblers on the side-lines looking on. Just another day for me – a traumatic experience for them. I guess I’m too jaded at this point. And that, too, comes with the job, as my mother used to say.

The bus stops and I get on, swiping my card and taking a look at the driver. I wonder if he recognises me, though obviously, he will not, exactly, remember where. Slowly, I shuffle along, trying to sit down gingerly, carefully, before the bus re-starts. It hurts to sit down. Not where you would expect though. My back and legs hurt, creaking with too much use. At least I never had the presumption to have any children. That would have ended my career for sure. Don’t know how they manage it – some people. Well, not all, just look at Cheeky Cherry – not even able to look her son in the face anymore. Should have known it would come to that at some point.

Arrived. I stumble past an old guy with sunglasses and a greasy baggy woolen vest thrown over frumpy trousers. Blearily he stares at me and looks away. Probably more of an interracial underage aficionado. No loss there. I round the corner, and enter the studio, a dim shabby building squashed between a hippy record store and a run-down block of apartments. Bathroom, then make-up and a look at the rack of underwear prepared for today.

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I glance at the three pimply teenagers waiting around hopefully, then spying me, with widening eyes, grabbing at the pill provided to strengthen their resolve, stiffen their spines, and everything else. No alcohol though. That would defeat the purpose. I wave a hello at Doris, the washed-out fluffer, as zombie-like, she coughs her usual mucus-riddled cackle, and sashay along towards the toilets, mockingly ogling the thin terrified wannabes. Bad, bad Nancy. Wasn’t nicknamed ‘Naughty Nancy’ for nothing.

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© Darkly Dreaming Moonsong

This short story was sent to Keith Kreates as part of his weekly challenge – https://wordpress.com/read/post/feed/36207183/831896472

A Health Diet which works! Finally!

Almost four weeks ago, I started dieting. It is a healthy diet, unlike the fads I followed when I was younger. What’s more, it genuinely seems to be working, since I lost 4kgs in almost 4 weeks.

Yay me!

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To be honest, I’ve never been so chubby in my whole life. A little bit over two years ago, I finally rented a place of my own, and it was then that I started to get sloppy. I watched my bf eat huge quantities of food, and that sparked on my own appetite… and here we are. Two years and almost 10 kilos later, I was totally FED UP with myself. And I just decided to stop.

Stop eating shit, stop ‘comforting’ myself with food through spells of bad moods (of which I have many), stop giving myself treats, stop eating big portions. Right now, I’m following a fairly simple regime. I eat 100g of proteins (either fish or chicken breast) togather with some carbohydrates, like a wrap or pitta bread, every three hours. The portions are VERY small. I do not eat bread, salami, dairy-food or pasta. I do not eat sweets or snacks. I do not eat any carbs after 6pm (mostly I have a solo piece of chicken or some soup after 6).

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It’s tough. I am very hungry at night, and I’m sleeping earlier to try and forget that. Most of all, I’m getting really sick of chicken breast. And I mean literally sick. To my stomach. Even the smell makes me wants to throw up.

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But here’s the rub – it’s working! 4kgs gone, 6kgs more to go. If I can keep this up for another month and a half, I’ll be right back where I want to be… oh la Dolce Vita – I’ll be able to really enjoy Summer lolling at the beach and strolling half naked everywhere – that is, if I manage to regain my figure.

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So, fingers crossed and teeth clenched! Let’s diet!

Recipe – Baked Rice with Bacon and Sweet Paprika

Being currently on a diet (which is working by the way), I was trying to cook some filling and nutritious food which would last a couple of days, since my new regime is to eat small portions, every three or four hours. So, yesterday I did this recipe, which I had never done before, though I had a previous idea on how to prepare. It is quite simple really, and the results are quite good too! I was not going to post anything online, this not being that kind of blog, however some friends saw the result yesterday and urged me to share it – so here it is 🙂

P.S As you can see from the pic, the ingredients produce a very big dish, which serves at least 8 people.

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Ingredients

700g rice
1.5 ltr tomato sauce
500g minced beef
250g bacon
100g baby carrots
1 small onion
sweet paprika to taste
salt
baking paper
water
3/4 eggs

Method

Boil the water and add the rice. Leave until cooked and then filter the water.

Chop and cook the onion slowly in a large saucepan, then add the mince beef and bacon. Stir well until they are semi-well-done, Add the tomato sauce and the carrots (diced) and leave it cooking slowly on a small flame, while stirring on and off for five to ten minutes. Add the sweet paprika and some salt and leave it for another five minutes.

Pre-heat the oven at medium heat.

Pour half of the cooked rice back into the pan where you had boiled it (minus the water of course), and beat three or four eggs and mix them in with the rice. Start adding the sauce while mixing it thoroughly. When half the mixture is evenly mixed, add the other half of the rice on top, and mix it with the remainder of the sauce.

Line a large baking dish with baking paper and pour in the mixture of rice + sauce. Spread it evenly. Put in oven and leave it until it has a nice brown-golden color.

Enjoy!! 😀