Monday, September 01, 2014

Back Again...

It's been a long break this time, sorry about that.  Have to say that I felt so confused and not myself at all that I doubt I could have written anything worth reading.

The side effects of the pills that I am still taking now has worn off (I take them mid-evening so that I can sleep through the effects), and this very moment am waiting for the doctor to phone me (he said Monday morning 1st Sept), so far nothing, he may be waiting for the results of the X.rays. 
If anything the pain in my knee is a little worse in that it now occasionally pains me when I'm sitting down.  Previously the worst pain happened each time I stood up from a sitting position.

Steve sorted the comp for me, and it does seem that occasionally the on-line connection fails when there is interference from something or somewhere.  Can't do anything about that.   Recently many comps over the UK 'crashed' (if that is the right word) for a day because too many people are now using tablets, IPods as well as comps - all 'socially chatting' on the various websites (Twitter, Facebook to name but 2), and some communication systems haven't the capacity to deal with them all at one time.  So won't be surprised if it happens again. 

Again have to give a blanket 'thank you' to all who have sent in comments, and an especial thanks to Eileen who kept the site up and running via the comments box.  It is good to know that you are all able to keep contact with each other this way.

To Kathryn (re freezing apples), could I suggest making apple dumplings (peel and core apples, fill the centres with brown sugar, then wrap tightly in short-crust pastry).  Freeze when wrapped in the pastry and then cook from frozen for about half an hour (180C or thereabouts), by which time the apple will have cooked and the pastry turned golden.  Sometimes I used to fill the apple centres with mincemeat before wrapping.
A good idea to pre-cook crumble toppi9ng and then bag it up/freeze ready to put onto cooked apples or other fruits.

Tomatoes can be frozen whole (still in skins) then dip in hot water for a few seconds (the skins then slide off), leave to thaw (they collapse) and use to make tomato sauce for pizzas, pasta etc.

Alison mentions damson jam, and this is one of the best jams, not usually seen for sale in supermarkets, so worth buying damsons when anyone has the chance.  Freeze and make jam later.
As damsons take time to remove stones, normally the fruit is stewed first, the stones then floating to the top.  Do count the fruit before cooking, and count the stones when removing.  Several times I've not done this, then found a stone in the jam after making and it could break a tooth!!!

Loved your idea of the rumpot Eileen.  Often I do buy boxes of frozen mixed summer fruits (red and black currants, raspberries and blackberries), and carefully remove all the blackberries to bag up and return to the freezer, the same with the raspberries, then I can use these (separately), when making apple and blackberry crumble/pies, or raspberry cheesecakes or jam.  The remaining currants I add to other fruits such as strawberries to make a mixed fruit jam for general use.  The redcurrants have a lot of pectin so help the jam to set.  If there are plenty of blackcurrants, I also freeze these separately as B loves b.currant jam.

Didn't know it was zero waste week this week.  I always take one plastic carrier bag in my bag or pocket when rain is forecast and I am going out.  More than once it has come in handy to place over my head (my head IN the bag) to save my hair getting wet.  I don't pay good money to have my hair set and then the rain make a mess of it.  Yes, I suppose I could wear a scarf, but this would flatten my hair and oh, what the heck!  I just hate getting my hair messed.

Don't know if any reader watched 'Bazaar' (TV series), probably in the 80's.  I was one of the regular cooks, appearing once a week.  One week I was demonstrating other things and took with me the Christmas 'swags' I had made from plastic carrier bags.  The set designer was so taken with them that he later told me that he had made loads himself and decorated his home with them.   Details of how to make are given in 'Have a Goode Year'.  
At that time I used M&S; carrier bags as they were green (and I think had gold print?),  other stores also had brightly coloured plastic bags.  The designer said he had painted coloured strips on white bags using felt tip pens, so all we need is a bit of imagination I suppose.

Because the bags are folded and cut in a certain way, once unfolded and stretched out they end up very long, and so I've found that those large bags of crisps (the ones that hold several bags at any one time), also can be opened out to lay flat, then folded and cut, and these also make good 'swags', and any bag that has a shiny silver lining (like crisp packets) make really good decorations when dealt with as above. 
Kitchen foil works well if cut into thing strips across the width, then each strip folded tightly round a knitting needle or the handle of a wooden spoon (even a biro pen), the slid off and gently pulled open to form a shiny spiral.  Then hung on the Christmas tree look really lovely.

But too early to think of Christmas.  This week we are expecting high pressure over the UK and warmer weather again. Although slightly overcast at the moment, the clouds are thin enough for the sun to shine through so hope to be able to get a few hours of sitting in the sunshine during this week.

My larder shelves have been getting alarmingly empty, so have decided to order from Tesco despite their new on-line ordering system taking longer to sort out what I need.   I had a £10 voucher from them (probably because I complained), and also several more vouchers I'd saved up, so it seemed silly not to use them. 
Tesco have (apparently) had a slump, and making a loss.  Could it be that more customers have now chosen to shop elsewhere because they too are finding the new site too time-consuming when ordering?
However, this could mean good news for the remaining customers as this will surely mean more price reductions and better offers to bring in more custom, so their losses could mean we gain.  Let us hope so. 

Because it is the season, am repeating a recipe given some months/years back. The recipe uses what I call the 'cheat's way', because it uses canned rice pudding, but of course we can make our own rice pudding (can't we?) and also apple sauce (from a jar!!).    As the pudding can end up chilled, and the berries are used from frozen (then defrosted) am pretty sure the pudding - once made - could be frozen to thaw later and eat either chilled, or heated in the microwave.
This is an example of how we can make a pudding using 'instant' ingredients, or take the time to make from scratch, and by doing so save a bit of money.

Apple and Blackberry Rice: serves 4
1 x 435g can rice pudding
1 x 185g jar apple sauce
5 oz (150g) frozen blackberries (defrosted)
2 tblsp light brown soft sugar
Layer the rice pudding, apple sauce, and blackberries in four individual dessert bowls (or glasses - glass is best then you can see the layers).
Scatter the sugar over the surface, then chill until the sugar has dissolved (about 15 minutes).  These can be made up to 2 hours ahead of serving as long as kept covered, in the fridge. 

Because plums are also in season, and this year we are getting a wonderful crop, here is a recipe for these. Just because it uses bought biscuits, this doesn't mean we can't use similar home-made biscuits or maybe another variety.  Myself am not too keen on the flavour of star anise, but as chefs seem to add this to a variety of both savoury and sweet dishes, perhaps I should give it another try.
The cooking time for the plums really depends on how ripe they are - so allow extra time if necessary.

Crunch Spiced Plums: serves 4
2 tblsp sugar
2 tblsp water
2 whole star anise
8 large (or 12 small) plums, halved
knob of butter
4 HobNob biscuits (see above)
custard (or ice-cream) to serve
Mix the sugar with the water in a baking dish, add the star anise, then place the halved (and stoned) plums on top, cut side down (they need to fit snugly).  Dot with the butter, then roast in a hot oven (200C, gas 6) for about 5 minutes - or until the plums are beginning to soften on the bottom - then turn them over.  Roast for another 5 minutes or until tender.
Roughly crush the HobNobs, the spoon a little onto the top of each plum half, return to the oven for a few more minutes until the biscuits have turned a dark golden colour.
Serve the plums with the scented, syrupy juice poured over, and lashings of custard or a good dollop of ice-cream.

Usually I try to give recipes that use seasonal produce, so it's quite a good idea to move over to Archives and click on the month we are in, hopefully then you will find recipes to suit this time of year.  However, this year we seem to be a few weeks ahead and crops are ripening early so perhaps worth viewing viewing October as well as September.  August could also come up with something to tempt your appetite.

The doctor has just phoned me and has told me to stop taking the pills.  The X.ray showed bad arthritis, so he is going to inject my knee(s) with steroids that should reduce the inflammation.  This will be done this Thursday morning (ouch!!). Am not looking forward to it (if it is a big long needle) although normally don't mind little injections.  Worth putting up with any pain if it gives me relief.

That's it for today, so now I won't need to take more pills, hopefully I will be less confused and my blog gets back to normal (and the comps stops going off-line).  Should be back again tomorrow - not sure what time.  Hope to see you then. 



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Monday, August 25, 2014

Another Week Begins...

After two days of lovely weather do hope you all managed to have a good weekend.  Although today is a Bank Holiday, the weather has changed to very windy and cold.  Maybe it is this that makes me feel fed up, or the fact that for the first time I feel my age.  And I don't like it!

Think blame has to be the pills.  As I now take them mid-evening, then go to bed an hour later, there is time for the side effects to wear off by the time I wake (or at least by 9.00am).  Even so, I'm left with a rather blanked-out feeling the rest of the day when it comes to using my brain.  Considering these pills are supposed to be for depression, have to say they are making me feel more depressed than happy. Had to smile (almost) when the pill-details that come with the pack say that "If you are depressed and sometimes have thoughts of harming or killing yourself, these may be increased when first starting antidepressants...."  Nothing like feeling more depressed when that is the last thing you need.
Luckily depression is not the reason why I take them, as - according to the doctor, they also relieve pain but it can take at least two weeks - or longer - before they begin to work. 

Feel apologies are necessary as I'm really not able to blog the way I normally do.  My concentration has gone, and although I used to write down what came into my head at that very moment, nothing seems to be coming into my head now (already I've had to make several corrections as I've made spelling mistakes etc). 

One thing made me feel a bit ashamed.  Yesterday a lady from the sailing club asked B if we could use some of her home-grown tomatoes, and as he knows I love these, she said she'd bring some round during the afternoon.  Which she did.  A lovely lady and she was 91 years old!!!  She joined the sailing club when she was 10!  She still has the occasional sail, and she walks to the club (over a mile from where she lives).  Such energy.  Just shows that walking is the best exercise to keep us young.

Was able to give her some of our cooking apples in return for the tomatoes.  Not sure what variety the toms were but the skins were very thin, unlike the shop bought ones, they also had a reasonably good flavour (but still not as good a flavour as I remember my dad growing). 

Beloved made a BIG mistake when he went to Morrison's on Saturday.  He phoned me to say they had fish pie mix for £1.10 a kilo.  I said that was a very good price, so could he bring me a kilo.  When he came home he said he'd read the price ticket wrongly, it said £1.10 per 100g.  He said as he'd bought almost all the fish 'mix' (more like offcuts), and only a bit left on the tray he said to the assistant he'd take the lot.  So ended up paying £15!!!!!!!
At least he had the good grace to give me £10 of his own money to pay for the error.

Have to say that the mix wasn't all that good.  At least half of it was salmon (shows how cheap salmon is now compared to other fish, the white fish was haddock (so that was a bonus) but there didn't seem to be much smoked haddock. 
I sorted the fish out so that it could be shared equally, and enough to make four good 'fish risottos', B having one on Sunday for his supper, the other packs of fish now in the freezer.

I'm asking B to write down the kg price of 'son's haddock, smoked haddock, and salmon next time he goes to the store, as I'm sure the fish 'mix' was very expensive considering a lot of it must have been more 'scraps' than fillets cut into chunks (only the salmon was in proper chunks).  If there is very little difference, then it makes sense for me to buy whole fillets and then cut them into chunks myself to make up my own 'mix', perhaps using a cheaper white fish (coley etc) instead of haddock. 

Beloved said "it was the best ever" when I asked him if the fish risotto was OK.  He said that the previous time, so whether he was trying to make me (or himself) fell better about the above mistake, or it did taste better because it had haddock in it (normally I use Tesco's frozen 'Value' white fish fillets - which could be anything I suppose).  Mind you, I do make it properly, a chef would be proud of me, but I have mentioned how before so won't bore you with the details again. 

Now the weather has turned colder, am really beginning to look forward to cooking casseroles again. Still haven't sorted out the freezers, and really must do them this week, then use up as much as I can so I can restock with plenty of minced meats and chunks of stewing meat.  Time also to buy a large(ish) joint of topside (or silverside) to roast along with extra fat.  Then there will be plenty of beef dripping for B to spread on his toast, and plenty of sliced beef to freeze (some in gravy). 

The mention of toast has reminded me that today I decided to make myself some toasted cheese sarnies using toaster-bags, and when I'd put the sarnies in the bags found the bags were too large to fit into the toaster.  It wasn't that the bags were large, it was that B had recently bought a toaster that had smaller slots that the one we had previously (that had broken if you remember).  He said the one he had bought was the right size for the slices cut from the loaves I make.  Which is true, but he can now toast only one crumpet (we call them pikelets) at a time, instead of two, side by side. 
Considering all the problems in the world at the moment, the size of the toaster slots is really not worth fussing about.  Anyway, we always have the oven grill we can use if we want to toast anything larger, or more at any one time. 
I remember the days when we used to sit in front of the fire with a piece of bread stuck on the end of a toasting fork.  Just thinking about it (my brain has begun to work again) is making me feel nostalgic.

Don't know if anyone has eaten cinnamon toast, but if not do try it.  Just mash together some softened butter with sugar and cinnamon (to taste), then spread this on hot toast.  Yummeeeeee!!

My brain has shut down again because it's an hour since I took the pills, so it is time for me to go to bed.  One of the side effects is nightmares, and I am having loads of these at the moment, but nothing scary, just 'annoyances' like dreaming about returning home from a distant land but finding I've lost my passport, my money, my mobile phone....etc.  l

Can't say at the moment whether I'll be blogging tomorrow or not, may take another day off - so this week hope you don't mind if I am a bit erratic.  Am hoping that in a couple of weeks I should be back to normal.  But please keep on sending comments for even if my brain has shut down, at least I will be able to find enough grey cells working to allow me to give you a reply.  TTFN. 

 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Becoming Confused....

Don't think I wrote a blog yesterday.  Really meant to, but the pills are making me very confused. 
Have found that if take them prior to going to bed (usually just after midnight) it is early afternoon before I can get my head together.  Decided yesterday that if I took the pills early (9.00pm) had an early night, then 12 hours later the side effects should have gone. 

This dis happen, although I forgot that as I'd already had the previous pills at midnight, hadn't left it 24 hours before having them again, so the next lot - taken three hours earlier - might make things worse.  Fortunately it didn't, and when I woke, was much less confused, and by mid-day was almost 'on a high' as B likes to call it.  Still no lessening of pain in my knee though.

I've just taken two more pills and shortly will be nodding off to have a good night's sleep, so thought I'd pop in and reply to comments sent.  Forgive the short blog, and it might be a few days before I manage to bring myself back to some sort of normality.

Thanks Pam for your comment.  I hadn't thought of acupuncture.  First will need to find out the results of the X.rays, as the doc thought I'd broken my knee cap after a fall (could have done as I have fallen several times over the last few years, but with not enough pain to make me think I'd done harm).  If it isn't that, then will probably take the other offer of a three times a year steroid injection into my knee.  Really don't want to continue taking these pills as I believe there are withdrawal symptoms to contend with as well as any side effects.

As you say buttercup, we get given medication but in many cases these do cause unpleasant side effects.  Am sure regular readers will remember the regular allergy attacks I had been having for seven years, and it was only after the doctor removed Ramipril from my prescription that it eased.  Still have it occasionally but nothing like it used to be.
If I had to choose between staying on the pills prescribed this week or having a painful knee, I think I'd opt for the pain.

A welcome back to Mandy.  Hope to hear from you again soon.

Can't recall the tinned salmon mousse (c.1960/70) jane, but will have a hunt through cook books of that era (if I still have them), and see if I can find it.

It's been a lovely sunny day today.  Cancelled my hair apt (early afternoon) as I felt so groggy first thing and very nearly cancelled my coffee morning with my neighbour, but by 10.30 felt back to normal (she arrives at 11.00) so we went and sat in the garden in full sun, and it was really hot.  Oddly went very chilly when the sun went behind a cloud, but there were very few clouds, so we stayed out until 1.30, then went our separate ways.   Good weather forecast for tomorrow, and Sunday, not sure about Monday.  Expect the school children will soon be back as school, so this year at least they have had good weather for outdoor activities.

I'm leaving it there as already I'm feeling a bit woozy, and have decided to take both Saturday AND Sunday off blogging to give me a chance to sort myself out.  Returning again on Monday.  Hope you all have a good Bank Holiday long weekend, and able to make the most of the good weather.  TTFN.

 



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wednesday Witterings

Just back for a quick chat.  Pills not yet working, and yes lillibet, they are the ones you mentioned. From tonight I have to take two, so bet I'm even sleepier tomorrow (if that is at all possible).  Probably won't know until after the weekend if they have any affect on my knee, but think I'd prefer the pain rather than be very drowsy half the day (waste of the rest of my life).

Can understand that giving up teaching brings a huge gap into your life, and perhaps you could consider teaching at night school/adult education once or twice a week.  Food technology is akin to cooking, so am sure that your knowledge could help those who are finding it difficult to cope. If not as a paid teacher, then perhaps working with a charity/foodbank - who could arrange for a cookery demo or foodie chat for those who want to enlarge their knowledge of food.

We always have plenty of lemonade Margie, as B just about survives on that - plus wine.  The thought of drinking water would make him blanch.  So next time we have a spill of anything, will try diluting with lemonade before mopping up.

Thanks to Sheridan for his comment.  Many of the recipes in the early days of this blog are well worth making, as I hope all are, but the earlier ones had cost-cutting very much in mind.  Pleased he enjoys my 'chit-chat', and sorry that most of it had to be removed from the earlier postings due to blogger restricting my allotted space (well I do go on a bit).

As very sleepy today - at least until lunch-time (this being 12 hours after I took the pill, and it could take longer tomorrow for me to come back to life).  Asked B if he could peel/core the mound of apples that he'd picked up after the breeze keeps knocking them from the tree.  He was quite pleased as he likes using my 'Victorian' apple peeler/corer that does the job all in one. 
After explaining about making up bowls of water with dissolved citric acid, he managed to work through 2 bags, but after I'd 'recovered' from my continual napping, found the apple slices ( the machine sort of slices the apples too in a spiral fashion), many of the slices were turning brown, especially in the centre.  Don't know why, perhaps he hadn't used enough citric acid. 

Bagged up all the apple slices and now they are in the freezer.  Told B I'd do the remaining apples (as then I can get them either into the microwave, or cooked on the hob, before they change colour.  Then I set to and sorted out the bag of Victoria plums.  All were ripe (or just about), so I saved a few for B to eat, some for me to eat, and halved/stoned the rest and these too are now in the freezer.

We have some blackberries in the garden, but in a sheltered corner so plenty of fruit but none yet ripe enough to pick.  Also a huge bramble bush at the sailing club that B can collect fruit from.  He did this last year and although we had loads of berries, they weren't very sweet, but can easily add that when cooking them.

Apparently this is a bumper year for soft fruit and also apples, plum and other tree fruits.  In the past we used to believe this was advance warning for a hard winter, but nowadays nothing seems to be as it should, so we just have to wait and see what weather we get.
At the moment it is quite chilly, from as low as 3C, to 10C depending on whether we live in rural areas or a town (cities hold the daytime heat).  Warmer during the day, but still fairly cool.  However a high pressure area is moving towards us from the west, and this should reach us by the weekend, so hopefully more warmth from the sun and less wind.   A good time  to for this to happen as it is yet another Bank Holiday weekend (not that I normally notice).   Then we start looking ahead to Halloween, shortly after that Guy Fawkes Night (aka Bonfire night), and then Christmas, but think I'll keep thinking summer with a pinch of autumn and not rush into anything.  This really is a busy culinary time of the year.

Was watching a repeat of the Hairy Bikers budget series this afternoon.  They are very easy to watch, and certainly today's episode showed how some of the least expensive ingredients can turn into something that looks very professional - mainly due to the presentation. 
Also watched repeats of a couple of other food progs in the afternoon, and later 'Come Dine With Me' so am rather spoiling myself as I fitted in part of 'The Waltons', and all of 'Little House....' around lunch-time.

B wanted to make himself a stir-fry tonight, so I suggested this time he made it from scratch (me not partly preparing the food for him) as one day he might HAVE to cook for himself and best he learned now rather than later.  He was happy with that, so I said what needed to be done (thaw the meat he wanted to use, then prepare and part cook the carrot, cauliflower and sugar snap peas....).  Of course by 5.00pm he hadn't done anything, not even thawed out the meat, so I suggested he fetched us both a Chinese meal from the take-away (then at least I got a meal cooked for me). 

Am really hoping that two pills a day won't knock me out too much, so will have to try and alter my routine of cooking in the morning to planning the day's meals (and the next day's) during the afternoon so that I can make some/freeze some so that B had meals he can reheat in the microwave.

If I go to bed now, after taking my pills, then could be I'll be up on my feet ready to work before noon tomorrow as still plenty to do in the kitchen.  Have to make room in the freezer/s for a start, after that can start making apple pies to freeze, steak and kidney ditto, fruit crumbles, and I'm going to make an apricot Tarte Tatin as I've some ripe apricots (saw the Hairy B's making this yesterday, so now know how to without looking up the recipe). 

Depending on my state of mind (after the pills) I may decide to have an even earlier night tomorrow so the effects can wear off sooner, this means I may not blog tomorrow (but then I might).  Plan to blog on Friday as I now don't blog on Saturday anyway.  Maybe not even Sunday this week. At the moment don't know how I'll be feeling so have to play it by ear.  Thanks for caring, and thanks also for sending comments.  If nothing else I'll try to reply to these, so don't stop sending just because you think I won't be reading them.  They always cheer me up.  I'd feel lost without you.  TTFN.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday Update

Thanks to those who wrote concerned about my knee.  Can't remember the name of the pills as they are in the bathroom at the moment.  Took the first last night, nothing happened other than I did have a good night's sleep, but up 3 times for the trip to the bathroom.  Pain as bad this morning as before, but understand it does take several days for the pills to have any effect.  Have just taken another and tomorrow will then take two each night.

Have to say though that during today I really felt a bit zombie-like, much of the time was asleep in my chair - could be the pills causing this?  Didn't come back to normal until early evening.  Needless to say I didn't go to the church meeting after all.

A sailing mate of B's left a big bag of Victoria plums on our back doorstep, all just at ripeness, so tomorrow will be stoning them and freezing them ready to turn into something when I feel a bit more like work.  Today even asked B to buy a loaf for toasting as I just couldn't be bothered to bake one form him, and that's a first.

This is just a short blog to keep in touch and to reply to comments.  And although I know that meringues can be made in the microwave Kate (have made them this way myself), they take LOADS more sugar than if making them the traditional way. 
Pleased that you sorted out the problem of too much butter in your potted meat, and including some stock would help to keep the meat moist.  Best to always use small pots when 'potting up', as once the surface layer of butter has been cut, this allows the air in and especially if stock has been used, the meat paste won't keep that well (always keep it in the fridge anyway).  Potted meat can be frozen, and if doing this you could omit the butter topping, just cover the small containers with a fitted circle of baking parchment and then foil or cling-film.  It is wise never to wrap any foods such as meat/fish directly with cling-film touching the flesh as this is not advised (some chemical reaction not good for us I understand).

As you say buttercup, it does seem as though the gods look down on us when we need their help.  The saying "the gods help those who help themselves" also rings true (although that doesn't mean shop-lifting etc).
Don't think that pumpkin seeds need hulling, just wash them to remove any flesh and stringy bits, then dry them off (roast) them in the oven, and store in airtight containers.  Readers may be able to give more details re this. 
Think it is sunflower seeds (with their black and white stripy seed cases) that need hulling, again would like to know more as I have three dried sunflowers that I'm loth to throw away as the seeds could be used (if not for us, at least for the birds this winter - and I could sow some to grow next year).

You may have already mentioned where you used to live when in England Mary, but your mention of you visiting your sister in Leicester made me perk up for as you probably know we used to live there (as a girl near Evington - and when married in Oadby).  Think it might have been you who did mention living in or near Evington.  Do hope it hasn't changed much since you moved, but according to my friend Gill, everything has now changed.   However, do hope you have a really love time when in England.
The weather is still fairly good, a bit breezy but not too much, quite a bit of sun, but as the wind is now coming down from the north before it swings to the east over Morecambe, the temperature has dropped quite a few degrees.   Quite a bit colder in the north of Scotland.
We may be lucky and have an Indian summer while you are here, we often do when autumn begins.

Nothing much worth mentioning except that B - moving from the living room to in here to watch a footie match, managed somehow to spill the contents of a large glass of red wine he had in his hand. All over the cream carpet in the middle hall (this is where I believe the stairs used to be when this was once a detached house - not that anyone cares, but that is why we have a hall/lobby there).

We do have a spray bottle (or can) of remover for spilt red wine but of course I couldn't find it, so told B that if he poured white wine all over the red (to dilute it), that was supposed to make it easier to clean.  This he did.  I did find some Vanish carpet and upholstery cleaner, which B then used and it does seem as though the stain has now disappeared, although the carpet is still very wet (as I found when walking into this room wearing just my support knee-high stockings - almost paddled in it). It should dry overnight, and as long as there is no stain left, then I'm not bothered. 
It is very difficult keeping clean the carpets in a house when they are all pale cream (including the kitchen - although that is more dingy cream with splodges now as B never removes his shoes even when he walks through the backdoor through the outside puddles.)

That's all that Tuesday has to offer, so depending on what happens tomorrow, I may blog or I may not. But should be back well before the weekend starts. Thanks again to those who wrote in even if I haven't mentioned all the names, you are always in my thoughts. TTFN. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Now We Wait....

Busy day today.  Saw the doctor late morning, he asked me if I'd ever fallen as my knee looked as thought I'd broken it in the past..  Said that during my (long) life I have had a few falls, not that many, and none that caused me enough pain to think I'd done any harm.

Anyway, he has prescribed me some pills to help remove the pain.  Normally they are prescribed for depression (and bed-wetting), but said in my case they were for pain relief and he was giving me a stronger dose.  One pill to be taken at night for the first few days, then two a night after.   Tomorrow I expect to wake up a very happy bunny, and not have had to get up in the night  a couple of times to go to the loo!!! (that in itself would be a bonus).

When taking the pills, mustn't drink or drive (do neither) or use any machinery (does that include an electric hand mixer?), and so it could be I end up hitting the wrong keys on this keyboard when I next do my blog.  Have to wait and see.

The doctor is phoning me on 1st September to see if the pills have helped.  If they don't work he says he can give me a steroid injection into my knee but can only give these 3 times a year.
He also sent me to the hospital next to the surgery to have my knees X-rayed, so that was done before we returned home - in time for the Fire Service to come and fit a new smoke alarm.  This one should last 10 years.

Then B went out to the sailing club where he now spends most of his time helping to put up shelves and no doubt being a general nuisance.  I prepared is supper (duck confit with roasted veg) but only half-roasted the veg as he did not come home at the time he said he would (he never does), and left these - and the duck - for B to finish off in the oven on his return.  As I'd just that minute turned the oven out, he was able to heat up the duck etc immediately, leaving me to retire to my chair in the living room and put my feet up (well one foot, if I put up my left leg it hurts my knee when I try to put it down).

Anyway, feel loads better now that my problem is in the hands (almost literally) of my doctor - who is a really lovely man and it is worth being poorly just to go and see him.  Can now get on with planning my culinary cooking for the autumn and freezing away what I can when I can.

That's a good idea of yours Jane to use a loose  pastry lid (as mentioned in yesterday's recipe) as a covering for other dishes.  My B does not like pastry that has a 'soggy bottom',  and by this I don't mean the base (normally avoided by blind-baking), but when the pastry covers a pie (steak and kidney for example), crimped to the base pastry at the edges.  The steam as the filling cooks stops the underside of the lid crisping up.   So I often cut the pastry the same size as the topping, and cook that separately on a baking sheet, covering the pie with foil, then assemble together when serving.

You had a real bonus Jane when your garden had a real apple tree rather than a flowering cherry.  Crab apples are very sour and limited to their use.  As to using apples whole (without peeling and coring), all I can suggest is cutting them into quarters and cooking them down - with a very little water - until softened, then removing the flesh and discarding the peel and seeds.  This way it might be possible to cook them until just tender and keep the flesh intact to use in pies.  Otherwise mash up and use for apple sauce (which in itself has many uses).
Larger apples can have the peel left on, but scored round the centre, and then baked in the oven.  If you can remove the core, the hole can be filled with butter and sugar before baking.

Very pleased to hear Sheridan, that you are enjoying reading the Achives from the start.  Have to say I really like reading them myself (it's so long since I wrote the first ones that in all honesty can't even remember saying any of it - so it is if someone else has done the writing).
What I like about them is that a whole month comes up - or at least part of a month as I've had to remove most of the chat and half the recipes to keep enough room for the best to remain - and even when I only want to find one recipe, I enjoy scrolling up (or down) to speed-read the rest as there is so much more worth reading (at least I hope you think there is).

A welcome to Gill.  Possibly we could have done something similar with our smoke alarm to prevent it bleeping, but when it was fitted we were told we mustn't touch it - just call in the Fire Service to fit a new one.  From what the people said today it seems we can now remove the cover and do something like you said, so maybe this is a 'new improved' model.  They have given us a booklet and phone number to call if there is a problem (which no doubt B will 'mislay' so think I will pin it to the cork board in the kitchen (hardly ever used and I don't know why).

What an excellent way Kathryn to use black pudding.  I've occasionally bought a couple or three slices for B, and think I might have some lurking in the freezer, so will definitely include this when I wish to 'beef up' a dish when I haven't much 'proper' meat. 
During the war I remember my mother serving stuffed marrow at least once a week and possibly two (my dad grew a lot on top of our Anderson shelter - and they store for months).  Due to shortage of meat, the marrow was stuffed mainly with thyme and parsley or sage and onion stuffing (like we make now using packet mixes), but with a meaty filling (as you suggested) it would taste wonderful.

Am hoping to go to the church meeting (Bright Hour) tomorrow afternoon.  Much depends on how I feel and how the new pills will have affected me.  Don't want to nod off during the meeting, but as I didn't go last week, feel I need to go and sit with 'like-minded' people.  It's nice to know that I'm not the only one that has had strange things happen to them, although they all take it in their stride.  Most of them have had at least one parent (usually the mother) who was also psychic.   I did have an great-aunt on my mother's side who was psychic but she ended up in a mental home (possibly wasn't mental at all but 'seeing/hearing' what other people didn't would make them believe she was out of her mind. 

Now that I've decided to write my blog occasionally, this doesn't mean great gaps between.  It would be difficult for me to break a daily routine of 8 years anyway, but at least the pressure is off, and I know if I do miss a day you won't mind.  So I could be back tomorrow, or it might be Wednesday. Even I won't know until I sit down and write.  So watch this space...TTFN.



Sunday, August 17, 2014

Quick Chat

Lovely sunny day but too breezy for me to sit in the garden.  Am not a happy bunny today as our smoke alarm keeps going off several times due to it having reached the end of its life.  We cannot remove it as the fire department fitted it, and they have to deal with it. Pressing the button doesn't stop it.  Hopefully they will come early next week as the noise is driving me mad.  Very loud but fortunately it stops after about 10 bleeps. 

The way the cards are being dealt at the moment, what's the betting the fire department have to come at the time I have (a) the surgery appointment tomorrow or (b) the day after when B would normally be taking me to the church meeting.  The fire dept. can never specify time, just 'morning' or 'afternoon'.  But that's life, should be grateful that is all we have to worry about.

What a good idea Kate to soak the fruit pulp and then use the liquid to make fruit jellies.  I've frozen the fruit but will follow that idea later.  I've also frozen the strained liquid as I just didn't feel like making jam at the moment. 

As I haven't had much experience of reading other peoples archives Margie, can't comment on how they work, but anyone who does want a recipe that I've given previously, usually I'm able to give the correct year/month/day when it should be found almost instantly.  If - for some reason - the info is not available (I've not kept recent records in my personal data bank), am happy to give the recipe/s again.

Wow buttercup!  What a lovely lot of friends you have.  My imagination is now picturing your kitchen table and units covered with baskets of apples, plums, potatoes, onions and tomatoes. With bowls of blackberries and tucked in somewhere the couple of cucumbers.  Not to mention pears to come.  Could make a lot of work for you over the next few days, but if you have room in your freezer then it is worth freezing some of the tomatoes whole (still in skins - then end up feeling and looking like snooker balls) as these could later be popped into a bowl of hot water - the skins then sliding off instantly, then left to thaw fully to use for making a rich tomato sauce for pasta and pizzas (which can again be frozen).

Blackberries freeze perfectly as-is, plums also (bur first remove the stones), potatoes and onions should keep well.  Apples also keep well if perfect (and of the cooking variety), dessert apples keep longer if kept cool (in the fridge), but of course can also be prepared and frozen or cooked/frozen. 

Do hope you have good weather buttercup for your 'open garden' day today, and will enjoy it all the more due to the way you funded it.  Am repeating your words "anything struggled for is always far more appreciated", as this really works. 

Yesterday was is so much pain with my knee - it even began to hurt a lot when I was sitting down - so when I went to bed I 'had a word' with my guardian angel, respectfully asking if he/she could lessen the pain for me a bit. 
Strangest thing was, when I woke in the night to go to the bathroom (as old people always do) my knee hardly hurt at all, and all through today it has been quite bearable.  Could be coincidence of course, but then the spiritualists say there is no such thing as a coincidence.  Maybe the pain in my knee is like toothache - the day we go to the dentist the ache goes away, and it is tomorrow I see the doctor.

This afternoon watched 'Cook's Questions' on one of the Freeview channels.  It was quite interesting for the more dedicated cooks I suppose.  Count myself in that category so did learn a few hints and tips that I might put into use, but can still feel comfortable keeping at the lower end of the domestic scale as there is nothing like 'farmhouse fare' to warm the cockles of our hearts.  That is real 'comfort eating'. 

As not everyone logs on to read my rambles, with those hoping for an interesting and economical dish to be included, am today giving one that is (almost) a made-from-stores meal.  Most of us buy puff pastry (keeps well in the freezer), and although this recipe uses the ready-rolled, no need to pay extra for this as we can easily roll it out ourselves.  Can't we?
At one time I used to buy the large red/orange/yellow bell peppers, but now buy the bags of smaller peppers (same colour range) as these keep well in the fridge and one (or two) can be the perfect size for adding to a dish such as this one (and chopped to add to salads etc).
If you wish you could use pre-cooked potatoes, just adding them after you have cooked the broccoli.

Tuna Puff Pie: serves 4
1 x 375g pk ready-rolled puff pastry
1 oz (25g) butter
1 onion, chopped
1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
1 oz (25g) plain flour
1 pint (600ml) milk
1lb 9oz (700g) potatoes peeled/cut into chunks
8 oz (225g) broccoli florets
1 x 185g can tuna (pref in brine) drained
salt and pepper
handful chopped fresh parsley
Cut the rolled pastry into four 5" x 4" (13 x10cm) rectangles.  Place on a baking sheet.  Lightly score (not right through) the tops diagonally, and bake at 200C, gas 6 for 15 - 18 minutes until golden and puffed up.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan, fry the onion with the pepper until softened but not browned, then stir in the flour and cook/stir for 1 minute.  Gradually stir in the milk, and keep stirring until thickened slightly.
Add the potatoes to the sauce, cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes (or until just tender) then add the broccoli and cook for a further 10 minutes (if using cooked potato, add the broccoli to the sauce and when tender, add the spuds).
Stir the tuna into the sauce mixture, and when heated through add seasoning to taste, fold in the parsley, and spoon onto serving plates, topping each with a pastry lid. 

A final tip.  The other day mentioned giving chickens orange peel/zest to improve the colour of their egg yolks, and it made me realise that we don't use citrus zest often enough.  It has immense flavour with even a small amount so here is a recipe that uses orange zest as a topping for fish. 
Nowadays farmed salmon is probably one of the cheaper fish that is sold, but other chunky fish could be used, and if white fish, then lemon zest (or even lime zest) would work equally as well as orange zest.

Orange Crumbed Salmon: serves 4
3 oz (75g) fresh white breadcrumbs
2 tblsp olive oil
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
3 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
4 boneless, skinless salmon fillets
1lb (450g) new potatoes
2 tblsp mayonnaise
Mix together the breadcrumbs, oil, orange zest and half the parsley, adding seasoning to taste.
Place the salmon fillets onto a baking tray that has been lined with lightly greased foil.  Press the orange crumbs onto each fillet so they stick to the surface, then bake at 200C, gas 6 for 15 - 20 minutes or until the salmon is just cooked and the crumbs are golden.
Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a pan of salted, boiling water for 15 or so minutes or until tender, then drain.  Stir the remaining parsley into the mayo, thinning it down with a little orange juice until the consistency of single cream. 
Serve the salmon with the potatoes and the herb mayonnaise.  You can serve each item separately, or - if you prefer - toss the potatoes in the herby mayo before plating up.

That's it for today.  Not sure when I'll be blogging - could be tomorrow or the next day - all depends on how I feel (even saying that makes me feel both selfish and guilty but am sure I'll get over it). Just watch this space, and if nothing new is there to read - then go and read through some of my Archives, because I KNOW you will find some really amazingly good recipes, not to mention hints and tips. TTFN.



Friday, August 15, 2014

Reviewing the Situation....

Apologies for missing yesterday's blog.  When I sat down to write none of the internet/blog/email pages would appear.  This morning discovered the plug in the modem box wasn't pushed in fully, and when it was, then switched on and everything back to normal.  However, it might not have been that as B told me that yesterday many computers 'crashed' due to over-loading of the internet due to the now constant use of tablets and all the other hand-held communications systems that people now tend to 'play with' when having nothing else to do.
Some readers may also have found they couldn't use their comps yesterday evening, now I hope everything should be back to normal.

Many thanks for all the comments sent in, several new names to whom I give a welcome.  Firstly grateful thanks to Eileen for letting you all know about the above problem.  She is a star.

My first reply is to squawkfisch who - like myself - finds searching through archives more of a nuisance than anything.  I've checked out one or two before I started writing tonight and in every case it took several minutes to find what I wanted.  However, in the case of the Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe of mine, went onto my previous posting (where it was mentioned), the archives listed at the side, then clicked on Dec.2006 (fourth one from the top), and the page came up instantly, so scrolled fast down to the bottom of that page where the S.T.recipe was - and it took exactly 8 seconds to reach it. 
Maybe I should give the recipe again  (and have done in the past), but then it might be on a day when the person who wishes to have it has missed that particular blog, so being able to find it easily (and it is easy when the actual date is given), seems at least one solution, and bearing in mind what other readers have said (Sheridan et al)will begin repeating my favourite recipes again.

After the soft fruits had thawed I cooked them in the microwave for a few minutes before pressing them through a sieve and got quite a lot of juice.  Also a lot of pulp left in the sieve - this tasting really nice (but of course full of seeds) so am having to think of a way to use this up - freezing it until I do).  Fruit leather is a good idea (thanks for that Mimsys),

Also thanks to Mister Micawber for sending the corrected Dickensian quotation.  I may have got the amount wrong, but the message was the same - and one worth keeping in mind. 
There are so many quotes that so make a lot of sense, my old wooden money-box has printed on it 'A penny saved is a penny earned' (well it is very old so I suppose a penny went a lot further then that it does now), but the quote is also true.  When we go 'out' to work we spend some of the money earned on food.  If we stayed at home and cooked from scratch we could save so much money it could be almost the same as the amount earned in a part-time job.  More if we grew our own produce.  And another saying worth knowing is: The cock crows but the hen delivers the goods.  How true!

Yesterday the suggestion was that we had some breaded fish that B had brought from Morrison's - because it was on offer!!  As it had to be cooked in the oven at the same temperature as oven chips (and for almost the same length of time) I suggested to B that - for once - he could cook supper for BOTH of us.  Which he kindly did, we even had peas with it.

I was sitting in the living room nursing my then painful knee, so B brought my portion in on a plate, taking his into this room so he could watch cricket on TV.  Thing is he forgot to bring me anything to eat it with, and so using my fingers (aka God's own tools) and the help of a (clean) spoon I had on my side table, I was able to eat the meal without having to get up and stagger into the kitchen or call B back to bring me a fork.   When B asked me if the meal was alright I didn't want to spoil his pleasure so said (truthfully) it was 'finger lickin' good'. 

So pleased the vegetarian pie recipes worked well Elaine and the weather held out for your al fresco family gathering.  Let us hope your mouse has found its way back outside - probably would have done if you have a cat.

Have given recipes in the past for potted meat Kate, and basically these are just scraps of shredded cooked meat mixed with some seasonings (pepper, salt, nutmeg... depending on the meat used), and a little softened butter to bind, then pressed firmly into small pots.  Melted butter poured over the top (just a thin layer to keep out the air).  This top layer of butter can be lifted if wishing to avoid eating it, but recently it seems that 'saturated fats' are now not as harmful as once thought. 
Perhaps instead of mixing softened butter with the meat, this could just be seasoned and pressed into moulds, then the butter poured on top to be mixed into the meat to make spreadable when ready to use.

We have had a bumper crop of apples this year, and each day another bagful fallen from the tree, so will be spending this weekend peeling and slicing to part-cook then freeze, also to make apple sauce, and I like the sound of that apple butter Kate.  Thanks for that idea.
Not quite sure why, but I've never found mangoes have much flavour - perhaps they need to be really ripe to enjoy, but have found the ones sold in the supermarkets (not quite ripe) make lovely mango chutney to serve with curries etc.

Haven't seen a sign of leaved changing colour here Margie, but am sure it will be soon.  The weather has improved and so able to sit outside and have our coffee this morning.  Sky with broken white clouds, but lots of blue sky and very hot sunshine again.  Tomorrow weather set to change to quite windy and rain again by the end of the day (and over the weekend).

Bet you are looking forward to visiting England soon Mary.  Do you visit family - if so what region/s would that be? Or do you tend to stay in tourist area - especially London?

Another use for fruit pulp (after removing the juice) would be to give it to chickens (as Sairy mentioned with her redcurrants).  Am wondering if the red fruits help to give the egg yolks a deeper colour.  Perhaps it would if they ate beetroot as if that colours our 'water', then almost certain to improve the colour of egg yolks.

Good idea Sandy about adding baking soda (aka bicarbonate of soda) to rhubarb to enable us to use less sugar.  Many years ago I used to lay the leaves of Sweet Cicely at the bottom of a dish, topping this with rhubarb, and the leaves used to sweeten the rhubarb with no need to add sugar at all. Sweet Cicely is an attractive herb to grow, sort of feathery/ferny leaves.

Your mention Alison, of your children saying meals were better when you had no money, is exactly what our children said (for the same reason), and when they asked why, I said it was because I'd thought a lot harder about what I was going to make.  Proves that when we give more thought to what we cook we usually can find ways of not just making cheaper meals, but making them taste even better. 

Am grateful to readers who don't mind if I blog only once or twice a week, or just give the occasional recipe.  The temptation to take a day off blogging does come over me more often as I get older (and run out of ideas of what to write about).  So after reviewing the situation will now begin writing as little or as much as I wish, when I wish (probably almost every day as it has become a habit hard to break - but then I won't feel so guilty if I miss a day).  In any case I won't be blogging tomorrow (Saturday) as now already take this day off.  Maybe take Sunday off as well - it all depends on how I feel.

On Monday, at long last, have an appointment to see the doctor about my knee, so hopefully he will prescribe me some painkillers that work, then I will feel a lot more like my old self.  Let us hope so.

With this being a good year for apples, felt the recipe below (originally from Australia) will be useful to some readers, and if apple sauce (aka pureed apples) is made in bulk and then frozen in small amounts, this cake can be made any time of the year.  Note that no eggs are used in this recipe.

Spiced Apple Cake: makes 10 portions
5 oz (150g) softened butter
5 oz (150g) brown sugar
3 oz (75g) stewed Bramley apples, pureed
7 oz (200g) self-raising flour
half tsp ground cinnamon
half tsp ground nutmeg
milk (opt)
3 oz (75g) raisins
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then stir in the apples.
Sift the flour and spices together, then fold these into the creamed mixture using a wooden spoon.  If the mixture is too stiff, add a tablespoon of milk.  
Stir in the raisins then spoon the mixture into a greased and lined 7" (18cm) round cake tin, then bake at 150C, gas 2 for one hour.   Leave to stand in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cake airer to cool.

So I leave you for tonight, returning again either Sunday or Monday.  For readers who are wishing for 'something from Shirley' to read, could I suggest working through from the start of archives (no rush - a page at a time), and you will then discover many of my best and most economical recipes plus plenty of hints and tips.  Many recipes and most of the chat had to be edited out due to lack of space, but have kept in what I hope will be of most use.  Maybe I'm biased, but when I do have occasion to look up something I blogged years ago, I really enjoy re-discovering recipes I'd completely forgotten about, and wish I could write as well now as I did then. 

Watching the news it seems that a lot of the country (south and midlands) had a lot of thunderstorms, which again me missed out on.  This year Morecambe has had the best of the weather catching only the very end of the worst (such as Bertha), and still it seems we have more good weather to come - once this weekend is over.  Can only hope that this continues through the winter.  We never had a real winter last year, and although I do enjoy seeing snow on the ground, this meant spring flowers arrived early, and since then we continually have had plenty of blossom.  So a good year for us at least.

Am starting to crochet myself a 'throw'.  This will keep me warm if the weather does turn much colder, and hoping that because I'm thinking ahead, this will prove to be unnecessary.  So often, in the past, I've prepared for things and they never happen.   It's when I don't prepare that I get caught short. 

Enough of my rambling, it is now after midnight, so will take my leave and try not to think of the large amount of apples that I have to work through.  At least I do have one of those Victorian type apple peelers/corers that work wonderfully well.  Stick the apple on at one end, wind the handle at the other, and it peels and cores AND slices apples in the blink of an eye.  Might even give B this chore to do - he would actually enjoy doing that.    TTFN.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Autumn in the kitchen.....

At the moment our kitchen is very autumnal in appearance.  On the table are a couple of bowls of soft fruits thawing out ready to make jam, and am contemplating on cooking these first then pressing them through a sieve to make a seedless jam rather than have one full of pips.   Would work well if I could find a use for the bits of fruit left in the sieve as I hate to throw that away.  Maybe set it in jelly?  Even if B wouldn't like it, I certainly would eat it.

Then, on the floor or several brown paper carrier bags of fallen apples still to be sorted, some to be added to the big bowl of 'good ones' on the table, hopefully to be kept (somewhere!), during the next month or so, the remainder prepared for more pies and apple sauce.

A smaller bowl - also on the table - is now holding the few pears that I found on the garden path this afternoon when I went to take advantage of another sunny and warm day.  Having a sit on my bench, soaking up the sun, really lifts my spirits.

This morning cut the Sticky Toffee Pudding into 11 pieces, and considering B had already eaten 2 chunks (and I sampled one) this particular one must have ended up as 14 servings.  Not small either - and it is very filling as well.   Certainly one of the best I've made (but then it always tastes good).  Strangely, although instant coffee is one of the main flavourings, the pudding doesn't taste of coffee at all, maybe it is the coffee together with the dates, but to me it is as if it had chocolate in it.  Which it hasn't. 

If anyone wants the recipe for the S.T.Pudding, it will be found at the bottom of the December 2006 page (find this in Archives), under the name of 'Ticket Office Pudding' (B's name for it).   The one I made yesterday used one and a half times the ingredients as listed,  the recipe as shown makes 9 portions, and when cool, the sauce (I make double the amount of this anyway), is poured on top, left to set and then it is cut up into the size required,  put into a box (I use an ice-cream carton), with strips of baking parchment between each so they don't stick together.  About a minute (or less) in the microwave is enough to heat one at a time from frozen. 

B requested liver and bacon for his supper tonight, and this was easy enough (I've cooked this umpteen times).  Previously I used to cut the lamb's liver into 'gougons' (fingers), but recently have cut the liver into slightly larger strips and they then don't dry up so much when fried.  They take very few minutes to cook through anyway so first cook some small potatoes until tender (usually cut these in half or quarters first), steaming some finely shredded cabbage on top).  Then I fry a couple of rashers of bacon (cut in half) in a small frying pan, heating some bacon fat (or oil) in a larger pan, then fry the drained potatoes, meanwhile dusting the pieces of liver in flour and frying these alongside.  When the bacon is cooked, this is placed on the liver (which by then is cooked so the pan is removed from the heat) and the cabbage is tossed in that pan so it is flavoured with bacon fat.  The lot then put onto a plate that has been heating up over the potato/cabbage pan.  

All that fills a meat platter (B's meals are always served on meat platters as he has a large appetite), and working it out realised all that came to less than £1!  The liver - and plenty of it - was just 50p. So probably one of the most nourishing meals to serve when every penny counts.

Thanks Margie for sending that link re arthritis.  I clicked on it and it came up instantly.  Very pleased to read the list of foods that I'm able to have, and have to say practically all of them I eat regularly.  The one product that wasn't mentioned was tomatoes, but it didn't say not to eat them. 
It may not be arthritis I have, but almost certainly it is - I'm now getting pains in my left elbow and also the joint at the base of my left thumb, none of them bad enough to make me squeak.  My right knee also aches a bit, so not sure why my left knee plays up more.  But then I've always had problems with that leg since I had a slipped disc(nearly 50 years ago now) and this trapped the sciatic nerve on that side and part of that leg still remains numb and the muscles atrophied a bit.  Also the leg that had cellulitis and leg ulcers. 

Loved hearing about how you managed to raise the money for your outing buttercup. I got almost as much as thrill reading about it as you must have felt when you used that voucher and found that coin.
When we are down to our last pennies it is surprising how fate sometimes gives us a helping hand, and I remember when the children were small and we used to go out for our afternoon walk, I'd keep my eyes on the pavement looking for any coins that someone might have dropped and usually found one or two.  In those days sixpence would have bought a loaf of bread.  And believe me I often needed those sixpences.

Many years later, driving the car after giving a demo, and with barely enough money to buy petrol to get me all the way home, I drove into a garage to buy what I could afford, and when I got out of the car into the pouring rain, stepped into a deep puddle, and when I lifted out my foot, under it was a very wet £5 note floating in it.  I suppose I should have been honest and given it to the assistant, but I used it to pay for the journey (was giving the demo for free anyway).  In a way still feel guilty about it, but only when I remember (which is not often), and I do now give plenty to charity in the hope the gods will forgive me.

Talking about charity, one of the things that happened to me when I'd done my TV appearances was to be contacted by a charity who wished me to go abroad - somewhere in Africa - to see if I could show the ladies there how to cook cheap meals.  The suggestion was to spend several months 'in the bush', but I declined as I'd checked the area and it did seem that the natives (if you'll excuse that expression) didn't really like 'foreigners' telling them what to do. 
It so happens that some 30 years later they still haven't changed their cooking skills because they prefer to cook as they always have done, and why should anyone tell them different.  I agree with this, and prefer to donate to the charities that teach them how to grow their own produce, and provide them with free seeds, and also give them a cow or goat etc (that as well as providing them with milk also provides fertiliser) as this has proved very successful. 

Myself believe that we should all live our lives in the way we wish, just mindful of that Dickensian saying (have to paraphrase as I've forgotten it - can any reader give us the correct version?):  "Income £1, expenditure 99p, result - happiness.  Income £1, expenditure £1 and 6p - result: misery."

We don't always need to give money to help charities.  Usually giving away some bric-a-brac or books that we might normally have thrown out can often raise several pounds when given to a charity shop.  Makes more room for us and money for the charity - a real win-win situation.

Yes Jane, the mention of hens eating garlic (thus flavouring a cake with garlic) reminded me of those eggs we had on that sailing trip where the hens had eaten seaweed.  Certainly gave a slight 'sea' flavour to the breakfast eggs.  Yet eggs flavoured with orange zest would be great when making cakes, and one thing I forgot to mention was that Gill was told that egg yolks could be made any colour, even blue, according to the food (or dyes) they were given, but apparently cooks like their yolks to be the normal yellow so that is what we get.

A welcome  to for letting us know that glucosamine is now not on prescription, but at least it can still be bought as a supplement.  Once I've seen the doc and found out more, then will try almost anything to ease the discomfort.  Have to say I'm just about getting used to it by now, and although I'm finding it difficult to more around easily, there are times when I hardly feel it - usually when I'm concentrating on something else.
Think it was yesterday, when sitting at the kitchen table, there was a knock on the (open) back door and the man from the flat upstairs came in holding his baby girl (now nearly 9 months old).  I was so pleased to see them that I got up immediately to have a chat, and realised when they had left that I hadn't even noticed the pain in my knee when I rose, presumably because my attention was on the baby, so perhaps I should stop feeling sorry for myself and start thinking about more important things then the pain might (almost) go away.

It's been another lovely sunny day today and very warm again.  Just like it has been the past few weeks (prior to Bertha's appearance).  The container plants are now just passing their best, although two rose bushes (in pots) given a recent gifts - are going from strength to strength.  One has already had four blooms, and after dead-heading I see another 6 buds have appeared, this is a coral turning to copper rose called 'Love Never Dies' (bought esp. for our anniversary by a friend of our daughters). The other has clusters of smaller red roses, but see more buds have appeared on that. 

Being used to living in gardens full of roses, was very surprised to find none growing in the garden here in Morecambe (although neighbours do grow them).  Our garden is full of assorted shrubs, such as holly bushes, Acer, cordyline, bamboo, with just a few that flower, these being hydrangeas(long flowering period thank goodness) and Rose of Sharon.  Believe we have Golden Rod in the front garden (hardly ever go in there), and some Montbretia.  In the spring the front bed is full of bluebells (again hardly ever seen).  Plus a lot more green shrubs, name unknown (and don't really care).

In the back garden we have a lilac tree that was very young when we arrived but has now grown large enough to flower each year.  And of course the wisteria.  Otherwise the garden is green, green, green, although various shades and very different types of leaves - attractive in their own right I suppose, but I do like to see some colour, hence all the container plants.

Took a look inside the freezer today and gave up sorting even before I began.  Just cleared on small drawer of the soft fruit leaving enough room to put the S.T.Pudding.  Then shut the door again.  There is so much in the upright fridge/freezer, by this I mean small tubs and packets of things that I've forgotten what they are, I really can't face sorting them out.  Suppose the best thing is to get a trolley and put it by the freezer, then quickly unpack onto the trays, then sit and sort things out.  Almost certainly I should be able to make something from some of it - once I've found out what it is.
A job I'm not looking forward to but MUST be done as this is the time of year to start stocking up again with things like casserole meats, more fish (running out of that), and mince and more mince.  Then sit back and enjoy cooking warming dishes through the cooler and colder months of the year.

Yes, definitely got that 'stirring' in my veins, autumn is just about ready to put its foot through my kitchen door, and I'm really looking forward to this.  Eating salad practically every day has got boring, and today - in desperation - I made myself tomato soup with the dash of fiery chilli sauce just because I'd got withdrawal symptoms (having deprived myself of it for 2 weeks in the hope it might make my knee a bit better.  Well it got no worse).  It's almost worth having the pain to enjoy the 'kick' (pleasant mood-giving) the chilli gives me.

Anyway that's me for today.  Can't think of a recipe that will interest any of you.  Maybe there are too many blogs now giving recipes and perhaps time for me to depart blog-land.  Do we really NEED new recipes?  What perhaps would be good to know is what YOU (and I do mean you personally, not a general 'you') would like me to write about.  Will be back again tomorrow in the hope that somebody might actually write and let me know.  TTFN. 



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Keeping things in Perspective

Had a fairly busy morning, doing a load of washing to take advantage of a dry and breezy day, then baking loaves of bread to keep up with B's constant eating of same, then decided it was time to peel/core and chop the apples that had fallen from the tree.   Started off by filling a big bowl with cold water, having first dissolved some citric acid crystals in it (prevents the cut apples turning brown).  Took me AGES to do the apples, ending up with more peel and waste bits (bruises and maggoties) than apple.  Drained them and divided them into two batches that I popped into the microwave for 3 mins (each batch).  This barely cooked them but now they won't turn brown and anyway are in the freezer for later use.

Noticed that there were loads more apples on the lawn and the patio - these having been blown down during the night.  The seeds are brown so ready for picking anyway.  Some are quite large - like Bamleys (although a different variety of cooking apples), but lots of small ones too - these taking most of the time preparing. 

I'd already sorted the good from the bad - those apples that appeared perfect (no bruising, no pecks or holes) and with any luck these will keep for several weeks.   Now I have to sort out the ones that B brought in today - three bags full.  The best year for apples since we moved here, and luckily the pecking birds seemed to have kept away, also some of the maggots.  So tomorrow (Wednesday) will be another apple-preparing day.

As I was coping fairly well in the kitchen, and with the oven being on (for the bread), decided not to go to the church but carry on cooking, so set about making a large tray of Sticky Toffee Pudding.  It must have been about a year since I last made some for B (although did make one once for the social club), so he was thrilled to bits.  He has already eaten a couple of chunks (reheats well in the microwave), but as it made 12 large squares (and it is very filling), will save a couple more, and the rest will be individually wrapped and frozen.  That is if I can find room in the freezer what with the apples, chicken stock, surplus bread taking up precious space.  

Tomorrow really must sort out the freezer drawers and probably will thaw out all the bags of 'fresh' soft fruits that have been in there for some time (obviously some must have been in a year as they are in season again now), and turn them into mixed fruit jam.  That should give me a whole drawer to put in the apples, ST Pud, and lots more.

However good the summer has been, it gave me much pleasure to make the ST Pud, with its lovely aroma wafting around the kitchen.  Almost an autumnal feeling in the air outside even thought it is still only August.  However much we look forward to spring and summer - and even autumn, we never feel the same about winter, but for the cook this can be one of the best seasons.  Lots of lovely casseroles and hot puddings, not to mention the central heating on again.

Had to smile at your comment buttercup, driving off wrapped in a towel (sorry, bathrobe).  Hope your hot water is back on again. 
Like you OH, my B remarked how chilly it has been getting (especially in our living room), although today - in the garden - he said the temperature was quite warm (again).  I've been snuggling up under my now ancient patchwork quilt (falling to pieces but I love it), plus a crocheted throw our daughter made for me.   I have a larger throw that Gill crocheted, and when the weather gets colder that will be added to the others, so you can visualise me sitting in my chair with me feet up on the pouffe and just my neck sticking out at the top.

With the stores now competing with each other there are always bargains to be had, and as long as we don't get tempted and buy what we really don't need, then worth stocking up when we get the chance.  As you rightly say Margie, we should never judge others by how they shop.  Everyone has their own method, and what might seem wrong to one, could work well for another.  All we have to be concerned with is keeping within our personally set food budget.

Another bit of good shopping advice has come from jane (via Shirley Conran). This is working out how many portions of certain foods will be needed during the week and then seek out the offers and reductions and buy just enough.

Agree with you Cheesepare that home-made crisps really are the best.  These are so good they are often served in top restaurants where they are given the grand name of 'game chips'.  Problem with the home-made is that they are limited in flavour, mainly 'plain with added salt'.  In the past I used to stir some rock or sea salt crystals into a little vinegar and then let the vinegar evaporate, then the salt would have taken on the vinegar flavour so I could make 'salt 'n vinegar crisps', but that is as far as I got. 
When we consider how many chips we can make from one large baking potato (and why not leave the skins on?), even allowing for the cost of the oil (and when hot enough the potatoes absorb very little of it) we can make buckets of crisps for the price of one large bag.

Have heard that glucosomine is good for aching joints.  Used to take it at one time, but that was before I had any pain.  Will get some (or maybe the doc will prescribe some for me).  I see Lidl are selling strong wrap-around knee supports and also elastic bandages (for knees, ankles, wrists etc) that have copper in them.  Not expensive and also on offer from this Thursday so will get B to go and get me one of each, can't do any harm and may give me a lot of pain relief.

I'd been watching Kay Mellor's new series on BBC tonight while B watched a footie match in this room, but of course missed the first part (as I did last week) because I'd nodded off again.  When B came into the living room to let me know I could come in here and use the comp, the news was just starting and was showing the dreadful conditions in Iraq where people were sheltering in mountains from the militia, having to rely on food/water delivered by planes and dropped from the air.  Said to B "this makes me feel really guilty complaining about my knee all the time",  and so it should for what is a little (or even a lot of) pain compared to all that suffering?

It made me think how often we do moan and groan about the hardships that we hear about in this country.  Nobody, but NOBODY has the problems that so many people are now having abroad. We should be thankful and grateful for what we have, not what we don't have.   Not that I want to preach. It's just a fact.  As B says..."there is always somebody worse off than us".  
Maybe it is in our nature to complain, to try and better ourselves or at least make things better than they were.  We'd probably still be living in caves if we hadn't.   What saddens me is what seems to be the incessant need to find a reason to fight wars or terrorise people.  If we could all live in harmony what a wonderful world we could have. 
But perhaps not.  It was only this morning I decided that if heaven was the perfect world and we would live there for an eternity I very soon get bored.  Maybe that is why we can choose to keep returning to this world to a better life than the last or suffer more (depending on whatever lessons we need to learn).  That probably is my idea of heaven, and if everyone could believe this, then maybe they would make sure that in this life we don't pollute the atmosphere or worse so that we have a better world to return to, not a worse one.

Myself like to think the world we have now is pretty nigh perfect, apart from the few wobblies that Mother Nature throws at us, but then we do need to learn it is wise not to build where earthquakes are likely to happen, and keep rivers and water meadows clear so there is far less danger of flooding. 

Don't know why I'm in this funny mood, probably reading the papers, hearing and watching the news. Nothing nice seems to happen these days.  But keeping things in perspective, we can at least make sure our own little castle is fairly secure, drawbridge up (aka gate shut), and grow our own fruit and veg if we can, and if not, make sure we buy food at the best possible price.  Learn a few of those old crafts as well, then let the world sort itself out while we enjoy our own little life.  Or is that being selfish?

Think time for me to sign off, and hope I'm in a better frame of mind tomorrow.  At least the stirrings of autumn are now in my veins (or at least can feel something stirring somewhere in me), and I'm looking forward very much to making my pots of jams, more marmalades, and sorting out my freezers over the next few days.

Before I go, forgot to mention about the colour of egg yolks.  My friend Gill plays cribbage each week with a couple.  The husband is connected with the egg industry, and often gives Gill a tray of free-range eggs to take home.  Asked Gill to ask her friend if he could explain why some yolks are deeper in colour than others, and it is to do with the food they eat.  For deeper yolks they feed the hens maize or orange peel (yes, orange peel!), but as these cost more normally they choose the cheaper chicken feed, and this is why the yolks are pale.
People who keep hens and give them plenty of greens and maize should then have eggs with richly coloured yolks.  Worth adding some orange zest to the feed to see if that makes any difference.  Do wish B would let me keep hens, but common sense tells me that the colour of yolks really has nothing to do with the nutritional value and that - I suppose - is the most important thing.

Off to bed now as I can't wait for tomorrow to start so I can have my 'play' in the kitchen. My good intentions often never get off the ground, but I'm determined that at least some of the above will be done.  Tomorrow you will find out.  TTFN.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Keeping it Simple...

Am writing my blog early again as my knee has been paining me - could be the change in the weather?  Felt an early night might help.  This time next week will have seen the doc. and hope he will have prescribed pain-killers that work.

Sounded as though jane, you caught quite a lot of the storm.  Hope the flooding in your road stayed at street level and not into any houses (or at least your house).  Am sure the weather will have improved by the time you have your late summer holiday in Scarborough.

Suppose the weather in Australia can be (seasonally) different to that in the UK for - as Kate says - the winter so far has been very dry, with drought conditions.  We do hear about adverse weather in Australia, but mainly bush fires, or flooding, and we sort of think of Australia being a land of nothing but sunshine and warmth (and why so many people want and do emigrate there).

The weather in Canada - Toronto area where Margie lives - remains very hot, and until now the UK has matched the temperatures, and also most of the weather since the spring began.  But what may be normal for Canada has been unusual for the UK, so who knows what we'll get next.   Myself I enjoy hearing about the weather around the globe, at least where readers of this blog live.  Being British the weather always seems to be a subject we all talk about, especially ours.
Am looking forward to watching the 'foodie' film mentioned, hadn't heard of it before, but anything with Helen Mirren is bound to be good.

Did watch 'Cook's Questions' last week Les, and it is being shown at the moment, but as B is in the living room watching a series about commandos and I'm in here typing, am having to miss it this week.

A few blogs ago mentioned the making of chicken stock using chicken wings with extra wing 'tips' (plus carrot, celery, onion, bay leaves and a little salt and pepper for seasoning).  Think about 3 pints of water was added (to just cover the contents in the pan), and then simmered for at least two hours (maybe longer).
After removing the wings and picking off all the flesh (B used this the next day in his stir-fry), the bones and skins were put back into the pot, and the next day boiled up again.  Then the lot was strained and the stock put into a bowl, then - when cool - put into the fridge.   The plan was next day to bring it back to the boil to simmer down and reduce it even more.

No need to reduce at all.  The stock has set to a very firm jelly,  never had it set so well before, and proves that chicken wings DO make the best stock.  The flavour was out of this world.   Used some to make B a risotto (gorgeous), and yesterday made a big pot of vegetable soup, using some of the jellied stock (plus water).   That too was really REALLY tasty.  B had two servings of it, and with enough left for today had another, and I had the remainder and even I (who made it) thought it was pretty darn good.  Pay a small fortune for it if it was served to us at a posh restaurant.  Yet the ingredients were very basic (and cheap!!), and the whole thing simply made.

However much I hope to give recipes to please everyone, obviously many would not be suitable.  Vegetarians would dismiss anything that contains meat,  and I'd find it even more difficult to find recipes for a vegan diet without researching specialist cookbooks or the Internet.

Today am hoping the recipes I give will suit the majority of readers as it is one that can be easily adapted.  Although the first makes a large pie to feed eight, it doesn't have to be one pie, it could be eight individual pies, or pasties (Cornish style).  to serve four just halve the ingredients, but as it can be eaten hot or cold, worth making the large style (for a family of four) to eat hot with (say) baked beans on the day of making, then kept in the fridge for up to 3 days and eaten cold for picnic food, or a packed lunch.

As you know my aim is to cut costs whenever possible, or at least offer alternatives as one way to cut costs is 'use what we have'  and not go out and buy what a recipes states.  So we could use any hard cheese, and several different ones (not just the two stated), maybe raid the freezer so we could include some grated cheese that maybe we had frozen away months earlier.
Don't forget onions too are not always the same.  We could use the strongly flavoured 'cooking onions', or the larger sweeter Spanish onions, and red onions are sweet enough to eat without being cooked, as are shallots.

Many chefs suggest we fry onions before adding them to a dish.  This pie uses raw onions, but if you prefer a milder flavour then first fry the onions until softened and just changing colour (this begins to caramelise them which gives them a sweetness), draining them well before using.
Although I've not yet done this myself, am sure the addition of a few chopped pickled onions would improve the flavour even more.

Cheese and onion always go well together, and to keep this pie within budget limits potatoes are also included to add 'body' to the filling.  To save the bother of peeling/boiling/chopping the potato, I part cook a whole unpeeled potato in the microwave (as though cooking for 'jackets') but slightly undercook, then leave it too cool slightly before peeling away the skin (which comes off like tissue paper so we end up with no waste flesh stuck to the skin).  THEN I dice the potato.

The amount of pastry depends upon the size of the dish (or dishes) you will be using, so forgive me for not giving any weight re this.  Work it out for yourself (I have to).

Deep-Dish Cheese and Onion Pie: serves 8
1 quantity of short-crust pastry (see above)
7 oz (200g) Red Leicester cheese, grated
7 oz (200g) Cheddar cheese, grated
2 onions (see above) very finely chopped
1 large potato, peeled/cubed/boiled (see above)
1 egg
good pinch of ground black pepper
1 tsp mustard powder
egg or milk for glazing (opt)
Grease a large, deep pie dish and roll out approx. half the pastry to a size large enough to line the dish and overlap the rim..
Into a bowl put the cheeses and onion, and mix until well combined, the fold in the potato.  Then beat the egg with the pepper and mustard, then stir this into the cheese mixture, and pile it into the pastry case.
Roll out the remaining pastry to make the lid, dampening the edges with water, then lay the lid on top of the pie, crimping the edges together. Trim if necessary, then brush the top with egg or milk if you want a shiny surface (opt).
Bake at 190C, gas 5 for 35 - 45 minutes or until the top is deep golden in colour, then leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving.  Good eaten hot with cooked vegetables, or eat hot or cold with baked beans and a salad.

Second recipe is not a million miles away from the one above regarding ingredients, but a more traditional dish from the north of England, and simpler to make. 

Pan Haggerty: serves 4
1.5lb (675g) potatoes
2 onions, chopped
2 oz (50g) dripping
4 oz (100g) grated Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
Peel and boil the potatoes until just tender, then drain and cool slightly before cutting them into thin slices.
Melt the dripping in a frying pan and fry the onions for about 5 - 8 minutes until softened, then remove using a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.;
Using the same pan arrange the potatoes, onions and the cheese in layers, seasoning each layer generously. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, then finish by browning under the grill.

We all try to keep our food budget as low as possible and - at the moment - with the supermarkets all trying to outdo each other with bargains, it is not as difficult as it has been in the past, although some things - such as meat/fish - do seem to be increasing in price.  But we all know there are plenty of cheaper alternatives we could be eating.

Myself would find it interesting to know what decisions readers make to keep costs down.  Some I know make up the menu for a week, then go and buy what is needed AND NOTHING ELSE.  Others may have a rough idea of what meals they wish to make (meat on Sunday, vegetarian Monday......fish on Friday for instance) but wait to see what meat/fish is the cheapest (on offer or reduced) before choosing which to buy.

Some may prefer to buy packs of mixed stew-pack veggies, other may prefer to buy them separately (either in packs or loose).  And what about branded foods?  Do you try different brands of baked beans/sardines/tuna/corned beef/chopped tomatoes etc?  Or always buy the ones you know you like?

And what about bread?  Are we satisfied with the soft hardly-ever-goes-mouldy cheese that now fills the supermarket shelves, or do we prefer the crusty farmhouse type, and for that matter if we really do like good bread, do we bother to make it ourselves, and if so do we use a packet of bread mix (which can be extended by adding more strong bread flour) or prefer to make it from scratch?

Not sure whether I mentioned (some weeks ago) that my friend Gill - who brought up four children and was a really good cook - told me she had baked a cake (first time for ages - and possibly because she had a new oven), but had used a packet cake mix.  I nearly fainted when she told me.  I think it was Brownies she made, and she was very pleased with the result.  

But I can see where she was coming from.  Now living alone, not eating cake herself, wishing to take cake to her grandchildren, wanting to try out the oven, this was the simplest way, and as it worked then almost certainly cake-mixes will begin to be popped into her shopping trolley.

When something is made easy for us to make, how can we be blamed for choosing something where a lot of the work has been done for us?  Instead of weighing umpteen different ingredients (then replacing them all back on our larder shelves) all we have to do is open a pack, add the necessary liquids (egg/milk?), and pour into a prepared container (maybe provided) and bake. 

Despite the thought I'm not talking myself into using any conveniently prepared products YET!  Can't say it isn't tempting, but as I'm the most miserly person you can think of then be sure I'll have worked out what is the cheapest way to make a cake (or anything else that can be bought as a 'ready') and home-made always wins.  Tastes a darn sight better too - which is a bonus in itself.

This is not to say I don't buy 'ready-mades', and doubt very much if I'd make my own potato crisps again (although I have in the past).  And I'm very fond of rice crackers (low in calories).  I even buy hummous although I do have the makings (I'm getting very lazy these days - blaming it on my knee of course).  But cakes, biscuits, scones, desserts of all kinds, and of course bread are all home-made.  My only weakness is buying ready-made pastry:  short pastry, puff pastry and filo pastry.  Purely because I truly cannot make pastry as good.  It doesn't matter how much I roll heavily, scrunch up and knock to smithereens the bought short pastry, it still cooks as tender as if treated with delicate hands.  My home-made is and always has been like thick cardboard (and tastes like it too) however carefully I treat it.  My mother used to make wonderful light pastry, but she always had icy cold hands.  I've run my hands under the cold tap, I've made the pastry in the processor using cold fats and iced water and never touched it with hands until I had to, and still it ends up as cardboard.  So I buy it, store it in the freezer, and then it is always there when I need it.

That's it for this evening.  Not sure if I'll be going to the church tomorrow afternoon, the seats there are not comfortable and I don't like having to squeal when I stand up, but am sure they understand. Two of the ladies there have arthritis but they don't squeak.  Perhaps I have a low pain threshold or something.  Or maybe it's not arthritis.   Have to wait and see.

Now that Bertha has moved away from our shores (or just about), and what was a breezy day here seems now to have quietened down,  let's hope we get back to some gentler weather and the children will be able to enjoy their summer holidays in the fresh air and not sit in front of their comps or whatever is the latest technology to drain our pockets and ruin our social life, not to mention health.
Please join me again tomorrow, and will look forward to 'seeing' you then.  TTFN.