Saturday, June 18, 2011

Clipping My Wings

At least some good news. Although trying to bring back some of the more recent blogs, was unsuccessful, but when I went back to the start (Sept 2006), and finding that although Sept and Oct were complete, November had lost some, so with some removal of quite a bit of chat and some complete postings (media moments had to go), most of November 2006 is now back again.
The reason why I'm concentrating on the earliest blogs is that most of my 'useful info' and particularly my first Challenge are worth reading in entirety. So will keep moving up through the month, maybe deleting a whole posting if not really worth the read (some don't have recipes or even tips), and maybe most will return.

Initially I used to make an index of all recipes shown each month - these too up a lot of space, much later I made a complete and more concise index of all recipes before that date in a more useful order: all chicken recipes given, all cake recipes etc. If I can bring those back with all the recipes (and there were nearly 3000 recipes if I remember, then that should be a great help.

Seems that - perhaps due to the length of each posting - at the moment blogger are only showing the previous three each month, maybe more if shorter. So although it's obviously my 'ramblings' causing the problem, will keep on 'chatting', and just delete them a few weeks later leaving just the recipes. So all those who enjoy hearing about the Goode life, warts and all, will still be able to read. New readers also. But still have plenty of (hopefully) useful info to refer to in the past. So our current life left in, only recipes, hints and tips in the much earlier postings. Hope that will be OK.

It took me half a day to clear enough space in November 2006 to nearly bring back the lot. Still have two days missing, so obviously it's going to take weeks to clear up to 2011, but if I can do a month a day, come autumn it should all be sorted. Well, that's the idea anyway. This weekend should show me if the 'pruning' works or not.
The above will of course be deleted when I get to this page (in about September) because I've probably already filled my allotted space for today.

Thanks to Les for his comments, think it is a blogger decision to curtail blogs, but it would be interesting to know if any other garrulous bloggers have experienced the same thing.
Thanks also to Donna and Urbanfarmgirl for their comments. Am getting a strong feeling that husbands, partners, and all family members, not to mention friends are beginning to enjoy the fruits of your labour, and not just you two - but all readers who now seem to really into 'home-cooking'.

Often it seems we can spend hours in the kitchen, only to find that all the results of are hard work are scoffed in minutes, so not a bad idea to hide away part before it is discovered. A good tip when making biscuits, is to make the type where the mixture can be rolled up and frozen before being baked, then a few slices cut off to be baked when the oven is on for something else. Likewise a dry 'scone mix' can be made in bulk and stored in the fridge to just remove a bit, adding enough liquid to form into a dough, and these too can be baked when the oven is on.
As rich fruit cake will store for several weeks (months if alcohol is drizzled over from time to time), these are worth making as large as possible in a square tin, so that they can be cut in half (or even into three/four), so there is fruit cake to be offered from time to time (family just have to wait for a week or so before it is offered again).
Gingerbread and flapjack too keep well, as does shortbread (all in airtight containers of course). Biscuits will also keep in airtight tins, and a good suggestion is - if you don't wish to freeze - is use 'anonymous' containers, labelled with something like 'used butter papers for greasing', or "icing syringes and bags', then it is very unlikely they will even be considered as holding anything edible. Men and children (much the same thing) tend to view life in black and white, their lives being ruled by '"what it says on the box". And I don't mean TV, although it could apply.

Beloved had supper of Beef Strogonoff yesterday, not sure what he helped himself to for 'afters', but nothing 'important' seems to be missing from the fridge. Perhaps he had a banana with some of the cream (cream always there for him), anyway it was his night out to his sailing 'social', so he had more things to keep him happy than just 'snacking' until bedtime. He is out this morning at the 'open day' of the RNLI Hovercraft (for selected viewers only), and out this afternoon 'birding'. Now he has his new camera, he is getting some superb shots of birds AND rabbits. The camera has (think) up to 50 times magnification, so he can zoom in quite close to get shots of what are barely visible to the naked eye. Am happy that he has a new hobby as it keeps him from always being under my feet (one of the problems with retirement I suppose, others will of course disagree).

Not a sunny day yesterday, so didn't venture outdoors. Felt extremely cold and very nearly put the heating on for a couple of hours, but instead tucked myself up in my cuddle blanket when sitting down. Think it is not eating enough that is making me feel chilly, and after getting myself a plate of corned beef, tomatoes and beetroot (just because it was easy to put together), did start to warm up. Fortunately the lack of carbos, and the protein (plus other protein eaten earlier in the day) helped me to lose 1 lb overnight. Am sure shivering burns up the cals too.

Had a short discussion with B about energy, as although I have had no teaching as regards physics and chemistry, biology or any of the 'sciences', do realise that just about everything is what I call 'compacted energy'. This I suppose originated from the sun, and although B says "there is nothing new, and nothing disappears, it just comes back in another form" (not quite those words but something like), still feel as though this is not quite correct. We see a small acorn grow into a huge tree, that - over the years - sheds leaves and these rot down into thick compost. When things rot down they add another layer to the earth. This is why people have to dig down deep to find fossils from the past.
Perhaps a lot of the sand and dust covering things comes from eroding rocks over trillions of years, so these are just a replacement, but as 'living things' grow needing (mainly) only sun and water (although the latter is recycled: rain, rivers, sea, evaporation, start all over again...), plus the 'fertiliser' produced by creatures (recycled food waste), surely this MUST add to the circumference of the earth. It is the sun's energy that seems to have to find a place to live and be stored and the more energy it gives us, the more things have to be evolved to 'hold it'. Otherwise this energy is lost, and if nothing is lost - where would it go? Or am I completely off my rocker?

Sudden thought! If the plants spin, then this must take energy to keep them moving. So that's where some of it must go. Friction (air) slows down a spinning top, but with no air is space that is a help I suppose. But why did Also why did the planets start spinning in the first place, and why don't they slow down (or even speed up)? Presumable it was the initial spinning that made them roughly ball-shaped in the first place. Think I'm getting out of my depth here, better stick to what I know. Like food!

Seeing a well-known chef recommend the use of a certain brand of stock 'cube' (both jellied and in granular form) and having tried the 'jellied' myself, have to say that the end result (possibly due to me not using enough liquid) made a gravy that was too salty to eat. But then as salt is added as a preservative (to give a long shelf-life) was not really surprised.
My 'Cook's Companion' tells me that stock cubes mainly consist of salt, monosodium glutamate, and given a chicken or beef (or any other meat/fish cube on sale) 'flavour', which may not have come from the actual meat itself. Plus a 'binder'. They contain no nourishment, only there to add said 'flavour'. Some are truly dreadful, others very useful (my mother used to use a teaspoon of Bovrl from a jar, and we can still do that (vegetarians can use Marmite), but for those who wish to cut 'additives' out of our diet, then its always worth making our own stock. Chicken stock being one of the easiest to make. Think we all appreciate how much better a meal can taste when made using 'proper' stock.
It's not necessary to continually be making stock as it can be reduced (by simmering down), and frozen. Chefs these days make stock from bones (often given away by butchers). Myself tend to save most of the cooking liquid after cooked cheaper cuts of beef (rib trim, shin, ox tail etc - often together) in my slow-cooker. The 'stock' then is very well flavoured. As it is being frozen, do not normally bother to strain out any 'bits', they all add flavour to the gravy when used later.
Fish is not worth making in advance as it should not cook for more than half an hour at the most. The suggestion is to keep in your fridge/freezer only the type of stock you use the most (such as chicken and beef).

The same book has a lot to say about various methods of cooking rice (of which grain there are many different kinds), but one suggestion is slightly unusual and time-saving. Certainly useful when entertaining as you can happily leave it to 'cook on' by itself. This is what you do:
a way to cook rice:
Heat oil in a pan with a well-fitting lid (its usual to fry an onion in this before adding rice), then add the rice and fry gently until translucent, then add water to the rate (say) of 1 1/2 times the the volume of rice (or whatever it takes for complete absorption). Bring to the boil and continue cooking until the rices has risen above the water and the surfaces is pitted with little holes, then clap on the lid. Remove from heat and quickly wrap the pan in newspaper, then completely enfold with a blanket (or towel). In half an hour the rice will be cooked, but can be left for several hours if necessary. Fluff it up with a fork to loosen the rice as you turn it out.

Flicking through the pages of the above book, have now come to the 'S' named foods. The one catching my eye is 'salad dressing'. Worth a mention I thought as many of us (myself included) often buy these instead of making. But the book gives plenty of suggestions that I thought worth sharing:
salad dressings:
The simplest salad dressing is salt. A dressing of olive oil, salt and vinegar is also an ancient one. Lemon juice is preferred by some instead of using vinegar.
The type of dressing used must depend upon the ingredients in the salad, although the tendency is for personal preference.
French Dressing (aka vinaigrette), is a classic. Made using 1 part of wine vinegar to 3 or 4 parts olive oil. Salt left to the makers discretion. The oil should be light (extra virgin often being too overwhelming), otherwise use a light seed (or nut oil - say sunflower). The vinegar should be a good wine vinegar, or a herb (tarragon) vinegar could be used. Some people prefer to use cider vinegar, and some even use malt vinegar (although this is generally frowned upon).
Mixing salad with dressing is usually done at the last minute, although some vegetables (beetroot, celery, celeriac...) need time to absorb the dressing. The basic 'green salad' should always have the dressing added at the last minute, then 'tossed' - preferably with the hands. If you wish to introduce a hint of garlic, either rub a clove round the salad bowl, or rub onto a slice of bread and place this in the bottom of the bowl - but allow more dressing as the bread will soak up quite a lot.

A way to make a salad dressing without using oil is a way that originate in Ireland. All you have to do is heat a tablespoon of vinegar and dissolve some sugar in it. This makes a sweet-sour dressing that can be drizzled over a salad.

bacon fat dressing:
Dice about 4 oz (100g) streaky bacon (fattier the better), and fry gently until the fat runs out, then remove bacon and deglaze the pan with a tblsp vinegar. While still hot, pour this over the salad. This is particularly good used with the more 'bitter' greens, such as dandelion leaves, chicory, spinach... .

Those who have a blender/liquidiser will find it easy to make a creamy dressing, a sort of 'light' mayonnaise that doesn't need eggs, using instead mustard or garlic (or both) as a 'stabilizer'. To make: mix a heaped teaspoon of mustard powder with water and leave it to 'brew' for 10 minutes (suppose a proportionate amount of ready-made bought mustard could be used instead). Sweeten some vinegar with sugar to taste (icing sugar dissolves more rapidly) add a little salt, then put the lot in the blender and start whizzing at full speed. Very slowly blend in oil, a few drops at a time, until the desired consistency. Herbs may be added if you wish.

Thousand Island Dressing is one I used to often buy, although had almost forgotten about it. But it is nice. Here is the way to make it at home:
Thousand Island Dressing:
half pint mayonnaise
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp Dijon mustard
pinch cayenne pepper
1 - 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tblsp finely chopped celery
1 tblsp finely chopped sweet pickle
1 tsp chopped capers
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
Mix everything together, adjust seasoning if you think it necessary, then serve on Iceberg lettuce.

Moving away from the book, my final suggestion today is to perhaps cook more 'naughties'. For one thing, home-cooked cakes, cookies, fruit pies, scones with home-made jam are really, REALLY nice to eat, and if care is taken with ingredients, can also be (sort of) 'nourishing' (any excuse to eat forbidden fruit).
If we use porridge oats as part of the ingredients when baking, we are adding extra protein, several cakes can be made using carrots, parsnips, courgettes, even beetroot - so these have to be 'healthier' than those using more 'unhealthy' (aka sugar) ingredients. Biscuits and scone too can be made with oats, including gingerbread and flapjack. Savour scones can include cheese (another high protein food), so together - when added to the main meals of the day - this means we could reduce some of the more expensive protein from some of the dishes (usually meat), and if we will be eating cakes and biscuits (wheat based) we don't really need to eat pastry with a meat pie. As ever, if we get the 'balance' right, we can substitute one ingredient (or food) for another.
So, if intending to serve a two course meal (as most of us do), why not start with a simple savoury (even just soup), a slightly smaller main course, and NO pudding. The have the 'naughties' (listed above) ready for all to help themselves if they wish. This goes against all the recommendations as to avoid 'snacking' and just eat three good meals a day, but for those who do like to 'snack', home-made always tastes better than anything similar bought from a shop. And contains no of those dreaded additives.

Only the other day was reading a lengthy article about bread sold, especially that sold in supermarkets. Over the years so much has been added to either 'improve' the dough or give it a longer shelf life that it does seem that many people are developing allergies from eating it. Myself included. Whether this is the reason or not, since eating only home-baked bread, now no longer have the bi-monthly facial swelling that has bugged me for the last five years, and certainly do not get the 'bloating' and other gastric problems that came with eating 'bought bread'.

Anyway - time for me to finish and start deleting a lot of December 2006 in the hope that I can bring back most of the useful hints, tips and recipes. This was the month when the first Big Challenge was started,and this is one that will work for anyone, but only if all the details can be read. So until tomorrow, when will be able to give either the good news (the postings are back) or the bad news (they are not). See you then.