Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Good(e) Eating

Thanks for your concern Les. Believe me, am not being a martyr. The reason why I don't eat so much is more personal choice. Having now dieted hard for two years (and lost nearly six stone - it is still fluctuating), my stomach has shrunk. Also my taste buds seem to be disappearing (apparently my pills are causing this), and it has got to the point when I have to force myself to eat at times. Yesterday did eat more food, felt none the better for it, had some dyspepsia, and have gained back the 2 lbs lost last week. Once I begin to eat 'normally' my weight will balloon back up again. So perhaps feeling cold is just one of the burdens I have to put up with when losing weight.

As I have regular blood tests (once every three months for the last two years, but the last appointment was to be in six months time), am sure am being checked for anaemia Alison, but will give a mention at the end of Sept. when my next appt. is due. My mother said she was always anaemic (she never had her blood checked or saw the doctor), so it was only when she fell and broke her hip (at the age I am now) and had to go to hospital that it was discovered she had pernicious anaemia and from then on would have to have regular B12 injections (although sadly she died when in hospital). Do remember her hands always feeling cold (and why she was able to make such wonderful pastry). I've always had warm hands until recently when they now always feel cold (so perhaps I'd better see if I can make good pastry - as never could before). Pernicous anaemas can be hereditary, so worth making sure I haven't now succumbed to this also.

Thanks Scarlet for your mention of keeping anaemia at bay Scarlet, almost certainly your breakfasts (and snacks) of Bran Flakes and raisins helped (both bran and dried fruits high in iron).

Never knew this before, but some people can have too much iron in their blood, my son-in-law being one. Not sure how this was discovered, think he collapsed/fainted a couple of years ago and tests proved this was the cause. For quite a long time he had to have a pint or two of blood removed each month to keep his red blood cell count down, and after that once every three months I believe. He has been told not to eat any red meat or drink stout, and avoid other foods high in iron (so when they visit have to be very careful what food I serve him). Apparently in the Republic of Ireland (they live in Co.Mayo) this 'disease' is fairly common, mainly because it is hereditary, but made worse because Guinness seems to be the traditional drink, and taken in quite an amount at any one time by certain folk.

When we visited Ireland, we went into a small pub in a tiny village at lunchtime (think near the coast in Galway) and there were about 10 pints of Guinness all lined up along the pub counter - each with it's 'head' slightly 'thicker' than the next. Seems it takes a little while for a proper 'head' to rise to the top of the stout, so a little patience is needed before it is drunk. As there were only a few 'locals' in the pub, possibly they had each ordered two pints (if not three) and would be drinking them in turn, once the froth had settled nicely on the top.
Serving Guinness from bottles (when working as barmaid), other than pouring the stout from the bottle in a special way to avoid too many bubbles, there was no waiting for the head to rise. In Ireland think that Guinness is in local pubs is drawn from barrels, causaing a bigger 'head' (eventuall) in the glass.

As you say Urbanfarmgirl on the cooler days we are getting now, stews and casseroles come to mind, although yesterday we were blessed with a wonderful day here, sunny, warm and barely a breeze. Although the weather forecast is not good in various parts of the country, it did show the Morecambe Bay area as bathed in sunshine. Think they got that wrong for woke to a sky covered in rain clouds. Have to wait and see what happens.
As to freezing mashed potatoes. Have never myself found these very successful when mashed in the normal way, due mainly to spuds having a high water content. Usually use 'instant' mash when freezing things like Cottage Pie/Shepherd's Pie etc, or when making fish cakes as - when reconstituted with milk and butter, seasoning to taste, this does taste pretty good and freezes perfectly.

On way to freeze potatoes that works fairly well, is to cook the spuds as 'jackets', then remove most of the flesh, mash it with butter and plenty of grated cheese, season to taste, then pile it back into the shells. Open freeze, then bag up when solid. When thawed (or nearly thawed) they can be re-heated in the oven or under the grill to brown up the top.
If freezing normal mash, also best not to peel the spuds (this way they won't absorb water) and bake or microwave in their skins. The flesh then mashes without any lumps. If wishing to mash peeled potatoes, then drain well and put back into the pan over VERY low heat so that as much moisture as possible is removed before mashing. Mashing in a little butter and cream won't hurt as this is a different sort of 'liquid'.

There was an article in the trade mag that I didn't mention as could not get my head around the sense of it, but perhaps should - see if you can work it out. Sainsbury's have "launched its own Brand Match initiative this week - and had a swipe at rival schemes for being too complicated....and pledges to match Tesco and Asda on more than 12,000 branded grocery lines.
Unlike Tesco's Price Check and Asda's Price Guarantee where customers have to type receipt details into websites, Sainsbury's will give shoppers a voucher instantly at the till......We want to give shoppers a no-hassle experience....and understand they don't want to spend time checking prices or logging onto a computer to print a coupon at home".

Sainsbury's have made it clear that shoppers will need to spend £20 or more and buy at least one comparable branded grocery item to qualify, and has capped the maximum value of a single Brand Match coupon to £20.
Also "to avoid the cottage industry of savvy and determined people" (who forced Tesco to scrap its Double the Difference promise in April), shoppers can buy no more than 10 identical items in one transaction."

It all sounds good, but surely to find out if we have spent more at Sainsbury's than we would at Tesco/Asda for any one branded grocery item, we either need to know before we go shopping, or check our receipt on computer websites as is done now. If we already know that something is cheaper elsewhere, then would our word for it be taken at the check-out and an instant refund given? Refund in vouchers, not in cash by the sound of it, which means we then have to spend the 'savings' in Sainsbury's whether we wish to or not.
Probably my jaundiced and cynical mind trying to tear the scheme to shreds even before it has got off the ground, but it hardly seems 'easier' than those other stores that also pay back 'the difference'.
Would be interested to hear your views re this.

As to yesterdays' Goode life. For both of us it was a fairly leisurely day, more for me than B as during the morning - the weather being so perfect - he went for a bike ride along our 5 mile prom which has a wide 'off-road' walkway where pedestrians, cyclists and mobility scooters can use. Me, I sorted out one kitchen cupboard, making room for serving bowls and dishes (normally using for 'dining', and kept in the conservatory). This didn't take long, so decided to make myself an early lunch of sardine and sliced tomato sarnies and take them outside to eat in the sun. Have to say that food always tastes so much better eaten 'al fresco', the warmth of the sun on the bread may have something to do with it - certainly the flavours of the fillings seem enhanced. Remember as a child one of my greatest pleasures was eating the first of my dad's tomatoes in a sarnie, eaten in the garden on a warm summer day.

Took the newspaper out with me as well and did the crosswords, and sudokus, then read the paper. Must have been in full sun for at least an hour. The sunshine seemed even hotter than normal, which led to another childhood memory of a summer's day when it was very hot and my dad showed me how an egg could be cooked (probably fried) on one of the very hot flagstones in the garden. Another time he showed me how by using a magnifying glass he could focus the sun's rays onto a piece of paper and set that alight.
Maybe this began the awakening of 'self-sufficiency', for after that was always playing 'alone on a deserted island', and having to fend for myself. Mind, you, my deserted island was the top part of our garden, full of 'edibles', either wild or home-grown, so I didn't starve, but it was fun making a camp fire from dry twigs, a bit of dry grass and using the magnifying glass to light it.

The other day was talking to Gill about various celebs, and Gavin Henson's name cropped up. I was saying how - in "Strictly....", he was a strange mixture of shyness and vanity. The two don't seem to go together. Gill said that when he was on Desert Island Discs, the one thing he would take to the desert island would be a mirror! And - having seen him constantly tweaking his hair and admiring himself in one on 'Strictly...." was (I suppose) not surprised. But to be fair, maybe Gavin had been a boy scout and knew that a mirror could focus the sun's rays as well as reflecting the light so that he could use the mirror to light a fire, and also use it to flash a signal it would if a boat appeared on the horizon. Mirrors are not always used to admire ourselves. (Note: if you have only a small Christmas tree, it will appear much larger - in other words twice the size - when placed in front of a mirror).

When Beloved had returned from his cycle ride he suggested we go out for a drive, so this is what we did. We took a fairly scenic route through Littledale, where we then drove up through woodland (full of bluebells in the spring), and up to very high ground where we were able to see vast vistas across Morecambe Bay to the Lake District on one side, and see Blackpool Tower on the other.
We called at Glasson Dock on the way back, calling in at the marina so B could see how some of the boats (removed from water) were progressing with repairs. There we saw a small narrow boat for sale, and I asked B to find out the price (almost affordable if Ernie or the Lottery was kind to us), as I was wishing to buy 'accomodation' so that all our family could use it for a 'free holiday' (other than paying for their own food, and fuel if necessary). Unfortunately I couldn't climb the ladder to get into the narrow boat (it was standing on blocks on dry ground) but as the owner was on board, he showed B around the inside, where he told me after it had only two berths, and no fridge. The owner said it was too expensive to have a fridgea as they only used the boat at weekends and managed with a cool box. We really need one with four berths and as many mod-cons as possible to allow for a week or fortnight's holiday for our family and friends.

Buying a caravan was my first thought, but with a narrow boat there is 'movability' and with cycles provided, this might be better, anyone who travels up by car could leave it in our drive, we could then take them to 'our' narrow boat (which would be moored less than 5 miles away at Hest Bank) and collect them on their return. We would also provide cycles for them to ride along the towpath etc. to visit places further afield.
Probably this will never happen, pipe dreams do they call it? But it would be good to have somewhere for friends and family to stay when visiting and take a holiday at the same time.
When not in use, Beloved and I could chug up and down the canal for a day or two, taking in the scenery. At least here there is a 40 mile long stretch of canal that has no locks. Perfect for someone (like me) who doesn't enjoy the hard work cranking the lock doors open. "Why can't the lock gates be worked by pressing a button to open/shut them?" I asked B whilst we sat yesterdaywatching two lock-keepers feverishly winding the handles on either side of the lock. He said it's easier to do it by hand. Not in my world it isn't.

After returning home, and having a 'sit down' to re-group myself, the phone rang and it was someone who had offered to buy B's boat. And pay cash for it! So off B went to collect said money, and on return said he would treat me by paying for a meal that evening. This turned out to be Chinese take-away, and although twice asking him to bring me in a glass of milk before he went to collect the meal as this would line my stomach before eating, this he forgot to do (so what's new? and yes, could have got the milk myself but didn't), at least the meal I chose (being fairly flavourless with no spices, and with boiled rice instead of fried rice) didn't seem to give me the normal dyspepsia that the previous more acidic-sauced Chinese meals previously did. But still had a bit to spoil the event, so with this and the meal lacking much taste, it wasn't really enjoyed. But nice not to have to cook for once.

Spent the evening watching TV as normal, with one quite good prog on BBC3 (something about chaos ending up as intelligence as the universe got itself in order). Another good programme on BBC2 about different types of glue. Didn't realise how easy it is to make some ourselves by mixing skimmed milk with something (heck, I've forgotten what - was it vinegar?) then, after straining to collect the 'curds', bicarbonate of soda was added. left to stand, and then it had turned into a glue. Possibly more useful to stick 'lightweights' together than anything else, but interesting nevertheless.
The programme didn't say, but I do know that egg white makes a very good 'glue' to stick paper, and an envelope sealed with egg white cannot be steamed open. Might be useful info if you want to write a letter where the contents have to be read only by the person to whom it was addressed.

Today my plan is to finish clearing out the conservatory, and - after Norma the Hair's visit tomorrow morning - will then (hopefully) with B's help be able to slide the table across the carpet a few feet to go against the window side of the 'room'. The table is solid wood and EXTREMELY heavy, so hope we will be able to move it. Have bought some big discs to fit under each of the four heavy legs, these should help slide the table more easily, but so far even lifting the table to put them under has been too much for me, but with B's help? Otherwise we will have to wait until our daughter and her husband visit us. Four pairs of hands being better than two.

Depending upon what time I sit down in front of this comp tomorrow morning, you may find there is only time to reply to comments (Norma arriving around 10.00am). So apologies in advance. On the other hand, may wake up early and have time to ramble on in my normal way.

With the courgette season now upon us, today am giving a few recipes using this vegetable. Possibly some have already been posted in earlier years, but worth giving again.

The first recipe makes good use of the larger courgettes that have become small marrow. Even part of a full-grown marrow could be used.
Courgette Cake: makes 8 slices
4 oz (100g) sultanas
4 fl oz (100ml) apple or orange juice
9 oz (250g) peeled courgettes or marrow
9 oz (250g) butter, softened
9 oz (250g) caster sugar
2 large or 3 medium eggs
1 dessert apple
good pinch salt
half tsp ground cinnamon
8 oz (250g) self-raising flour
Soak the sultanas in the chosen fruit juice for half an hour. Meanwhile, grate the courgettes/marrow, place on a clean tea-towel, then gather up the corners and twist to wring out as much moisture as possible.
Put the butter and sugar into a mixing bowl and cream together until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the eggs. Drain the sultanas, then fold these into the creamed mixture with the courgettes. Peel and grate the apple and fold that in as well.
Sift the flour with the salt and cinnamon, fold into the mixture until combined, then pour into a greased and lined 2 lb (1kg) loaf tin, and level the top.
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 50 or so minutes until the top is golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minute, then turn out onto a cake airer, removing the baking parchment, and leave to cool completely.
This cake should be stored in an airtight tin, where it will then keep perfectly for a week.

With many courgette plants having an abundance of male flowers (like humans you only need one to fertilise all the females around), why not use these as a 'dish' in their own right. This recipe just uses only the flowers (remove the bit in the centre before cooking), but they can also be stuffed with cream cheese/spinach before frying if you wish. Stuff the flowers, then twist the tops of the petals together to hold the stuffing in place.
Deep-Fried Courgette Flowers: serves 2 - 4
8 male courgette flowers
4 oz (100g) flour (plain or self-raising)
salt and pepper to taste
7 fl oz (200ml) cold water
1 oz (25g) grated Parmesan cheese
Put the flour into a bowl, adding seasoning to taste, then gradually mix in the water (you may need a little less) to make a smooth, lump-free batter, then fold in the cheese.
Put enough oil in a large saucepan to come no more than half-way up the sides, then heat to 180C (350F) - or until a cube of bread thrown in turns golden in 20 seconds.
Dip each courgette flower into the batter, then drop into the hot oil. Fry for a couple of minutes or until golden, then drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with a little salt and serve immediately.

Next recipe is for a pizza, and use red onions rather than the 'ordinary' if you have them as they are more tender and sweeter. Although topped with not much more than courgettes, onions and cheese, by all means add other bits and bobs if you wish. Cooked chicken (picked from a carcase) goes well, as do snippets of chorizo. Or use bacon. But even without these 'extras', this pizza is pretty darn good.
Make pizza bases yourself and store them in the freezer. Top them whilst still frozen (they thaw rapidly) and bake in the normal way. Myself prefer to brush the edges of the pizza base with oil once the topping is on - this helps keep the dough slightly soft - the heat can sometimes drying a thin-based pizza out to almost a 'biscuit'.
Courgette and Onion Pizza: serves 4
1 x 12" uncooked pizza base
3 courgettes, thinly sliced
2 onions, pref red, thinly sliced
3 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
8 fl oz (225ml) tomato 'pizza' sauce
salt and pepper
2 tblsp shredded basil leaves
4 black olives, pitted and sliced
4 oz (100g) Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese
Put the pizza base on its baking tray. Take a large frying pan, add the oil and fry the courgettes together with the onions until just tender and turning gold. Add the garlic during the last 2 minutes of cooking, and season well. Remove from heat.
Spread the tomato sauce over the pizza base, then top with the courgette/onion/garlic mixture and add a little more seasoning. Sprinkle over the basil leaves and sliced olives, then finish by arranging the Mozzarella slices on top, with a final sprinkle of Parmesan.
Bake in a hot oven 220C, 425F, gas 7 or until both the edges of the pizza base and the cheese are golden.

Final recipe today uses couscous as a base. Athough this grain has no flavour of its own, it will take up the flavours of whatever is served with it, and this dish has loads. It's also a good way to serve courgettes that are both cooked yet still have 'bite'.
Although pistachio nuts are the ones suggested for this recipe, no reason why other nuts could not be used instead. The herbs too could be varied according to what you have.
Couscous with Courgettes and Herbs: serves 4
5 oz (150g) couscous
half pint (300ml) boiling vegetable stock
1 tblsp finely chopped fresh mint
1 tblsp finely chopped fresh basil
1 tblsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 oz (50g) pistachio nuts, chopped
4 spring onions, chopped
6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
3 courgettes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper
Put the couscous into a bowl and pour over the boiling stock. Give a stir, then cover and leave to stand for 15 minutes, by which time all the stock should have been absorbed. Fluff up the couscous with a fork, then add the chopped herbs, nuts, spring onions and tomatoes.
Put the oil into a deep frying pan, and when hot add the courgettes and stir-fry for 3 - 4 minute until golden and just tender. Don't overcook. Season well and fold into the couscous mix.
This dish eats well with roast chicken or lamb (hot or cold), and a crisp green salad.

That's it for today. Hope to rise early enough tomorrow to write enough to be worth reading - although it has to be said that most of my 'ramblings' are not worth reading in the first place. Have a good day.