Tuesday, August 09, 2011

What Happens Next?

Woken today to blue sky and sunshine, but the forecast is for rain so not holding my hopes. It does seem to be true for most of us that the weather has much to do with our moods. Is that why the people from the Latin countries seem so laid back and happy. Although the hotter the climate (as in the Middle East) it seems to have the reverse effect.

Regarding paganism. Thanks to readers who have sent in comment re this. Myself seem to have spent a life veering from one type of 'religion' to another, always in the aim to find the truth. My mother had no truck with going to church as she always said women went their to show of their new hats, and she didn't wish me to have anything to do with it.
As a child it was seeing a copy of the picture 'The Light of the World" (think that was its name) that gave me the stirrings of Christianity. In adult years had quite a leaning to the Gaia principle, which is a bit like paganism. Even now feel that as our bodies are composed of the earth's elements, and throughout life continue to be, we are then truly part and parcel of this Earth, and our 'life' could be an embodiment of the Earth's spirit. What is the point of having true beauty if you can't look at yourself from time to time. Sometimes I believe that there is so much beauty on this earth that it is the Heaven of our Bible.

Then I feel if the Earth is a form of spiritual life, then so there could be the same in other parts of the universe, and maybe there are many universes and - watching the recent programmes about how everything seems to be based on numbers, there HAS to be some intelligence behind it all. Which then brings me back to God. Maybe there is a supreme intelligence that has given a God for each solar system. Someone has to be there to look after us. And we are looked after believe me.

Many things have happened to me that have no explanation other than a guardian angel was removing me from danger. It may be a heavenly spirit, it may one of Mother Nature's sprites (yes, I even saw fairies when a child). I now no longer question, just accept what life puts on my plate - giving thanks always when it is due - and still believe in the Christian way of life (although sometimes this does conflict with my other beliefs). By working through various faiths it has made me realise that we are here on this planet for a reason - almost certainly to learn a lesson or three - and my belief in reincarnation will probably be returning many times until I get it right.
As I've said more than once - that there are many paths to the Light, but if we are steadfast and continue walking in the right direction, even when changing to an easier path now and again, we should get there in the end.

Clouds are now peeping over the tops of the houses at the far back. Makes me think of our national news at the present time - nothing but clouds there and most giving me more cause for gloom than the weather. Are we coming up to a winter of discontent? The riots that began in London have now spread to Bristol and yesterday heard they have reached Birmingham. Is Manchester next, and then Newcastle?
What chilled me to the bone was hearing a lady on the news last night saying how lucky she was to get out alive from a burning building with barely the clothes she stood up in, and how looters were passing by her carrying their plunder, all laughing, ingnoring her distress, and obviously enjoying the experience they had set up.
These louts know there are not enough police to control all areas, so it's all going to be a huge, fun game to those few who have no morals whatsoever, and myself feel it can only get worse. Then we will get a 'state of emergency', the troops brought in and curfews set. Not before time.

It is easy enough for us to batten down our doors and let the rest get on with it, but is that the easy option? Perhaps bringing back National Service might be a good idea. At least this allows foolish youngsters to have riots/battles and play with guns but always under careful supervision. My Beloved who was too young for the war but old enough to be conscripted into N.S. said it is the best way to instill discipline, and everyone who went in came out the better for it.
It is lack of jobs and too much time on their hands that causes youngsters to rebel. It is a natural instinct in all animals (and humans also have these instincts) to clash horns when reaching young adulthood. So to steer these instincts into more competitive pursuits, be it work, sport or even military training is far better than to leave youngsters to wander miserably around looking for a leader, and inevitably finding the wrong one because no one better bothers about them.

This national unrest gives me a foreboding for the next twelve months. Not just the riots, but rising food and fuel costs (the latter two being the ones that affect me most). If we have bad weather again this winter, that could bring transport problems. More unrest could bring more strikes. So you see why I am finding it difficult to feel bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the moment. It is as if the cares of the world (well at least the UK) are lying heavily on my shoulders at the moment and there's not a darn think I can do about it. Hate feeling helpless.

This is probably why I'm desperately trying not to send in another order to Tesco this month as my intention was to use only the food we already have (plus milk and eggs from the butcher). Part of me thinks that existing on stores is the only right and sensible thing to do (because it saves the money to pay for the winter fuel), the other part is urging me to stock up 'just in case' and worry about the fuel and crises to come - later.

Probably the most sensible thing to do is to make sure that the meals we eat don't cost a lot now and also try to keep costs down as long as we can, because that's really important. Even more important, when doing so we need to make sure we eat well and healthily for bet your bottom dollar that every foolish lout that is rioting probably lives on nothing but junk foods. People who eat healthy home-cooked meals are almost always happy without a thought of doing any harm to anyone. It has been proved in prison that when inmates are fed certain foods, their attitude to life ges better.
Not sure whether this applies to all veggies, but it is said that meat-eaters are 'hot-blooded' and who tend to have tempers. Vegetarians are much milder and less likely to stamp and scream when things go wrong. Mind you, I don't eat much meat and am still fairly out-spoken and would swipe B with my rolling pin if he goaded me too much. B eats a lot of meat, and admittedly has what he calls a very short fuse. It takes little for him to get angry, fortunately words are his weapons, not his fists, although he will kick the furniture (or the wheels of his car) when things get too much for him. Me I just throw things.

Due to my Beloved's wish to watch certain progs. last night, only managed to catch the latter half of Hugh F.W's 'Fish Fight'. His appearance took more of my attention than the content of his prog. With short hair (and he looks as though he has also lost weight) he has now not the appeal for me that he had when he had curly locks tumbling around his face. When Winifred Atwell (a rotund player of the piano of many decades ago) lost weight she went quite out of favour. Am wondering if the same thing will happen with Pauline Quirke, for despite the wonderful photo of her taken since she has lost so much weight, that had to be air-brushed for catching sight of her in Emmerdale (as she really looks) am now desperately wishing she'd put at least some of the weight back on again.

Anyway, back to the reason for this blog. Eating well without the cost. The recipes today are again based on using no meat (but it can be added if you wish). Firstly must reply to comments for expect that is what you are waiting for.
MimsyS, Lynn and UrbanFarmgirl are of pagan inclinations, and power to your elbow I say, but as mentioned above I'm at present 'a bit of this and a bit of that' when it comes to what some might call 'religion'. Tomorrow I may find a new one to dip my toes into. Who knows?

Recipes for using marrow have been posted recently Woozy, including jam, but possibly missing due to blogger removing the earlier ones each month. so will shortly be editing out most of the 'chat' so the recipes can return).

Thanks Les for info re light bulbs. Checked with Tesco site to compare the cost of vegetarian (Quorn) sausages against the pork, and at the moment the 'real meat' bangers win hands down. At the moment Tesco are selling Richmond pork sausages at offer price: £2 for 12 sausages/681g so under 17p each . Twelve Walls pork sausages (B's favourites) are £3 for 681g = 25p each. The price you quoted for just SIX Quorn veggies sausage being £2 for 300g- that makes these over 33p each. Perhaps proving that a vegetarian diet does not always work out cheaper than a 'meaty' one. Pity about that.

Sorry to read that your courgette cake was a disaster Urbanfarmgirl. Cannot you turn it into something else - like the base for a bread pudding or trifle? If not already thrown away, freeze it until you can come up with an idea. There is very little baking (other than downright burnt) that is so bad it cannot be turned into something else.
Perhaps worth trying again with the Chocolate and Courgette Muffin recipe that Alison mentioned. And for those that have a glut of courgettes, it might be worth having a chat with your local greengrocer who might be able to take them off your hands, perhaps giving you some other fruit or veg in exchange. My butcher (who also has a very small stand of veggies and fruit outside his shop, is happy to have any courgettes I may have as he doesn't normally stock these - just the usual 'stew veggies' (potatoes, carrots, onions, plus a few salads).

Recipes today are - as I said - meatless and (if you have the ingredients of course - maybe growing some yourself) inexpensive. My aim now is to get very friendly with the butcher so that he gives me free meat bones and chicken carcases, and the meat gleaned from these after they have been used to make stock can always be added to the veggie dishes without adding to their cost - but certainly adding more protein. A win-win situation you could say. Or 'I scratch your back, you scratch mine' sort of thing. Oh, well - barter if you wish to keep it simple.

We all know how appetising a platter of roasted vegetables looks. Such bright colours, we can't wait to tuck into them. So with this in mind today's recipes all have that little extra something to boost a jaded appetite and make a vegetarian meal one that we crave for rather than feel we are missing the meat.

The first dish is a fusion of two traditional dishes: Cauliflower Cheese and Macaroni Cheese. Both quite boring cooked in the trad way, but with the addition of a few tasty ingredients, this dish turns into something quite special. Meat would not improve this new version, although the basic dishes (without the extras) could be made more tasty by serving with a little crispy bacon.
Do remember, that when cutting just the florets from a cauliflower this will leave the pale green outer leaves, the core and many of the stalks. These chopped and cooked in milk, then - when softened - blended to a puree in a liquidiser with added Stilton (dried rind will do), and plenty of seasoning will make a wonderful and almost free cauliflower soup.
Spiced Cauliflower Pasta: serves 4
1 cauliflower, cut into small florets
12 oz (350g) macaroni or penne or similar
3 tblsp olive oil
1 - 2 cloves of garlic, sliced or crushed
1 red chilli, seeds removed and sliced
3 oz (75g) pine nuts
2 oz (75g) sultanas
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
3 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, grated
Blanch the cauliflower in boiling salted water for a couple of minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water to prevent it cooking further. Drain and set aside. Then cook the pasta as per instructions on the packet,
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan, and when hot, add the cauli and fry for 3 minutes until turning light gold, then lower the heat and stir in the garlic, chilli and pine nuts. Cook for a further couple of minutes, then add the drained pasta, sultanas, lemon zest and juice, the parsley and seasoning to taste. Toss together, then serve sprinkled with the Parmesan.

This next dish is a good one if you have cornmeal or polenta in your cupboard (both are the same grain) as this recipe uses this coarse flour to make a base for a pizza instead of using bread dough (but you can use a normal pizza dough if you wish). As the topping includes courgettes, this is also seasonal. Cut the cost by saving up ends of hard cheese until they are very hard then grate them finely and use them in place of Parmesan. Use other vegetables if you prefer as long as they will be soft enough once cooked.
Pizza Polenta: serves 4
250g pack quick cook polenta or use cornmeal
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese (see above)
1 tblsp olive oil
1 red (or white) onion, sliced
1 - 2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 courgette, sliced
1 tblsp green pest0
3 oz (75g) chestnut mushrooms, sliced
4 ripe tomatoes (pref plum), sliced
3 oz (75g) mozzarella, thinly sliced
Cook the polenta as per pkt instructions, adding plenty of seasoning, then stir in the cheese. Pour this onto an oiled baking sheet, spreading it into a circle about 11" (28cm) in diameter, then leave for 15 - 30 minutes to firm up, then spread the pesto over the surface, but not quite up to the edge.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion for 5 minutes, or until softened, then stir in the garlic and courgettes and cook for a further 2 minutes. Season these also, then scatter them on top of the polenta, tucking in the mushrooms and tomatoes. Arrange the mozzarella slices on top, the bake for 20 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6 until the cheese has melted. Cut into wedges to serve.
This pizza goes well with a crisp green salad.

For several years Tesco has been selling packets of noodles (these including a packet of chicken seasoning) for just 10p. Still have several in my larder. Maybe they are still at this price, but if increased doubt they would be much more, so worth keeping some in store. Using these keeps the cost of this next dish low enough not to cause us pain. Hopefully the rest of the ingredients we already have, so this then becomes yet another 'store-cupboard recipe' for those who hate to shop, and by doing so also keeps those precious pennies tightly zipped into our purse.

Use the seasoning that comes with the pack (or save this for something else and instead used the spice powder given in the recipe - you won't need both). Again courgettes are part of this dish, and if you grow your own salads you can breathe easy as this will make the dish even cheaper for you. Root ginger keeps perfectly in the freezer and can be grated from frozen.
This is one dish where chicken carcase scraps are worth adding (if you feel you need the protein).
Chinese Noodle Salad: serves 4
2 packs Chinese style noodles (see above)
3 tblsp sesame oil
1 tblsp dark soy sauce
juice half a small lemon
1 large carrot
4" piece of cucumber or one small courgette
2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
1 - 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 oz (25g) fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
4 spring onions (or 1 shallot) shredded
half to one tsp Chinese five-spice powder
handful lamb's lettuce, rocket or baby spinach leaves
salt and pepper
Cook the noodles as per packet instructions. Rinse under cold water, drain well and put into a bowl with the sesame oil, soy sauce and lemon juice. Toss together.
Using a 'Y' vegetable peeler (or potato peeler) cut he cucumber/courgette into ribbons and add to the noodles. Cut the carrot also into very fine ribbons or grate on a coarse grater. Add these to the noodles, then add the toasted sesame seeds.
Heat a small pan, add the oil and stir-fry the garlic, ginger, onions and spice for 30 seconds, stir in the salad leaves, then pour onto the noodles, toss everything well together, add seasoning to taste, then serve.

This next recipe is a lovely way to add flavour to vegetables. Both gentle and spicy at the same time. If you don't have the 'fresh' red chilli (easy enough to grow on a windowsill) instead use chopped Peppadew or a good pinch of dried chilli flakes. Feel free to use different vegetables according to what you have. The stalks of broccoli, cut into strips eat very well in stir-fries, and could also be included in this dish. The accompaniment to this dish is steamed or boiled rice. Thai fragrant rice being the one recommended.
Spiced Coconut Veggies: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 white/yellow onion, cut into wedges
1 red onion, cut into wedges
1 small red chilli, seeded and sliced (see above)
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
8 oz (225g) small broccoli florets
1 each red and yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
7 fl oz (200ml) coconut cream
7 fl oz (200ml) vegetable stock
half tsp Tabasco sauce, or to taste
Stir-fry the onions and chill in the oil for a couple of minutes, then add the carrots, broccoli and bell peppers and cook for a further 5 minutes before adding the coconut cream and the stock. Add Tabasco sauce to taste, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Serve immediately with rice (see above).

Final dish today is extremely tasty because of the Stilton (another cheese could be used if you prefer). Unlike the above recipes, this uses few ingredients, and all we expect to have in our kitchen (or garden). If you wish for a bit more bulk or vegetable protein you could always add a (drained) can of butter beans (or other bean) or chickpeas.
Ideally serve this with a green vegetable. It could be a cold crisp salad, or a serving of hot green beans or peas (or broccoli or spinach...). If the parsnips are large, best to remove and discard the centre core, then cut the rest of the flesh into chunks.
Vegetable Gratin: serves 4
1 lb (450g) potatoes, thickly sliced
1 lb (450g) carrots, sliced
1 lb (450g) parsnips, sliced
bunch of spring onions (or use a few shallots)
knob of butter
5 oz (150g) Stilton cheese, sliced or crumbled
Put the prepared veggies into a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 8 - 10 minutes or until just tender (or steam them if you prefer). Drain well.
Roughly chop the onions and fry gently in the butter for a few minutes until just beginning to soften, then add the vegetables and stir to coat with the butter, then tip the lot into a shallow ovenproof dish.
Arrange the slices of cheese on top, or crumble it over to cover as much of the veggies as you can, then bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 minutes until the cheese has melted. Serve immediately with a green vegetable of your choice (see above for suggestions).

Looks like the forecast was wrong. Only a few white fluffy clouds are in the sky and with plenty of blue visible will go into the garden, water my toms and see if there are any courgettes worth taking to the butcher. Even if not might take the opportunity to have a scoot and window shop around the 'village'. It will do me good to get away from the house.

For those interested, B's supper last night was roast chicken portions (using up three drumsticks I found in the freezer) with some back bacon, mushrooms, peas and chips. A bit of a mixture, but needed to use up the bacon and mushrooms. Incidentally the back bacon had been bought in error (we normally like streaky). It was 'Finest Wiltshire' and had just passed its 'use-by' date, but as yet unopened was perfectly fit to use. As it was streaky at one end with the big 'back' bit at t'other end, decided to save the streaky part and cook the meaty bits. This meant very little fat on the bacon cooked. Despite this a LOT of what looked like fat leached out, but was almost certainly 'added water', so even the expensive bacon has been tampered with. At least the mushrooms were able to absorb most of it and gain a bit of bacon flavour at the same time.

As well as cooking the supper, decided to use up the remaining Bramley apples plus a couple of Granny Smith's with a few large blackberries (pinched from a pack of frozen mixed fruit if you remember), cut these in half to make them look more and with the chunks of apples turned these into an Apple and Blackberry Crumble, which cooked in the oven along with the chicken and then the chips. I even ate some of the crumble myself. With cream. Naughty but very nice.

Not sure what supper will be today, haven't yet given it a thought. Perhaps will give B the Tuna in a Tomato Sauce (my interpretation of the picture on the front of the pack that Gill brought me - all the words are in another language that I can't recognise), although can just about work out the cooking instructions. Numbers are the same in most languages I suppose.

There is a new and daily prog on at lunchtime with Gino di Campo and Mel Sykes. Quite a bit of cooking which at first thought would be interesting although Gino turned out to be a bit too fast and exuberant for me to find watchable. Prefer a staid cook that cooks more slowly so I can take it all in. Doubt I will continue viewing, although might give it one more try.

Had better take my leave of you whilst the weather stays fair. Hope you all have a good day, and look forward to hearing from you within the next 24 hours. Keep good, keep safe, keep happy. And keep cooking! Like the proverbial bad penny, will be back again tomorrow. See you then.