Friday, October 28, 2011

Funny Old Life....

It's good to know that many husbands are like my Beloved. Not sure whether it was the fault of their mothers (who always seem to have a soft spot for sons and let them get away with murder...) or just the way men are. My B was the youngest of a large family (five boys and one girl) so think this has much to do with his need for always 'wanting something better', for as a child probably always ended up clothed in 'hand-me-downs' and what's left to eat after the bigger boys had helped themselves' (made worse because it was during war-time rationing).

However, B seems to be improving, but is very 'snappy' when I say anything to him which makes me think something happened whilst he was away that didn't please him. Maybe he got done for speeding or something. I don't know, but something has made him very stroppy, and as I am his 'kicking dog', no doubt this will continue until he feels better. On reflection he has regular mood swings, from everything being fine, to nothing is going his way, so nothing has really changed. Thank goodness I'm not like that. Or am I? Beginning to wonder.

Good that simple dishes such as (left-over) ginger cake and custard, and rice and custard are still enjoyed minimiser deb. Think today we all tend to veer towards the 'new and different' rather than remembering that the old dishes are often the best. Yesterday Beloved had some ginger cake (recently made) heated in the microwave with his favourite (double cream) poured over. Not sure if he should as he is still not quite well, but his decision as he didn't want 'just toast'.

Pleased that you like the recipes I post up on this site gillibob (and sympathise that you have a clone of my spouse - maybe those of us who have this cross to bear will mean our next life will me much improved in this department - we can but hope).

Don't apologise for not writing in each day Lisa. For one thing you always sound so busy, and do appreciate you finding time to even read this blog, let alone write back. Your mention of starting the heel of a sock brought back memories of my mum knitting socks using four steel knitting pins. In my youth all-wool socks for men were often knitted by their wives and mothers, who then later spent hours darning the wear that appeared in the toes and heels. Nowadays men wear man-made fibre socks and when a hole appears they throw them away.
Remember myself knitting gloves, these weren't easy - all those fingers and thumbs.

Pleased you had something to celebrate Lisa, but sad that your stepmother managed to bring you back down with a bump. Some people seem to enjoy upsetting others, almost do it deliberately. So don't let them get away with it.

This reminded me of one of the last comments from Kathryn who was not enjoying a visit from her mother. If you read this Kathryn, let us know you are alright and managed to 'recover' once your life was back to normal.
Am always sad when regular readers suddenly stop writing in. We have had several readers from Canada and also different states in America, as well as many in this country, who have suddenly 'disappeared'. And we miss hearing from them.

Many readers may feel they haven't anything worth commenting about, so don't write in. Everyone's life is different to anothers, so as 'one mans rubbish is another man's needs', our own (often to us - boring) life has great interest to others. Personally, Lisa's comments are showing me that her life is completely different to many who live in this country. It's as good as reading a book.
We all have a different approach to doing things, so the more we can our experiences, the more inspired we can become. So, dear readers, keep on commenting, for it's not only me, but all of you who enjoy reading them.

Yesterday, because I felt down in the dumps, decided to have some retail therapy and wrote up a grocery order on-line to be delivered this morning. This done because my larder shelves have some big gaps now, and this alarms me somewhat.
Anyway, realised that I'd forgotten to include something, so went back to add it to the order, then read through the completed order noting that each item had a little symbol to show these were 'offers', so was well pleased. Must have saved quite an amount of money.
Then - for some reason - sat and took another look. Asked myself "did I really need any of what had been ordered?" The answer was a resounding "NO!" Well, certainly not this week. So cancelled the lot. Easy as that!

Now I feel quite good (downright smug if truth be told) that I was capable of doing this. Up till then I'd felt pleased because my regular (once a month) orders had begun to cost less (and less), but these have still been 'regular' (unless I had set myself some sort of challenge to prevent me shopping for a while). Yesterday's 'non-order' was a week too early anyway, mainly because I needed to cheer myself up. But now I've discovered I've had more pleasure from cancelling it than that had it been delivered (also enjoy unpacking and storing it). Probably do that again.

Now I seem to be doing a 'U-turn' and want to clear as much space on my shelves as possible, for it also occurred to me that it's all too easy to explain how to manage on little money when there is a lot of food already in store, what would be more use to readers is to verbally 'demonstrate' (and maybe also by photos), how the basics/or what's left in the cupboard can turn into something worthwhile.

Over the last few days - on the Alan Titchmarsh show (ITV 3.00pm) - have seen several demonstrations re 'home-skills' that we could be (should be) tackling. Kirstie Allsopp was on one of those days, and yesterday a mention of Alan's new book about country ways (forgotten title, but a lot of it was to do with self-sufficiency 'The Good Life' style) was shown. Seems the whole country is now taking up these old skills again (due to the recession - so at least this gives us some reason to be thankful for it) and enjoying doing so. Long may it continue.

Recipes today have be chosen as they can use various 'levels' of quality ingredients, As ever, the idea is to use what we have or what we can afford. Also many ingredients can be substituted for others, on a like-for-like basis.

The first recipe is a tasty vegetable dish that would normally be a side-dish (so plenty of choice of which meat/fish to serve with it). There are many varietes of cabbage (white, Savoy, Spring cabbage) we could use, or other 'greens' such as Chinese leaves, kale, spinach, chard leaves, shredded Brussels sprouts plenty of choice there. Bacon can be from an economy pack of 'bacon pieces/offcuts', or we could chop up standard smoked or streaky bacon rashers (or even even use ham, chorizo sausage/black pudding if that is what we need to use up). The onions could be any of that family (leeks, shallots, red onions, white onions, sweet onions.....but not garlic unless a garlic lover and only use a bit). Within reason, use up what you have. Think you get my drift.
Greens with Onions and Bacon: serves 4
1 onion, sliced
1 oz (25g) butter
6 oz (175g) diced bacon (see above)
1 small cabbage (see above) shredded
5 fl oz (150ml) water
salt and pepper
Put the onion in a frying pan with the butter and fry over medium heat for 3 - 4 minutes until beginning to soften, then stir in the bacon and cook for a few minutes longer until the bacon is just beginning to colour. Add the cabbage and the water and cook for a couple of minutes until the 'greens' are beginning to wilt (according to the one chosen, this may take more or less time). Cover the pan and cook for a further 4 - 5 minutes then remove lid and give the pan contents a stir. Increase the heat to boil off any excess liquid, season to taste and serve.

Next dish is a variation of an Italian 'soup', not quite a minestrone, but similar. Basically, it is a mixture of various vegetables (of course you can choose different ones according to what you have), with sausages for protein. You can omit the sausages, or use chorizo, or chicken wings, or, or, or.... .
The idea is to keep the vegetable large enough to be 'attractively visible', so keep them the same size. Instead of broad beans, sugar snap or mange tout peas could be used. Sliced leeks would also look good. In a way it is a clear 'soup' with lots of colourful veggies floating in it - and of course the sausage. Just use this recipe as a guide then do your own thing.
Roman Soup in a Pot: serves 4
2 tblsp light olive oil
4 - 8 sausages (flavour of your choice)
4 pints (2.2 litres) hot chicken stock
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
4 oz (100g) pasta penne (or other shape)
4 oz (100g) broad beans
4 oz (100g) white cabbage, shredded
salt and pepper
2 tblsp chopped parsley (opt)
Put the oil in a large pan over medium heat and fry the sausages until browned all over (but not cooked through). remove the sausages with a slotted spoon, add the carrots, onions and celery to the pan and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Return sausages to pan, add the stock and pasta, bring to the simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes, then add the beans and cabbage. Cook for 5 minutes (by which time the pasta should be cooked). Season to taste. Stir in the parsley (if using) and serve in individual bowls, each person getting their share of the sausages.

Another recipe that is very adaptable is the following 'risotto dish'. You can choose whether to use risotto rice, pearl barley, quinoa, or spelt as the grain (remembering that depending upon the one used, the cooking time will be shorter or longer - so make allowances). Being the right time of the year, pumpkin is used for this dish, but another squash (such as butternut) could be used instead (or maybe parsnip, or similar root veg). Instead of cooking raw beetroot, we could use cooked beetroot from a vacuum pack.
Shallots or onions, we use what we have, and the herbs could also be of our choice. Here again a recipe to use as a guide. Nothing here is set in stone, the cook (and that's YOU) should always make the final choice of ingredients, especially when wishing (or needing) to economise
Pumpkin Risotto: serves 4
2 medium beetroot (cooked) cut into quarters
1 lump pumpkin (about size of a butternut squash)
1 tblsp sunflower oil
2 sprigs rosemary
2 springs thyme
salt and pepper
18 fl oz (800m) vegetable stock, boiling
4 shallots, or 1 onion, finely diced
9 oz (250g) chosen grain (see above)
5 fl oz (150ml) white wine
2 oz (50g) butter, diced
3 tblsp cream cheese (Philly type)
2 oz (50g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Remove skin and seeds from chosen squash and dice. Put into a roasting tin with the herbs and drizzle with oil. Add seasoning to taste. Roast at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 minutes, than add the beetroot. Cook for 5 - 10 minutes longer or until the squash is tender. Turn out oven, cover roasting tin and leave the veggies in the residual heat in the oven to keep warm whilst cooking the grain.
Have ready a saucepan of boiling stock and keep this to a simmer whilst frying the shallots or onion in a large frying pan with a tblsp of olive oil. Fry over low heat for five or so minutes until the shallots/onions are very soft but not coloured, then stir in the chosen grain and make sure this is completely coated with the oil before adding the wine. Keep stirring, and when the wine has been taken up by the grain (or evaporated) start adding the stock - a ladle at a time. Keep on stirring, making sure the grains do not stick to the pan and burn, and keep adding a further ladle of stock when the last one has been absorbed - but don't let the grain dry out completely.
After 15 minutes, test the grain to see if it is almost tender (some require longer cooking times than others - which means they may take in more or less stock accordingly), when ready it should be tender but still with a bit of 'bite' (aka 'al dente'). When ready, remove from the heat and beat in the butter, and when this has melted, beat in the cream cheese. The mixture should be fairly loose and creamy. Finally stir in the grated cheese and serve with the roasted squash and beetroot (roasted herbs are delightfully crunchy, so you can eat these too).

Final recipe is for those who are wishing to find a use for the last of their home-grown tomatoes. Although these have a short-shelf life (about 10 days in the fridge) would expect they would freeze well so could be stored frozen for longer. No need to remove seeds from tomatoes, but you can if you wish.
Not quite sun-dried tomatoes: fills 1 large jar
2 lbs (1kg) small ripe tomatoes, halved
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried oregano/marjoram
olive oil
Place the halved tomatoes on a baking tray, cut side up. Season generously with salt and pepper, and sprinkle over the dried herbs then drizzle with a little oil.
Roast at 140C, 275F, gas 1 for 4 plus hours or until the tomatoes are semi-dried and chewy. Tightly pack into a sterilised jar, and add oil to cover (tap the jar to get rid of trapped air bubbles). Cover and store in the fridge where they will keep for up to 10 days.

Will now trot off into the kitchen and see if I can get make something from whats left on my shelves. This could turn out to be fun. Beloved is still having problems with his 'inner pipes', so obviously should not have had the ginger 'pudding' yesterday evening (or the ice-cream afterwards - although he kept that secret from me, but I found out). Has to be toast or nothing today. He is moaning he has lost 7 lbs, and coming from one who was always complaining he needed to lose weight, would think he would be ecstatic. Can never please some people.

At least, now that I am back to eating just two (small) meals a day and given up my comfort eating, my weight is now returning to what it was a couple of weeks ago. At least I'm pleased. Despite enough things going on in the world to be miserable about, we should always be able to find something to be glad about. Perhaps my name should have been Pollyanna!

The hour goes back this coming weekend, so we can either stay another hour in bed, or get up in the normal way. Now here's a challenge for you. Just how much can we make/do in those sixty 'free' minutes (at least in this country, not sure whether America/elsewhere puts the clocks forward and back)? Anyone care to write in and let us know if they have been able to put to good use this gift of time?

But even before then there are a couple of days to go, and with Hallow'een at the beginning of next week (and Guy Fawkes the following weekend), looks we might be even busier than normal from this minute onwards. So don't let me stop you. Only send in comments if you find the time. But hope you do. TTFN.