Thursday, October 13, 2011

Live and Learn

Lo ed your comment Lisa which proves that the American 'out-back' way of life is far more community minded that over here, perhaps because we are never far from anywhere and have got used to the state providing as and when needed. It was only in war-time (and probably World War II - which I can remember vividly) when our nation became one large 'family' and pulled together. Also we are often too independent four our own good, rather starve and accept help from family, neighbours and friends. Which is - of course - really silly. Families too don't stay in touch as often as they should, especially when they move to other parts of the country or abroad, the only contact usually being either a phone call or (more often now) by email. We tend to believe that 'out of sight, out of mind' means everything is OK, and contact is only made where then is a problem to be shared.
Also we don't seem so church-going as a nation as we used to. At one time most people went to church on a Sunday (and of course some still do), but many don't. There is more community spirit with a church congregation, certainly in the rural areas, but again, not as much as there seems to be in America (and apologies to any British folk if I have got this wrong).

Some (and only SOME) people over here hate living on benefits (many intend never working and just living on benefits) but those that have lost their jobs and have families to support need to claim any benefits they are due to keep their heads above water. Unfortunately it is now very difficult to get new work as yesterday's news showed us that unemployment figures are still rising. Was it 255 million now unemployed (or was there a decimal point in there somewhere?).

Also interesting the point you made minimiser deb re 'relative poverty'. This means going without something we have been taking for granted previously. Which could be holidays abroad, plasma TVs, designer clothes etc., or something smaller like not dining out so often and buying a smaller car. All 'relative' to the way each of us lives now. Personally the Goode life has never had many luxuries, so we have little to lose and - at the moment - can still (just) keep going on the state pension that is given us each month (which of course is mainly paid for through deductions made through my husband's working life so don't feel we are getting 'hand-outs').

Clarissa Dickson Wright on the A.T. show yesterday afternoon said something very profound. She was remarking on how she had heard a woman say that having less money meant she had to stop buying ready-prepared food and they would have to make do with home-made. As Clarissa said "if only more would 'make do' and home-cook their meals they would have much better food to eat than any they had bought before". To this I add - also for lower cost.

If things really do get worse (and they well might) it could be that we might end up with some sort of food rationing. This need not be a bad thing - even during the last war when rationed food was meagre to say the least, we all managed to survive (and as we spent a lot more energy by walking, cycling, and shivering in the very cold winters of those days) it does prove we don't need THAT many calories.
Whatever the threat of food shortages (which may or may not come) and price rises (which is sure to happen), we can still make sure our own personal larder is kept up to scratch. I've been doing this for nigh 50 years now with not really the need, and its ironic that now the reason why may come within a few years (and I may not live long enough to enjoy it!).

The query about vitamins being lost when boiling sugar is probably nothing to worry about. Not sure if vitamins can be 'killed' (unless burnt to a cinder), but many are soluble in water and therefore we should not throw away water that veggies have been cooked in (use it to make soup). So the water soluble vits in fruit will remain in the jam.

We see several elderly folk on TV now worrying about how to be able to afford to both 'heat and eat', and with some they feel it has to be one or the other. Either pay for fuel to keep the room warm, or use the money to buy food. But then - as in war-time - food can also 'heat' us (internally), and so if we keep making meals that do this, we should find it fairly easy to keep warm. Like the 'old days' we can also warm ourselves by wearing several thin layers of clothing. It's a pity that nylon and acrylic has taken over from real wool garments, for there is nothing so warming as wearing wool. Worth going to jumble sales and charity shops to see if we can find some woollen clothes.
Beloved was given a pile of clothes from a lady whose husband had died - the clothes being hardly worn. B kept a good jacket and I took the black pure wool golf sweater (large enough to fit me). Goodness me, how warm it was (and still is). Found a couple of moth holes in it last year, but stitched those up with some black wool I bought, and will continue stitching up holes as they appear as each winter this is the one garment that is worn whenever the weather is really cold, and it truly does keep me as warm as toast (bed-socks pulled over my support stockings also helps keep my feet warm).

With the advent of washing machines, today we have 'trained' ourselves into washing clothes far more often than really needed. Do remember my Scottish doctor in the past telling me to put my young lad - who had a very chesty cough/cold - into clean pyjamas (at the time I was apologising I hadn't yet changed him out of the ones he was wearing). He said body sweat soaks into garments and provides an extra layer of protection as it dries, and this really helps with chest complains and colds. Also this was the reason why children used to be sewn into red flannel garments at the start of winter and these were not removed until late spring. Seems there is a lot of sense in the old ways.
Not that I'm saying we should all end up wearing dirty clothes, but certainly wearing real wool for days at a time we shouldn't come to harm and probably end up feeling a lot better for it. A good reason to wear black I suppose, it doesn't show marks easily. My excuse anyway.

A few more recipes that make the most of cheaper ingredients, and also satisfying. Plenty of room for adapting the recipes and substituting some ingredients.
We start with a pasta dish which can make use of chicken or turkey scraps (taken from a carcase0). If you choose to use cauliflower instead of broccoli include something green (peas, string or broad beans etc to keep the meal looking attractive. There nothing worse than being served a plateful of 'white'.
Myself do not care for the taste of tarragon (aniseed flavour), but feel free to choose another herb of your choice. If you wish to have the aniseed flavour and you don't have the herb, you could infuse one or two star anise into the milk.
To make expensive Parmesan go further, save a few chunks of English hard cheese and leave to dry out, then grate finely and mix into the Parmesan. Myself find this gives a stronger flavour which we enjoy.
Some sheets of dry lasagne are sold with no need to cook. Others require a short cooking before using. Much depends upon the dish. If the lasagne can be layered over tomato sauce, covered with more sauce then (say) meat, and this repeated, the dish then being left to stand for an hour or two in a cool place, the pasta will then soften from the liquid in the sauce. Otherwise take care to read the box before buying the pasta and make sure it is 'ready-to-cook'.
Chicken Lasagne: serves 4
2 tblsp light olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced or chopped
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb (450g) cooked chicken or turkey, shredded
8 oz (225) marscapone or cream cheese
2 tblsp fresh tarragon (or chosen herb)
salt and pepper
12 oz (300g) broccoli florets
2 oz (50g) butter
2 tblsp plain flour
1 pint (600ml) milk
3 oz (75g) grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz (100g) ready-to-cook sheets lasagne
Fry the onion in the oil for a few minutes until softened but not changing colour, then stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute. Remove from heat and stir in the cooked meat, the marscapone, and tarragon - adding seasoning to taste.
Blanch the broccoli for one minute then drain well and set aside. Begin making the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook/stir for one minute. Remove from heat and slowly beat in the milk. Return to the heat and keep stirring whilst bringing to the boil. Simmer for 1 minute then add half the grated Parmesan, plus seasoning to taste.
Take a large shallow ovenproof dish, lightly oil or butter the base and sides and start by placing a layer of chicken/turkey over the bottom. Follow this with a layer of broccoli and cover with sheets of the lasagne. Spread some of the cheese sauce over the pasta then repeat with further layers, finishing with the cheese sauce on top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over this and then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 35-40 minutes.

All 'stews' are warming, and as this one is made without meat, also economical with it. The good thing is that we can make it all the year round using different (and seasonal) vegetables. So feel free to use spinach, kale, peas (loose or sugar snap), broad beans, green string beans, baby sweet corn, pumpkin, parsnips etc...
Spicy Vegetable Stew with Couscous: serves 6
3 tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tblsp tomato paste/puree
half tsp each ground turmeric, and cayenne
1 tspeach ground coriander, and cumin
8 oz (225g) cauliflower florets
8 oz (225g) baby carrots (Chantenay)
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and diced
8 oz (225g) courgettes, sliced
1 x 400g (14oz) can chickpeas, drained
4 large (beefsteak) tomatoes, skinned and chopped
3 tblsp chopped fresh coriander (or other chosen herb)
salt and pepper
12 oz (300g) couscous
2 tblsp sunflower oil
Fry the onion in the 2 tblsp of the olive oil until softened, then add the garlic and fry for a further minute. Stir in the tomato paste and the four ground spices, and cook for a further 2 minutes, then add the cauliflower, carrots and red (bell) pepper with enough water to come halfway up the veggies. Bring to the bowl, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes before adding the courgettes, chickpeas and tomatoes. Bring back to the boil and simmer for a further 10 minutes, then stir in the coriander (or other herb), add seasoning to taste, then keep hot.
Meanwhile, put 16 fl oz (475ml) water in a pan and bring to the boil, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil with a pinch of salt. Remove from heat and pour in the couscous. Cover and leave to absorb the water for a few minutes, then stir in the sunflower oil and replace over the heat, stirring to separate the grains.
Tip the couscous onto a heated plate and tip the cooked and spicy vegetables on top, pouring over any liquid that remains in the pan. Serve immediately.

Final recipe today is one that Lisa may raise her eyebrows at as it's another 'fusion dish', this time a Mexican version of an Italian lasagne. If you like spicy, then this is one worth trying.
Myself would be inclined to make this dish using a cheaper stewing meat than advised because this would make the dish considerably cheaper. The meat could already be cooked in advance (and possibly then frozen) ready to include in a dish such as this (or any other dish). As I don't normally keep hot chillis in my stores, would either use dried chilli flakes, or diced red Peppadew. Peppadew comes in 'mild' (this is quite spicy) and 'hot' (which I'm sure is very spicy but not yet tried).
The other ingredients I do seem to have in stock, but this doesn't mean everyone else has. You can - of course - make your own flour tortillas, but that's another story (anyway have given this recipe to make these in the past).
Dare say I might make the cheese sauce using Bisto cheese sauce granules, water and some extra grated cheese. Well, it saves time!
Mexican Beef Pancakes: serves 4
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1 clove garlic, halved
1 onion, cut into quarters
1 - 2 red chillis, seeded and chopped
1 tsp fresh oregano or marjoram
pinch of salt
(water later if needed)
cheese sauce:
2 oz (50g) butter
2 oz (50g) plain flour
1 pint (600ml) milk
4 oz (100g) grated Cheddar cheese
other ingredients for this meal:
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 fresh red chilli, seeded and sliced
12 oz (350g) frying steak, diced (see above)
1 tblsp sunflower oil
8 oz (225g) cooked long-grain rice
beef stock
salt and pepper
3 wheat tortillas (size to fit the dish)
First make the salsa by placing ingredients into a blender/food processor and blitzing until smooth. Pour into a pan and and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 or so minutes to make a thick sauce of pouring consistency. If necessary add a little water. Set to one side.
Next make the cheese sauce by melting the butter and stirring in the flour. Cook for 1 minute before slowly whisking in the milk. When the mixture boils and thickens add all but 2 tblsp of the cheese and seasoning to taste. Set aside.
Start using the remaining ingredients by putting the onion, garlic and chilli into a large bowl, then mix in the meat. Heat the oil in a pan and fry this mixture until the meat has browned, then stir in the rice and enough stock to moisten - add seasoning to taste.
Pour about a quarter of the cheese sauce into the base of a round oven-proof dish, cover with a tortilla, then on top of this spread half the salsa sauce, followed by half the meat mixture. Repeat these layers, then add half the remaining cheese, placing the final tortilla on top, covering this with the remaining cheese sauce and then the remaining cheese. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 minutes until golden and bubbling on top.

Yesterday cooked myself a big pan of vegetable soup (made with diced carrots, onions, celery, potato, and the last bit of an orange bell pepper). The liquid was made with home-made chicken stock, and also added some pearl barley to make the soup even more substantial. Thoroughly enjoyed this (both for lunch and my supper). For my Beloved made him a lovely Chicken Tikka Masala (served with a lemon and rosemary rice - shamefully admit this came from a 2 minute microwave pack, but it saved me time so I could watch a cookery prog - the curry being made in the morning and just needed reheating).
Silly me added a chicken cuppa soup to my evening soup which was a mistake as had forgotten the 'additives and preservatives' now upset my stomach, so ended up feeling very uncomfortable and having to go and have a lie down, which meant I couldn't be bothered to get up again, so ended up sleeping (and dreaming) the rest of the evening and night away. Back to normal again thank goodness. I really MUST stop eating products that have 'things' added. Never have any problem when eating home-made. Live and learn as they say.

While I remember, Norma (the Hair) has asked me to bring forward my Wednesday appointment to an earlier time, so I'll now either have to write my blog later (after 10.30 - which means later than noon before I finish) or might just give Wednesday a blog-miss from now on. All depends upon whether you prefer an early blog or don't mind what time of day it appears. Let me know.

We are supposed to have a couple of dry days (today and tomorrow) but so far still dull with grey clouds. No rain thank goodness. Then it seems we will be getting the colder weather that has been promised us for the last week (or so). Personally find I seem to have more energy when the weather gets colder, perhaps it is my metabolism beginning to work harder to burn off the stored energy to help keep me warm. Either way this should help me lose a little more weight, so can't grumble.
But whatever the weather, we should all try to enjoy what we have and make the most of it whilst doing so. Hoping to hear from you tomorrow, but even if you don't feel like sending in a comment, still hope you will come back to read more about the Goode life. See you then.