Sunday, October 30, 2011

More Ups than Downs...

Have to say after a few bad days (weeks for that matter) suddenly life is looking much brighter. Not that much has changed, but 'little things mean a lot'.
As discovered the problem with the washing machine seemed to be the dial had stuck (as it turned, each cycle started and finished), so stayed on 'start', doing what it had to, and I had then manually turn it to another letter/cycle. This worked well enough, but meant me practically standing over the washing machine turning the dial every couple of minutes.
Yesterday decided to give the dial a spray of WD40 - in the hope it would seep through the fitting to the back, and although the dial still stuck at 'start', when moved to the next marker (these are marked in minutes), it then carried on perfectly all by itself through to the end, which was 'spin' where it again stuck. No problem, just pushed the handle back in to stop it and the washing was complete. Saved having an engineer round who no doubtedly would say he couldn't fit new parts as the machine was too old (well over 20 years), and even if I could get a secondhand replacement (free through the insurance) prefer to stick with something I know and love (like B for instance!!!).

Beloved is now better - at least enough to eat 'proper' meals again, although his throat is bad, not store, but he has almost lost his voice. Yesterday didn't know what to make for his supper, but as I still can't find the piece of uncooked gammon I KNOW is in Boris or Maurice's drawers, decided in the end to use up the last of the King Edwards (just beginning to sprout), cook the spuds in the microwave and scoop out the flesh to make mashed potatoes. To this I added butter and mustard, pepper and a pinch of salt.
Decided to finely slice a very large white onion, and slow-cooked this in a little butter in a covered frying pan. Kept the heat to a simmer, even using a heat-diffuser under the pan once it had heated up enough. Cooked the onions for over an hour, turning them once (they had begun to colour underneath), then finally added a little demerara sugar to help them caramelise/sweeten/brown even more. Served these with hot sausages, also browning the spuds in the pan (B doesn't really like 'mash') and B - who normally doesn't like onions (likes the flavour they give but not the 'bits') commented that the onions were really tasty. Had some myself with a couple of sausages and its true - they were!

Also yesterday made a batch of oat biscuits as found an old recipe that needed a tablespoon of golden syrup, and hoped that by warming the 'empty' syrup tin (mentioned the other day) there would be enough left to use. This too worked a treat - think ended up with about 2 tblsp but used the lot, which meant the end dough was a bit softer than it should, so added more flour until I thought it felt right. This meant I ended up with 2 dozen biscuits instead of 18, and they cooked perfectly. As biscuits continue cooking when removed from the oven and if left on the hot baking sheet, they tend to be a bit soft, then harden as they cool. Wasn't sure about the oaty ones, so place foil over the tops to prevent them browning more, and turned the oven out and left them in for a further 5 minutes before removing, and they were then perfect. Well, maybe a bit firm after cooling, but as the air in our kitchen is always a bit 'damp', left for an hour or two they will soften slightly again. Left longer they can turn very soft.

This morning woke after a really great dream, not without its trauma, but extremely interesting. Sorry to have woken up, but in a 'good place' where I was about to leave, but now glad I hadn't.
Realised it was after 8.00am, and annoyed with myself as Gill will be phoning at 9.00 (for an hour), and wasn't sure whether to start this blog or wait until after - then, when I sat down to look at the time, realised my bedside clock had not been put back an hour (the comp. clock resets itself), so now have plenty of time to 'blog'. Life gets better and better.

Replying now to your comments:
Susan G, when making marmalade using Mamade (either orange or the lemon) I always use 1 pint of water and 2 bags of sugar (slightly more of each than suggested on the tin) as find this still works well and makes an extra jar. To the lemon I add the zest and rind of two or three limes to the Lemon MaMade in the pan (usually depending upon how many I have or their size - three gives a stronger flavour) and also the lime juice that has been squeezed out. Then I add the sugar and water and cook on as per can instructions. Normally I don't alter the above mentioned (extra) amount of water or sugar used - the lime juice adding more pectin, so am sure of a good set.
Your mention of making up a jelly with lemonade is a good one. Have myself only made an adult version of this using sparkling Babycham with a strawberry jelly, or alcoholic ginger beer with a pineapple jelly. It is true, when the fizzies are added to a jelly (best cold enough to almost setting point), the bubbles stay and burst in the mouth when being eaten. Great fun for young and old.

Wendy is a name new to us - so welcome and hugs from us all. So pleased you enjoyed the Pumpkin risotto. It is always good to know when a reader has been satisified with a recipe given on this site as then others may be more likely to give it a try.

We do have those 'Subway' shops over here Lisa. Quite a lot of criticism written about them in the past for their 'fresh cooked meats' are not as we expect them to be (sliced from a joint), but the meat has been formed into slabs. Anything unnaturally 'formed' we call 'processed' or 'pre-formed'. The 'subs' themselves are too filling (having tried something similar but smaller myself), too much bread and not enough content. But nevertheless the 'Subway' shops seem to do a good trade. Much prefer the name 'hoagie', perhaps because this reminds me of Hoagie Carmichael, a singer from my youth (wonder if this was his true name or if not, why he called himself that).
Your party (venue at a mall?) is also something I don't think we would be allowed to do here. Dare say people can sit on any seats available and eat their own sarnies and drinks as it's an 'open area', but normally most places that allow family parties, will not allow any food to be brought (other than a home-made birthday cake) It all has to be provided by the venue chosen.
bought at the venue.
We do have some ethnic restaurants where their religion forbids alcohol, but allows customers freedom to drink if they bring it themselves. Some other eateries just don't have a drinks licence so the same applies - these are usually called B.Y.O's (aka Bring Your Own) but in most cases a 'corkage' charge is made (the waiter then drawing the cork from 'your' bottle, or unscrewing the cap into glasses they have provided.

Ssh! is another new name (?). He/she seems to have approved of my returning from the depths of misery to a lighter approach to life. A warm welcome to Ssh! but hope if writing again a proper name will be given. Don't hide behind a whisper.

Trade mag was a bit disappointing yesterday. Quite a lot written about how all the stores are trying to compete against each other, with Tesco coming out on top at the moment with its recent price drops.

More discussions about the amount of calories we should be eating (so presumably more info given to this on all the foods we buy. It was interesting to read that the estimated calorie count for men keeps being changed as scientifically established in 2009.... changes then seeming to being made "from 2,550 (the original), 2,900 (the correct figure), or 2,605 (the new figure), almost irrelevant because we none of us know how many calories we're consuming each day.
An experiment at a Trade Federation dinner a few years ago demonstrated this brilliantly: asked to estimate the number of calories in the meal on one table alone the discrepancy between estimates was over 2,800 calories, and almost everyone massively underestimated the alarmingly high total (3,700 calories NOT including drink). Even the head of nutrition at the Food Standards Agency was out by around 2,000 calories."

Indirectly, this almost enforces the problem we have with child obesity. They may not always appear to eat a lot, but obviously what they do eat has too many 'bad' calories. The young generation of today is far more likely to stay indoors (because it isn't now safe to pay outside), and sit in front of the TV or play computer games. Apart from their diet, this is now proving to cause other problems, for more and more children are getting rickets - caused by lack of sunshine (and Vit. D).
However much we feel that all this advancement in technology is great, there now seems side-effects we can do without. Too much loud music drumming in our ears from iPods will make us deaf, constant use of mobile phones pressed to our ears will cause brain tumours, and not playing out in God's good fresh air (although the 'fresh' is debatable) now causes rickets. Haven't even mentioned the harm that could come from all the additives and preservatives in processed foods.

Pages are given over in the trade mag to pet foods this week. There has been a decline in sales, believed to be because we can now not afford to feed ourselves as well as our animals, so the pets are not replace once they have gone to the great kennel in the sky. More and more of the 'luxury' end of the pet food is feeling the pinch, and to bring back sales, it seems that pet owners feel 'guilty' (if not there will probably be some pressure from companies to make them feel that way) if their little darlings are missing out on the 'good stuff'. So new varieties are being offered as pet food such as canned duck. What's wrong with good old tripe I say?

Each week in the trade mag a new product is criticised by (a) a consumer, (b) an expert, and (c) by a retailer). Normally don't give these a mention as the product is of little interest to readers of this column, but this week was interesting just because of the differing opinions.
The product cooked and tasted by all three this week was Aunt Bessie's Special Roast Potatoes cooked in Duck Fat (rsp: £2.50 for 700g).
The consumer sampled some with home-prepared roast potatoes (done the normal way) and "felt that while his potatoes were more crisp, Aunt Bessie's had more flavour". Gave four stars out of five.
The expert said "they had a tempting aroma, crisp and golden in appearance, crispy on the outside and fluffy inside. A real treat for the family". Four stars out of five.
The retailer..."found the product didn't have as much flavour as expected, and given that they found the product didn't have as much flavour as expected, and given that they cost a lot more than the brand's standard roast potatoes feel that repeat purchases may suffer as a result". Three stars out of five.

To enable me to publish this before Gill phones (in five minutes) will wind up for today. Any further trade news of interest will be given tomorrow. Am aiming to do more baking today (to make the most of my free hour) and also do more sorting of my larder and fridge/freezer. Already am getting a few empty shelves in the latter, and for once this is making me feel good. Wonder why?
With almost everything in life coming in waves, be it sound, light or just the seasons, seems natural that we humans should also experience this and to expect the highs and lows. At present seem to be coming up from a 'low', so am going to enjoy every minute of it while it lasts.
Back with you again tomorrow and hope you can join me then - meanwhile off to change the clocks that don't change themselves....