Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Whatever Next?

Firstly let me thank all of you who wrote in to wish me well. Thought I'd managed to avoid it but suddenly came down with B's bug which knocked me for six for well over 24 hours. Managed to text Steve from my sick bed at 9.15am to let you all know I would be 'off' for a couple or so days, but for some reason he waited until late afternoon to post this message. Sorry about that.
Eileen, bless her, phoned to see if I was OK around that time, and told B she would let you all know the situation - Steve then having just pipped her to the post. She phoned yesterday when I was - this time - able to speak to her, and at least was able to confirm I was almost back to normal. It is good to have a local member of our 'group' who can contact me directly and keep you informed if there is a problem with this site. Thank you Eileen.

Think both B and I had succumbed to a type of flu bug (symptoms well remembered from the past), but myself having had the flu jab three weeks earlier did not get the full blast, whilst B - who had his jab a week later than mine - probably was not 'fully covered' in time to fight it off so rapidly.

We now have a name to put to one of our new 'commenteers'. So welcome to Morika and hope you enjoy joining our happy band of cost-cutters.

Your mention of knitting socks and using a stitch-holder Campfire reminded me of one I found in my sewing box some time back. Don't know why I kept it, but it will be useful if I start knitting again. My stitch-holder is like a giant nappy pin, and see no reason why the smaller 'proper' nappy pins could not be used instead as they would hold a fair number of stitches. And luckily - despite everyone now seeming to use disposable nappies - these pins are still on sale. I bought a pack the other month to pin my fitted sheets to the bottom edging of my mattress, as it is too deep for the sheets to tuck under, and they kept riding up and sliding off during the night as I (presumably) toss and turn. The pins anchor the sheets a treat. No problem with them now. Not a crease in them they are pinned to tightly.

Had to smile a bit when I read about taking a lap-top to the kitchen to make it easy to follow a recipe. That's the modern age for you. Perhaps, due to my age, have found it easier to keep a blank ruled note-book always to hand where I copy down - using a ball-point pen - every recipe I wish to keep. Also tend to 'short-cut' the method when writing things down to make it even easier for me to understand and saves me having to refer to it so often. So often an ingredient list gives just the ingredients, then the method tells how to prepare. When I put recipes on this site like to make sure the preparation at the side of each ingredient whenever possible, such as: 3 potatoes, peeled and diced; 2 onions, finely shredded etc..
Used to print out recipes, but then that takes (expensive) paper and still have to file them away. The old ways works best for me - but each to his own.

Pear Tree Log. Another new commenteer, and as - with all others - we welcome you with open arms and hugs. Do hope you stay with us.

New readers may not be aware that blogger now seem to limit the size of (my) postings, and as these are always lengthy, the earlier ones in each month are removed by blogger to presumably make room for recent ones, so often end up with only two or three able to be read at any one time. However, as I can retrieve those lost from the 'edit' page, and have discovered that if I edit out all the ramblings (which are unecessarily extensive, but readers seem to like them) can then bring back most of the recipes and hints and tips - which are, of course, the main reason this site was started.
So recently took ages (a whole month working ALL day) to bring back as many recipes and useful info as I could up, at least up to the middle of this year, so anyone clicking on Archives to read the early postings up to then will find nothing but chat about food and how to make etc. Will shortly need to go back and bring the more recent month's recipes (if missing) back again.

Lucky girl Alison to be now living in Shropshire. This is probably the only county that I've not visited, but believe it is beautiful and mostly 'rural'. I used to know someone who came from that country and absolutely loved the accent. Could listen to it forever.

We are having trouble with slugs indoors again. B is finding the occasional one in our dining room and also our living room and kitchen. We have never found where they come from. This morning - before I began this blog - went and sat in my chair to see the early news on TV, and felt something cold under one foot (luckily I was wearing my support stocking). It was a slug, and thought I'd killed it as it didn't move when I moved it away with a sheet of card. Left the slug on the big square card in the middle of the carpet for B to see when he got up, went and made myself a cup of coffee, and whilst the water was boiling, went back into the room to see if the slug had revived. It had completely disappeared!!! I movee everything that was close by (and nothing was that close) and nowhere was it to be found. Slugs must move pretty rapidly when they wish to. One night I'm going to sit up and watch and when one appears am going to stalk its every movement until it returns to the place from whence it came. These slugs have to come from SOMEWHERE!

As I've not felt like eating for a couple of days (leading to a great weight loss which made it all worth while), had left B to make his own meals. He was not a happy bunny, fed himself on snacks, used up all the bacon (and a lot of other things I wanted to keep) and yesterday at least managed to defrost and reheat a curry I'd made previously and frozen, also heat up a 2 minute rice in the microwave. Even that wasn't right, he was grumpy because the sauce was 'watery'. Told him (AGAIN) that when a sauce has water as an (added) ingredient, freezing causes the sauce to 'split', the water turning into ice crystals, which then don't get absorbed again once thawed. All he had to do was pour away any excess liquid before he put the rest on his plate. But can I get him to remember that?
Commercial 'ready-prepared' meals with sauces usually don't 'split'. Where we would use cornflour (or for that matter plain flour) to thicken a sauce, the manufacturers use something similar but made from rice and this is not available to the general publis.

Another thing that really, REALLY, annoyed me this week was - because I was taken ill Sunday night - no muffins etc were made to hand out to the Trick or Treaters as planned. Asked B to go and buy a large tin of chocs so the children could help themselves when they came to the door. to Silly me said I'd pay for the sweets (so he bought two tins), and stupidly added that if there were any left he (B) could have them. So what did he do? The first child who came to the door took the usual handful of sweets, and B made him put them back and said they were allowed only one each! Despite hearing several children in the road during the next hour or so, no more came to our door, so think the message had been passed around that real 'meanies' live at our house. Of course B was delighted, and - believe it or not - has nearly eaten all the contents of the first tin (because HE helps himself to a big handful at a time). Must find where he has put the other tin and hide it until Xmas.

America seems to have had some severe weather on the east coast, this is rapidly approaching us and today the wind has got up and it is turning colder, although snow is not expected due to the 'snow-storm' having passed over the relatively warm Atlantic before it reaches us, however the top part of the depression is coming down to us from the 'north' (by this I mean the Arctic regions) so possibly could bring down some cold air with it as it reaches us. We just have to wait and see.

Seems the government is now making contingencies for severe winter weather. Such as soldiers helping to clear roads etc. Does this mean they are expecting another cold winter again? We older folk may even get a little more 'fuel-money' given us - which is a bit of a laugh for it seems they had already reduced it, so maybe only those on benefits will get extra. Last year, my friend Gill (a pensioner who lives on her own), got (I think) £25 extra benefit for each week of frost. As we had a lot of frosty weeks last year she was quids in. We have a state pension of £1 too much to be able to claim any benefits, despite our fuel bills coming to LOADS more than £1 a month extra now. Not that we can't manage (and manage quite well if truth be told). But for how long?

Having a bit of time on my hands over the last couple of days - so to speak - was, as ever, thinking about food and in particular - this blog. Almost every recipe posted on this site is (now) based on using up what we have - or making a little go a lot further, because that's what we're going to have to do as prices continue to rise. Then realised most of the time I'm suggesting using food that are in my larder and fridge/freezer, and not everyone buys (or even likes) the produce we eat in the Goode household. So please - if anyone has different foods they wish to find more uses for, please let me/us know, so we can share ideas, and every is happy..

At least yesterday managed to watch several cookery progs on TV. We have Junior Bake-off which is good. 'There's no Taste Like Home' (which is often very good), and a new 'Britain's Best Dish' (this time with chef's competing). In the latter programme one of the chef's made a dish with polenta, and as I've made this myself with both semolina and also cornmeal, think I'll have another go. As with many grains, it has no real flavour of it's own, but will absorb flavours, so could make the basis of a cheap and tasty meal if I get the 'seasoning' right and then 'do things with it'. So looks like this might be the challenge of the week (or month). Speaking of which realise it is now November! And still haven't made my Christmas cake. Well, I did - but B asked to have some and then ate it ALL up. Touch of the Three Bears there. Just call me Goldilocks! If you see me begin to conform to 'text-speak', and start to write Beloved as BB, this will not stand for Baby Bear, but - if he's been a naughty boy again - the first B would stand for an unmentionable word.

As the first food eaten after my 'illness' was a craving for oats, decided to nibble some of my Oaty Biscuits, made to hand out to the Hallow'een gangs. They were really nice, so thought I'd give the recipe.
If you remember, the golden syrup came from the 'empty' can - the syrup lining the insides slid to the bottom when the can was stood in very hot water. Was supposed to use 1 dessp of the syrup, but mis-read the recipe and thought it said 1 tblsp. Afterwards think it was more likely two tblsp left in the tin (and I used it all). This of course made the mixture softer than it should have been, so I just kept adding more flour until it was (to me) the right consistency (soft enough to form into balls but not sticky). Seemed to work perfectly (and made 6 more biscuits) so just goes to show we needn't always be too exact when it comes to some ingredients, as long as we understand what can happen if we make an error and what can help put the recipe back on track.
Here is the 'correct' recipe. Then do with it what you will.
Oaty Fork Biscuits: makes 12
4 oz (100g) butter or marg
1 dessp golden syrup (see above)
3 oz (75g) demerara sugar
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
pinch of salt
1 - 2 tsp ground ginger (to taste)
4 oz (100g) porridge oats
Put the butter, sugar and syrup into a pan over low heat until the fat and sugar have dissolved, then set aside.
Sift the flour, salt and ginger together into a bowl, and mix in the oats, then pour in the syrup mixture and stir everything together until well combined. Break off small blobs of the mixture (about the size of a cherry tomato or damson) and roll each into a ball. Place them on greased baking sheets, placing them well apart (they will spread). Flatten each slightly using the prongs of a fork (or your fingers) and bake at 170C, 325F, gas 3 for 10 -15 minutes or until golden. They will be slightly soft in the centre. Remove from oven and leave to cool on the tin (when they will become firmer). Finish cooling on a wire rack and store in an airtight tin to stay crispy, or if you wish them to become softer, leave on a plate in a moist atmosphere (kitchen?).

This has reminded me of something read in the paper the other day. Apparently 'elf and safety have now decreed that we are not allowed now to hand round a plate of biscuits at meetings UNLESS these are (individually?) wrapped. Apparently this is to prevent passing on any infection that might have settled on the biscuits. Didn't realise that viruses had a sweet tooth, though they only preferred living flesh?
The same article stated that fire extinguishers are now being removed from some places (was a retirement home mentioned?) because someone could get hurt if not using them correctly. Seems the belief now that it is better to avoid a minor injury to oneself, and take the risk of being everyone else (including ourselves) being burned to death.

Most of us who have managed to reach old age without the more severe illnesses, have been able to do so because we have learned the hard way to avoid many of the 'dangers' out there. Fingers can get burned if we play with matches, is part of the learning curve. Also, living with a little dirt is a far better way to build up our immune system than living in a 'uber-clean' home.

Considering that when a child starts to crawl, it MUST pick up some 'muck' from the ground it crawls over (goodness knows what has ended up on the bottom of shoes and then walked onto the floor), and then as fingers immediately get stuck into mouths, am surprised that 'elf and safety have not yet realised this and ordered all mothers to keep their babies and toddlers hands permanently wiped clean, and for them to wear disposable gloves at all time when outdoors, and make the child wear a wide stiff collar when indoors so they can't even get their fingers near their mouths.
Whatever next will this nanny state remove from us 'for our safety'? And in the process make things 1,000 times worse for us in the long run.

Another recipe coming up. This one makes use of 'oddments' in the fridge (well at least all the ingredients are in my fridge but as not necessarily in yours you could substitute 'something similar' instead - parsnip, squash or carrot instead of beetroot for instance). Being vegetarian, an all-round useful recipe to copy down for your personal recipe book/file. Intended as a starter, or light supper (eats well with tzatsiki), make double the amount and serve with salad and/or rice as a 'main course' meal.
The vacuum packs of beetroot that have a long-shelf life are always worth keeping in the fridge, so as the other ingredients are also 'to hand' in many kitchens (if not, why not?), and grated cheese can be prepared in advance- even frozen for later use, together these can be quickly prepared and assembled. When using spring onions, finely chop and add the green stems as well. If using shallots then add some chopped chives or - if you have a sprouting onion - chop the 'onions' sprout leaves to use. Used more for flavour and colour than any real need.
When it comes to the cheese - myself have successfully used some Cheddar that was left to go very hard before grating. The harder the cheese the more finelyit grates. Wensleydale or Lancashire cheese is not a million miles away from Feta when it comes to the texture.
Beetroot Fritters: serves 4 (see above)
8 oz (225g) cooked beetroot, grated
2 spring onions (or 1 shallot) finely chopped
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese
2 oz (50g) grated Feta cheese
1 egg, beaten
2 tblsp finely chopped parsley
2 tblsp finely chopped mint
salt and pepper to taste
approx 3 oz (75g) breadcrumbs (brown or white)
approx 3 oz (75g) plain flour (brown or white)
1 lemon, cut into wedges
oil for frying
Put the beetroot, onions, cheeses, egg and herbs into a bowl and mix together with enough breadcrumbs to bind. Cover and chill for an hour, then add as much flour as needed to take up any excess moisture.
Add seasoning to the remaining flour, then form the mixture into balls, burger or sausage shapes (aka rissoles), coat with the flour and fry in shallow oil for 2 - 3 minutes on each side until golden, then drain on kitchen paper and serve hot with a squeeze of lemon.

Although always preferring to use 'real' new potatoes (and have to admit they could be weeks old before they get from plot to pot, so hardly 'new'), also keep a few canned new potatoes in my larder. Although not quite as nice as the 'real thing', they can be 'tarted up' to make them very tasty. So next time you open a can, drain rinse and drain again, then toss with a little pepper and grated Parmesan, then put onto a baking tray pop into a hot oven (of on, or under a grill if not) giving the tray a shake now and again and roast/grill for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is 'crusting' and the potatoes are heated through.

Another suggestion is to prepare potatoes as above, pat dry then wrap each in a part rasher of bacon, then either oven bake or grill until the bacon is crisp... .
,,,OR heat the potatoes then toss in a few spoonfuls of pesto, add diced red bell peppers (or Peppadew), and - an optional extra - some sliced pitted black olives. Serve as a 'side salad' with freshly grilled (or fried) sausages, steak etc.

Final recipe today is for a light fruit loaf. Most of us have the basic 'makings' to hand (flour, sugar, eggs, fats, spices etc.,) and any of these can be varied without making much difference - other than flavour - to the end product. So whether you choose to use butter or marg, brown or white flour, or your own mixture of dried fruits (sultanas, chopped no-soak apricots, dates...) and white sugar and mixed spice instead of what is suggested, you should still be satisfied with the result. The idea behind all this is to prove how we can still use a recipe as a guide even even if we don't have the exact ingredients. It's fun experimenting.
Sugar and Spice Fruit Teabread: serves 10
6 oz (175g) butter or marg
6 oz (175g) light muscovado sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1 eating apple
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz (225g) mixed dried fruits
3 oz (75g) ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
6 oz (175g) plain flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
sqeeze lemon or orange juice (see above)
1 tblsp marmalade (pref orange) or jam (pref apricot)
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Grate half the apple and stir this into the batter with vanilla, dried fruits and ground almonds. Sift together the flour, salt, raising agent and spices together then fold these into the mixture until just combined. Spoon into a greased and lined 2 lb (900g) loaf tin and level the surface. Slice the remaining half of the apple, sprinkling over the citrus juice, then press these into the surface of the cake batter. Sprinkle with a teaspoon more of sugar, then bake for 45 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4, then reduce heat to 140C, gas 1 and cover the tin lightly with foil (shiny side up) and bake for a further 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin, then remove, and glaze top by brushing with melted jam or marmalade. (This can be frozen for up to a month).
Serve thickly sliced spread with a little softened butter.

For the moment the wind seems to have dropped (oh, no it hasn't, it was just taking a breather) but looks like being another sunny day. Really should try and get a bit of fresh air with Norris (new readers won't yet know that Norris is my mobility scooter - and Boris is our fridge/freezer, and Maurice is our small freezer, and Doris is B's car...did (name the greenhouse 'Horace'? Can't now remember).

Beloved is off shortly to the RNLI shop for his Wednesday morning voluntary shift. He thinks it is now closed for the season, but as no-one has yet told him so, he is going anyway to make sure (why doesn't he just make a phone call to the organiser to find out?). Normally I'd be having my hair done at this moment in time, but cancelled it as didn't want Norma to pick up any viruses that may still be lurking around the house. Anyway didn't expect to get better as quickly as I did - B taking nearly 5 days to almost feel normal (and not sure that he has managed to do that anyway).

If you remember it was only recently that I said I always feel particularly well the day before I fall ill, and the last posting before my illness was all about how bright eyed and bushy tailed I was feeling that day. So it's quite true. Silly me didn't realise what was likely to happen at the time.

Anyway - enough for now. Have a few chores that need to be done (B doesn't do chores other than the washing up - even I try to avoid as many as I can, but then they mount up...), so will love you and leave you for now.
Some time today have to try and sort out B's 'side' of the computer, for when Steve updated it (to B's request) somehow his broadband/internet connection seems to have failed. Luckily mine is OK (made sure of that before Steve left). Just hope I don't muck up my side whilst I try and sort out B's. If there is no blog tomorrow you will know the reason why! So hope to be back, and if so - see you then.