Friday, December 30, 2011

Nearly New Year!

Only a couple of days now and it will be January. Let us hope we manage to keep all our New Year Resolutions.
Many thanks to those who wrote in sending (advance) New Year greetings - mine will be sent to you in this posting, and probably again tomorrow, but being the weekend, and with maybe more parties in the offing, am sure not a lot of you will be sitting at the comp. until perhaps Tuesday (hangovers permitting!!).

Was not able to spread out my fruit and veg to be photographed, due to my belief that B would do as he said. After lunch (which went very well by the way, even B seemed impressed with the 11 different items on the plate cooked and dished up by me with what seemed hardly to be no effort at all). After lunch, I went to have a sit down whilst B took our daughter to a garden centre where she wanted to buy some half-price Christmas decorations etc (got some really good bargains too, she did). Before they left B said he would do the washing up, I said I didn't mind, I could do it while they were out, and he very firmly said No!!!", he would do it. I was to leave it for him on his return.
Far be it from me to go against my lord and master's wishes, so I left it. Didn't need to go into the kitchen again, for he even brought me some 'supper' (an orange, a piece of quiche and a slice of Bakewell). Went to bed early leaving B to carry on with his life.

This morning went into the kitchen and all the dirty plates, glasses, cutlery, pots and pans are still on the conservatory table, all over the kitchen table, on the hob, all over the place. Am assuming he decided to leave the washing up until this morning, but still have to wait before the table is clear enough for me to spread out the 'fresh' produce for it to be photographed.

It wasn't that B forgot to wash up, he could see all the mess each time he went back into the kitchen to get himself another snack (like several times during the evening), he just didn't want to do it THEN. He always likes to do things when HE wants to, never when asked. Think this gives him a feeling of power, but it is very annoying when other people are having to wait.
Yet - when B asks me to do something for him (like sew on a button or iron a shirt) he expects me to do it immediately. After many years, then told him he was a good teacher and now I'd begin to do things his way, so from then on started not doing what he wanted when he wanted. He - of course - was not prepared to wait days/weeks/years (like I had to) for an urgent job to be done, so meekly gave up and now does any of his stitching or ironing himself (not that there is much ironing to be done - think since we moved in the iron has only warmed up twice).

Good idea minimiser deb to stick on jewels, glitter etc on those crowns. They could also be sprayed with gold and silver (aerosol) paint.

Welcome back Wen, hope you are now able to reach this site again after having difficulty. Not sure how you normally get to it, but if you type in Shirley Goode in Google, it usually comes up at the top of the page listings with a mention of Taste The Goode Life, and then click on my name etc to reach the current posting. Perhaps once reached, if you can get it onto 'favourites' then it might then be easier to find.

Do hope the ice-cream is satisfactory Lynn. Let us know. A mix of eggs and single cream can also be used for a quiche (with cheese, or other filling), or poured over bread and butter (with fruit and sugar) to make a Bread and Butter pudding.
A really good dessert (my cheat's panna cotta) can be made by dissolving a packet of fruit flavoured jelly in about quarter pint (5fl oz/150ml) of hot water, cooling for a while, then making up to the pint with cream. Pour into individual moulds, then leave in the fridge to set. Unmould onto a plate and garnish with a little fresh fruit or fruit coulis if you have some.
If you use orange jelly, you could also add a dash of Cointreau (opt) and garnish with grated chocolate.

Single cream is also good swirled into a smooth soup ('cream' soup), and - if a tub of cream has been kept chilled, and not yet opened it should keep for several days beyond the date shown on the tub. I've found cream still usable a month after the date, but not suggesting others should do this. We keep our fridge at 3C, this being lower than normal and helps to keep dairy food fresher for longer.

Your mention of the houses on Sunderland Point Campfire, reminded me that when we first visited Morecambe to 'house-hunt', we were taken to S. Point and there was a house for sale there. We were tempted, but knowing the houses could be cut off twice a day due to the tide, felt that because of any sudden illness, was concerned how a doctor/ambulance could reach us (n time!). Also, it was quite a distance in road miles from the nearest (large) shops, and doubt a Tesco van would deliver. However, it would be a lovely place to live if you like the type of solitude that sea-marshes, bird-life, fishing, has to offer.

Eileen's mention of having a small kitchen and no space for (extra) storage, made me have another think. Every kitchen must have four walls (maybe two doors, one internal, one back door). Possibly one wall has a window. Other walls usually have some fitted cupboards or are just blank walls. Removing cupboard doors (even those below units), does seem to help to give more 'usable' space, for we can then instantly see what is 'in there', and arrange accordingly. Anything that will be hidden behind closed doors is more often than not just shoved inside at the front of everything else, so hides what is behind. With no doors, it is far easier to keep 'stores' more neatly arranged (be it foods or baking equipment). Narrow shelves might be able to be fitted to blank walls without protruding into a room enough to bump on them as we walk past (w have a small 'dresser' type of shelves that hang over a central heating radiator. Useful for standing on narrow loaf tins to warm up the bread when rising, also for storing other things that can stand a bit of heat.

The mention of a bookcase (to store foods) in your larder Margie, was a great idea. Even the old style, glass fronted bookcase we have in our living room, this could also hold canned and packet foods if more shelves were needed. We often see photos in mags of bookcases that have a gathered fabric placed behind the glass (hiding what is inside), so by placing a 'curtain' (could be net) behind the glass, then we too could keep stores in our living room. As to where we then keep our books. Well, that's another matter.
Luckily we do have a large floor to ceiling wall to wall cupboard in our narrow 'hall' (a now enclosed - what used to be open - porch. The bottom cupboards house the gas and 'leccy' meters, fuse boxes etc, but plenty of shelves in the cupboards above, but the top two far too high to reach without a step ladder. We store books and loo rolls and various other non-foods in there.

Daughter and I were talking yesterday about 'what to do next'. She was planning to make more Christmas decorations, crowns, tags etc from her cards, plus a new batch of mincemeat ready for next year. Think I'll follow her example. Prepare for next Christmas even though this season's Twelve Days are still only half-way through.

Was given a book on cakes (at first thought it was a book on decorative icing), that our daughter got me from M & S. She had one the same - they give them away. Realised why they were 'for free' as they were not an instruction book, it was a booklet of celebration cakes that we could order from the store.
Anyone who likes making cakes and enjoys decorating them would find this booklet very inspiring. There is no cake in there decorated beyond what most of us could manage. The soft fondant icing used makes it so easy to cover a cake (unlike the royal icing which took more time, patience and a certain amount of skill).

What really stunned me was the price we would be expected to pay for these M & S special occasion cakes. Well, we always DO have to pay a LOT when we expect other people to do the work for us, but now, with the recession, it seems a waste of money to pay for something that we should be able to make ourselves. Some of the cakes in the booklet are just plain icing, with a trimming of a couple of (real) cherries on each tier, or maybe a couple of fresh roses.

To help you start thinking about improving your cake 'skills', here are some prices. In most cases the cakes can be either all fruit, or chocolate cake or plain sponge cake (or for a three-tiered cake a combination of all three, the fruit layer being at the base to give support).
fruit cake:
small tier (10cm dia) £10 (12 portions)
medium tier (15.5cm) £24 (24 portions)
large tier (22.5cm) £40 (44 portions)
extra large tier (27.5cm) £56 (64 portions)

sponge cake (choc or vanilla) same dimensions
Small tier (£8) 8 portions
medium tier (£16) 16 portions
large tier (£30) 30 portions
ex. large tier (£44) 44 portions

One of the easiest decorated cakes to follow is a Chocolate Ganache Wedding Cake. A three-tier set of chocolate cakes, filled with chocolate ganache and covered in a choice of white or milk 'rough plaster effect' chocolate (looks exactly like the white icing we used to thickly smear on top of Christmas cakes to give a rocky, snowy effect. Nothing could be simpler to do). Top cake is 16cm dia, middle tier, 20.5cm, bottom tier 25.5. Comes fully assembled (one cake on top of another, no pillars needed), and cost one pound less than £200 (if I put the true price of £199 it would sound to cost a lot less, but isn't). The cake gives 100 portions which is just about £2 per serving.

The booklet then has a few pages of other 'special occasion' cakes, starting with cupcakes - some displayed in tiers (for a 'wedding cake' instead of the traditional tiers). The cakes are sold as 'sets' of 48 (four dozen), just vanilla sponge with an icing frosting and edible glitter. Cost £48 (£1 per cake).
A triple layer classic Victoria sandwich, filled with jam and cream and a dusting of icing sugar on top, would set us back £17.50 for 14 slices. A triple layered carrot cake filled with cream cheese, decorated with walnuts and marzipan carrots, als0 £17.50.
The rest of the booklet shows 'personalised' cakes, and these are really worth looking at for inspiration, showing all types of simple cakes that have been decorated with coloured fondant icing to make anything from dinosaurs, to fairy tale castles, pool tables and handbags. Enough ideas there to keep a family of children happy from baby-hood to the wedding feast.

Have just seen at the bottom of a page see how to handle and build your cake online: so the above might be able to be seen. Also worth looking at where they might show photos of the cakes.

It is the same with many ready-meals/cakes/biscuits/preserves etc, that we might normally be prepared to buy, instead of purchasing, just let them inspire us to try making them ourselves. We all need to get our ideas from somewhere, even I can't conjure up a 'new' dish without something having lit my fuse.

When our children were small, I always made their birthday cakes, and over the years improved enough to be asked to make celebration cakes for others. Used to make (or just decorate) quite a few wedding cakes and other anniversary cakes - never charging that much. Do know that many people do the same for family, friends and neighbours, so if you have small children, use their formative years to gain the skills necessary to make their wedding cakes. Learn to sew and then you could also make the daughter's wedding dresses. You could also provide food for the reception (maybe grow your own flowers for the bouquets!!). Then no need to worry about the money when a wedding is planned. Your own could be a cut above the rest, even if the cost is low.
We home-cooks, over time, can become as skilled as any that sell their (culinary) wares. We just don't appreciate our worth. It may be much easier to employ someone to do everything for us, but this doesn't mean it is any better than we can do. Having read some of the menus for wedding buffets, have to say we should be able to provide much better for a fraction of the cost (and I do mean fraction).

There are people who will jump on me and suggest by saying all this could start to put 'people who cater' out of business. Think M & S can afford a few less cakes sold. They have other string to their bow.
Anyone who watched the TV series 'The Goode Kitchen' may remember the wedding cake I'd made, where the third (top) tier was formed from two empty packs of icing sugar stuck together (made a square shape 'block'), these then icedto match the two tiers beneath. Looked really good, and useful, especially as the top tier is never cut at the wedding (traditionally kept as the christening cake for the first child usually born within the twelvemonth following - and even then usually has to be re-iced due to the icing discolouring). Had a really unpleasant letter sent to me from the wife of a man who made/decorated wedding cakes, and said my suggestion would cause him a big loss of earnings as people who saw the programme would now not want to pay for 'proper' cake on the top, as some were already requesting this false tier.

Good that sometimes my ideas save some people money, not so good if it does harm to others. On the other hand, think a cake-decorator would get even more orders if he suggested he could provide a three-tier cake (when only two could be afforded) if he charged very little for a third false tier. Not quite 'having your cake and eating it too' but very nearly that. Every bride wishes for a three (or even four) tiered wedding cake, it's all part of the magic of the day. Now she can afford to have one (and if only the bottom tier need be 'real', the remaining tiers can all be false).

Iced 'special occasion' cakes in some confectioners windows are quite often a polystyrene block (round or square) that has been iced for display purposes only. These blocks are very useful to practice our ice-decorating skills. They can be bought especially for this purpose, or we could just upturn a pre-formed piece of polystyrene that a gift might have been packed in, and practice icing the bottom and sides (which would be flat).

Instead of making a thick (royal icing) we could make a very stiff mixture of smooth mashed potato (made with Smash is best) so that we can practice 'icing' those blobs, shells and sqiggles that tend to be used to decorate cakes. Children may also like to practice 'icing' using mash. It's cheap, it's fun, and as long as the surface is kept clean (decorate the surface of a clean plate), the potato could still end up being used (in fish cakes, potato scones etc).

Yesterday's turkey dinner, despite it having 11 different 'foods' on one plate (cranberry sauce the only one already prepared), was no harder to put together than the traditional Sunday roast of 'meat and two veg, with gravy'. As ever, it is all to do with the timing, and for this a list is necessary, start with the food that takes the longest to cook, then keep adding more to the oven when the time is right (or on the hob). Told B that cooking the meal was almost boring, as there was nothing to 'stretch' me. Even found that with no stress was able to sit down and eat a plateful myself (this being unusual as when cooking a big meal for others usually find that when it comes to serving, am too exhausted to eat).

When nearly time to serve, just wanted to re-heat the bread sauce in the microwave and the flippin' thing wouldn't work. It had been OK up until then (fortunately). Tried several times and it still wouldn't start. Suddenly realised why. I had forgotten to turn the clock dial on to the time needed. Doh! What am I like? Suffice to say it did work when I remembered what to do. Am getting as bad as B.

The last of the Amish progs was shown last night. Reminded me even more of the J.W's religion. My friend's son had been thrown out of their church due to some man telling lies about him.
He then had to be 'shunned' by his family, and they weren't allowed to have any personal contact or speak to him on the phone. A month or so later, the person who accused the son admitted to the church elders that he had lied (because he didn't like their faith and wanted to stir things up), and so the lad was then allowed back, but he refused saying that if they weren't prepared to believe his word against that of a non-believer then he had no wish to stay in the faith. Good for him.

The problem is with many of these slightly 'off-centre' religions is that too many rules are made by man-kind. The Mormans have a 'leader' they call 'the living prophet', who passes on advice/rules that come directly from God (or so it is thought), they also have their own version of a Bible. The J.W's stick more closely to the Christian Bible but still have their 'headquarters' and leaders who give their own 'advice' on how things should be done.
As was mentioned in the prog. yesterday, the young men who still agreed with the basic Amish principles, did not agree with several of the rules and regs given to them by their 'elders', who had made their own decision as what was right and wrong, and nothing to do with bible teachings. Even setting up a tent and camping out was forbidden to these young men, yet am in Biblical times many people travelled long distances and sleeping in tents (as the nomads did and still do) was an acceptable thing to do.

Think my favourite Amish family was the couple in the first episode. Others too were lovely, it was this last Swartzenbrueger (or some such similar name) branch that tended to make us think twice about their faith. It is always very dangerous when humankind put themselves into a position of giving 'godly advice' but with nothing remotely spiritual to back it up. But whatever, still admire the Amish and hope they continue living the same way for many more year (with maybe a few electrics thrown in to make life that bit easier).

No recipe today as time has run out, but maybe tomorrow. Am not taking any more time off as New Year (for me) is less about celebrating (learned yesterday that B will be out seeing the New Year in with his sailing club mates at their club house, so I'll be tucked up in bed by midnight no doubt), and a lot more about girding my loins ready for the Challenge. Just can't wait for the fun to start.
Hoping that as many readers of this site as possible will also be 'making the best of what we already have', like for weeks, even months, not days. As long as we keeping giving moral support to each other, we can work miracles. You'd better believe it!

If we don't meet again until January, Happy New Year greetings. But once 2012 is here, please keep logging on, for who know what the future has in store for us, as we may find we need to tighten our belts even further, and every tiny cost-cutting hint or tip will be needed.

As ever, I'll be back again tomorrow (you may like to know it is around noon and I can hear B starting the washing up - yippee!!), if you can join me, see you then.