Saturday, December 31, 2011

This Time Tomorrow!

This time tomorrow am just hoping I'll be a lot more organised than I have been this year. So far only my larder gets that treatment. I need to be more focused when deciding what meals to make each day. Having already got the 'makings', it would make more sense to plan a weekly menu, esp as I do tend to make my mind up almost at the last minute - which doesn't always help.

As I still didn't get around to photographing the 'fresh produce' (see what I mean about not doing things when I had planned to), this will definitely happen today. The camera was showing 'low battery' when last used, but on checking this morning (it is kept in the desk drawer by my side) it seems to have enough power to take the photos, but if B is going out will get him to bring spare batteries back with him (he uses them too). He may already have some - somewhere! If so he probably won't remember where he put them anyway.

Was pleased that B eventually did the washing up, although not all of it. As per usual he left all the pots and pans and dishes used for mixing, boiling and roasting, just washing the plates, serving bowls and cutlery. But at least that helped, apart from he had stacked all the clean ones onto the kitchen table for me to put away, and left all the cutlery still in the draining tray. It was because of that I was put off doing the produce photo as the table needed clearing first, and I didn't feel like doing it right then. Most of it has now been put away, so if I can keep B away from the kitchen this afternoon (hopefully some footie matches on TV or a film he can watch) then I can stay in the kitchen to 'have a play'.

Also planning to sort out my freezer/s and find out just what I've got left in there (they are both full), also plan to bulk-make meals using some of the beef mince (chilli con carne, spag bol, curry etc), so that there is a meal to re-heat for B rather that having to make one from scratch. Quite often there are good cookery progs on (or repeats of Midsomer Murders, or Poirot) on when I should be doing the cooking, and really don't like to miss watching them. We don't have a DVD recorder or anything like that. I know that many repeats of progs can be watched via the various TV websites, but somehow find this not as appealing as when sitting watching the TV in the normal way, perhaps because there is no easy chair in here to snuggle into, also the room is quite cold.

Thanks to those who send New Year Greetings, and although they may be taking a day off from 'comp. reading', hope they manage to catch up with any posts they have missed.

It was Lisa who has sent several comments, and these have prompted a reply. How different cooking can be from one country to another. The black (turtle) beans sounded as though they had a lot more flavour than the normal (dried) beans. Not sure if these are the same as the small black beans we can buy. Do hope so.

The soy milk maker sounded an excellent buy as it appears to make soy milk for one fifth of the price of bought. Am presuming it begins with soy powder that is diluted with milk, or maybe even soy beans are used. Please describe it further Lisa, it may be the same 'equipment' is for sale over here.

Your mention of red sky in the morning reminded me of an old (traditional) saying of ours. Maybe the Pilgrim Fathers took this saying with them. "Red sky at night, shepherd's delight, red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning". Having said that, noticed over the last few years, when dawn rose showing a very beautiful red/orange sky (looked like a magnificent sunset), the weather stayed very fair. For days.

As to my storage jars. At one time always used to label them, now - if storing dry goods that I need to be reminded of cooking times 'as per instructions on packet', just cut up the packet and keep the instruction bit and put that in the top of the jar before sealing with the lid. Sometimes I cut the name of the product from the front of the pack and slide that into the jar between whatever and the glass, so I can read what it is.
Instead of now using labels, I write the name of the contents directly onto the glass using a black marker pen. This can be easily washed off when the jar is empty and if wishing to store something else inside. If I don't like seeing the labels or writing, I just turn the jars round so the clear side faces outwards.
Nothing wrong with labels, but I'm so finicky about everything looking good on my shelves, if the labels aren't exactly the same height on each of the same-sized bottles, it really irritates me.

Obviously some bottle-contents don't need labelling, but when there is such little difference in appearance between 'soft brown sugar' and 'light muscovado sugar', they jars need marking.

Still with Lisa, I now ask what are 'bento' lunch boxes? An am presuming the boiled eggs you mentioned are soft-boiled so the whites are soft enough to be pushed into shaped moulds (but wouldn't the whites tend to break?). Another question coming up. What is a Mexican Wedding Cake? And not sure what a 'tamale' is (something about hot chilli peppers comes into my mind, and maybe something to do with tortillas, but that's as far as my brain can reach at the mo.)

When the Amish series was show, we saw many of the women 'canning'. Now to us, 'canning' is storing in tin (or metal cans). Do remember that we could buy canning equipment to do just this. Now it seems that the US canning is what we always call 'bottling', and perhaps because of the danger of not doing the sterilising correctly (tomatoes not done correctly can cause botulism), few rarely bother doing this. Maybe we find the freezer is a simpler alternative.

Liked the idea of a 'rice crispies' cake as a base for icing, minimiser deb. It doesn't have to be a tier for a wedding cake, it would make a perfect birthday cake for small children. 'Crispie' cup cakes could also be decorated as we would normal cup-cakes.

Not sure what the 'sausage thingy' was that you mentioned Campfire, but possibly was the one mentioned in the book that I'd 'invented'. This came about when I realised that flour, when mixed with protein and liquid was able to be poured out and cooked as a pancake. Normally the protein in pancakes would be egg and milk, so I experimented using other proteins, mashed up baked beans with flour and liquid... and the same with one sausage/liquid/flour. Believe me, this also worked and with one sausage was able to make three thin 'sausage flavoured' pancakes, each served wrapped round a filling of salad (as we make a tortilla wrap) and made a good snack for three people.
The same pancakes - served wrapped round a veggie filling - could be put into a small oven-proof dish, have cheese sauce poured on top, grated cheese scattered over, and this would make a substantial lunch or supper dish for one - maybe two if served with a side salad. Another way of making a little go that very much further.

Am always hunting for recipes that can use up what I've got. The problem is - do YOU have the same bits and bobs in your cupboard? Sometimes I wonder if I should write up a list of ingredients we should ALL keep in store, then give only recipes that use these.
Many old cookbooks do list up foods 'we should have', and even cookery mags today (esp at this time of year) list up all the foods we need to buy to make the recipes in that particular issue. Myself find this off putting as it would encourage me to buy those I don't already have, and would prefer to use a different (but similar) ingredient in its place.
This is one reason why I try to suggest alternatives in many of the recipes posted on this site, and the one that follows can easily be adapted in this way.

Basically, this recipe is a fruit loaf, but you could use less fruit, or vary the dried fruit you use (instead of using the recommended sultanas, raisins, or mixed dried fruit, chop up dried dates, prunes, apricots etc), or mix any dried fruits together to weigh the amount shown, and you don't even have to stick to that weight, use less if that's all you have. Keep the other ingredient weights the same if you can.
Many recipes suggest using golden caster sugar, I normally use the plain white caster, or - if you have a blender - you could whizz demerara down to make your own 'golden' caster sugar (whizz granulated down in the same way to make caster sugar, whizz this down further and it will make icing sugar).

Many tea-loaves are made with cold tea. Ordinary cold tea is fine. If you have flavoured tea (Earl Grey, Green Tea...) or herbal teas (the fruit flavoured kind are best), use these as they will give a much more interesting flavour to a cake, and if you are like me - you probably have some 'herbal' teas that you never really fancied and they have ended up sulking at the back of a shelf.
A whole orange is used in this cake, but no reason why just the zest isn't included (esp. if the orange is large as this will add enough flavour) then use the segments for something else. Instead of juice just add a few drops of vanilla extract with a little water. Another adaptation would be to use half the zest of one large orange, half its juice, and then use the remaining zest and juice for the syrup and omit the lemon.

Right - now I've given some suggestions as to how to adapt the recipe (it being my adaptation of one of Jamie Oliver's), let's begin, then you make up your own mind what to do with it.
Tea Loaf: serves 12
6 Earl Grey (or other - see above) tea-bags
half pint (300ml) boiling water
14 oz (400g) dried mixed fruit (see above)
zest and juice of one orange, or zest only (see above)
1 large egg
11 oz (300g) golden caster sugar (see above)
14 oz (400g) self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
half tsp ground cinnamon
7 fl oz (200ml) water for the syrup
zest and juice of 1 lemon
Take four of the teabags and put into a jug with the half-pint of boiling water, then leave for 5 minutes to brew. Remove the bags.
Put the dried fruit into a bowl with the orange zest, then pour in the hot tea, give a stir then cover and leave to soak for several hours - even better leave to soak overnight - so most of the liquid is taken up by the fruit.
When ready to make the fruit loaf, whisk the egg and stir into the bowl of fruit, adding 7 oz (200g) of the sugar. Sift together the flour and spices and add the orange juice (if using). If there is some tea left in the bowl that the fruit hasn't soaked up, this could take the place of the orange juice, or add a little water. The aim is to end up with a dough-like mixture that is very slightly dry.
Spoon this into a greased and lined loaf tin (a size that would hold 1 ltr/1.75 pints water) and bake in the oven for 1 hour 10 mins (give or take a few minutes) until cooked through. Test it is done by sticking in a skewer in the centre and if it comes out clean it will be cooked. If not, cook for a further 5 or so minutes.
While the tea loaf is cooking, make some syrup by putting the remaining 2 teabags into a pan with the 7 fl oz (200ml) water, and the zest and juice of the lemon. Over low heat, bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes, then removed the teabags. Raise heat to medium then - without stirring -let the liquid for 5 - 10 minutes or until reduced by half to give a golden syrup. Remove from heat and set aside.
As soon as the tea loaf is baked, use a cocktail stick/skewer or fork prongs to make lots of little holes on the top, then slowly pour the syrup all over it. Leave the loaf in the tin until all the syrup has been absorbed, then turn out, and place on a cake airer to cool completely.
Serve sliced, plain or buttered, at tea-time, or later with a good wedge of cheese (Wensleydale goes well with this) for an evening (or after dinner) snack.

As B has managed to finish all the ice-cream, Bakewell Tart, and triple cheese quiche, feel it is time for me to make him another 'treat', and possibly will make the above (due to the soaking of fruit it won't be ready to eat until tomorrow), and probably some biscuits to keep him going in the meantime. Or maybe another cake, apple pie, fruit crumble, trifle, or, or, or....

I just can't keep pace with the amount B eats, and just wish I could eat that much - he never seems to gain weight on it, other than a few pounds. Me, I've put back a good half-stone over the last month, due to eating 'normal' meals again (despite my helpings being smaller than average). Too many carbos and not enough protein I suspect. Come New Year I will eat less again, lose those pounds and by doing this, the food stores will last that little bit longer. No doubt most readers will have gained a bit of weight over Christmas, so eating less can help lose both sorts of 'pounds', the lbs and the ££s. What I call a 'win-win' situation.

Watching recent documentaries and requests for help for the starving nations on TV, made me feel that many readers would think it is obscene of me to keep so much food in my larder and fridge/freezer when so many have to do without. Have even thought that myself, but then as I give monthly AND annual donations to various charities (Oxfam, and charities that help/teach Third World nations to grow their own produce etc) feel that it's not just me, me, me that I'm thinking about.
Having stores in my larder is my 'survival kit', and strangely find that when I take on my usual 'start the year' challenge of using them up, despite all the money that is being saved by doing this, find it also rather unnerving as the shelves become empty. It will take a lot of self-control not to start filling them up again, although if there is a chance of making a 'very good purchase' (say one of Donald Russell meat offers) may use some of my savings to buy these, but then put them away in a special freezer drawer to be untouched until the rest of my meat/fish stores are depleted.
We will just have to wait and see how long I can stay the course. And it isn't even New Year yet and already I'm feeling the stirrings of terror when I see a shelf that has space.

At least, filling bottles with freshly made candied peel, mincemeat, more marmalade (made from stocks already in the larder) will take up some of the empty space, as will (now empty) sweet tins) full of home-made biscuits. Or others with gingerbread, fruit cake.
Yes, that's the best thing to do - another role play for me 'be my own manufacturer' - and fill those shelves with my own 'stuff', then the larder will still appear to be full and my stress levels will fall.

Time for me now to get on and start 'manufacturing'. Hopefully fitting in the role-play 'photographer' sometime during the day. If I feel like 'tarting up' a dish, that means role-playing 'food stylist' as well. Looks like next year will be more acting than living a normal boring life. Could be fun.

Time now for me to give (again) Happy New Year greetings to all, for when we meet up again (hopefully you can fit in a read tomorrow), it will be January, and this time tomorrow you will see how my frugal, miserly, downright thrifty year has begun. With bells on. See you then.