Thursday, January 26, 2012

Playing Games

During yesterday felt that I'd not given a very useful reply to Anonymous (name not given) who was normally needing to prepare three different daily meals for her family, and was trying to think of a more labour-saving way to approach this problem. For some reason began to think of is like a 'puzzle' that we sometimes read. 'A' can eat anything, 'B' cannot eat fruit and eggs and only some veg., and both 'B' and 'C' don't like the texture of meat in their mouths. What same meal can be served to all? This I found quite fun trying to work out.

The first problem was wondering what veg could be eaten by B, and whether B and C would accept the flavour of meat without the 'texture'. Then we come to using the small amount of info given (and hoped) that could work together.

If meat or chicken stock is acceptable, then there are plenty of soups that can be made using this 'protein' stock as a base, maybe even a simple minestrone with added pasta or rice to give 'bulk'. Or possible a lentil soup, a French Onion soup (with bread and toasted cheese floating on top), or an acceptable vegetable soup. Most can be made in advance and frozen to save time later.

Many vegetables can be cooked and blitzed together to make a pizza sauce. Onion, carrots and celery are good as together then end up tasting fairly sweet and marry well when blitzed with a can of chopped tomatoes. Perfect for pizza toppings or a pasta sauce. As a 'puzzle solution', then A, B, and C should be able to eat pasta layered with a cheese and maybe spinach filling, coated with above tomato sauce and a cheese topping. Or if serving pasta shapes with the 'hidden veg' tomato sauce, meat balls made from vegetarian sausages (for B and C) could be fried in the same pan as 'real' meat balls (for A), and this again should make meals for all three at the same tune, pans. Or it could be that all three would eat meat when it has been blitzed down to make it similar to a paste/pate, this can be used to make meatballs, burgers etc.
Pork sausage, egg beans and chips could be served to A and C, with extra beans instead of eggs served to B.

There was no mention of fish or poultry, but if the texture of fresh fish was unacceptable to B and C, then perhaps tinned fish might be, especially if it was mashed down well to remove any 'texture' then mixed with mashed potato and/or breadcrumbs to make fishcakes, able to be served to all. Can be made in bulk ready to cook as and when.

These are only suggestions going on the small amount of (accepted ingredients) that were given. Unless any more details can be given, there is not a lot more I can suggest at this time, and am just hoping that Anon is still with us and reading this. But as many people have reason to cook different meals according to various allergies etc, the above might be useful.

By the way, there are several egg 'substitutes' on sale that can be used for both savoury and sweet dishes, so quiches can be made successfully as well as many cakes. In fact several recipes have been given on this site for eggless cakes.

Welcome again to Jim who is asking about the reason for the more moist 'commercially' produced bread. There are several reasons, but mainly because the bread has additives (usually vit.C) to help it rise more with a looser texture (an presuming this means less volume of dough is needed for each loaf, so less costly to make than bread bought from a 'proper' baker. Also steamed as it is baked to give a moist crumb. Baker's (artisan) bread is not so moist, and dries/stales more rapidly.
To help keep our oven-bake bread softer we can put a large roasting pan of water on the bottom of the oven (or lowest shelf) to heat up as the oven heats, the water then evaporates to give a steamy atmosphere in the oven as the bread bakes. Myself find 'tenting' with foil (or even covering the loaf tin with a matching sized tin also works well. If using a matching tin, remove this about 10 minutes before the end of cooking time to allow the top to brown and form a crust.

Interesting Ciao, to hear that an Italian uses soy sauce when cooking. Believe this is common practice among many chefs in this country, but for some reason hardly ever mentioned. Maybe this sauce is also used in many other countries. It certainly does help to 'beef' up the flavour of casseroles. Suppose Marmite works in much the same way.

Am pleased that others have sent in comments 'ranting' about our benefit system giving so much to those who just expect this, who - in return - show no gratitude or seem to have any inclination to work in the future. Am wondering if all Commonwealth countries are obliged to do so much for their layabouts and immigrants/asylum seekers. Am pretty sure the US is much tighter-fisted, and good for them if they are.
The more we hard-working Brits shout about this unfairness of the benefit system, then perhaps more will be done to remember those where were born here come first - or should. This country is known all over the world to be a 'soft touch', and why so many people keep pouring into this country to get free housing and all the benefits they can.

Do remember that many years back families here, where the man had useful skills, were urged to go and live in Australia. They travelled by ship, costing no more than £10 as an 'assisted passage'. When they arrived, the men were sent to one compound, the women and children to another, and not allowed to leave until the husband had a job and got some accommodation for them. Because of this, several families (who expected immediate housing and family 'togetherness') returned home. Others stuck it out and then built up a good life for themselves.
We knew this because several of our friends went over with their families, but not all stayed the course, and so returned home to complain bitterly of their 'experience'. "It wasn't what we were hoping for". The others ended up happily in Oz getting all they hoped for, and more just because they 'stuck it out'.

Why don't we do the same here? All immigrants arriving here are placed in compounds, and when the men have got themselves employment, then we could perhaps provide them with council housing to give them start. If the people want better, then they - like we all do - have to earn the money to pay for it. Or would keeping husbands and wives apart be against 'human rights?' Don't think there seems to be any human rights in the countries the people come from, so why not make the compounds part of their 'nation' (like we do with embassy's), they can then keep the laws according to their own country.

People who are prepared to work are always welcome into this country. Others come in crawling with hands out like beggars (many turning out not to be as needy as they seem), and we give them help. They just then sit back and take, take, take. But there are limits to the money we have to give as 'hand-outs', and we could at least set a time limit on this. We can't keep giving it for ever. As a very small island we also have the problem of space. There are countries that have a lot more room to spare than we do, maybe even land to give that can be worked successfully. Sort of like the pioneers did in America a couple of hundred years ago, and all coming from different nations, eventually taking over from the native Americans (this being a disgraceful thing to do), which makes me think the same thing could happen here!!!

Those seeking to come here and have an easy life (on benefits and without work) shouldn't believe it will be their final stopping place. They either have to buckle down and work for their money, or end up where they are put (smaller homes or different country). If they don't like it they can always return to their birth nation. Well, it's one solution.

Of course I am generalising. There are many who come into this country who are prepared to work hard, and if we feel they take our jobs, this isn't usually the case, as much of the work they do we turn out noses up at. Things like cleaning, crop picking, anything with unsocial hours.
It is the layabouts, the 'free' money-grabbers that I wish we could pluck from our soil as we do weeds.

Don't know why I've such a bee in my bonnet about all this. Possibly it is the recession on my mind. An oil depot going bust down south (how on earth did they manage that, thought oil was a money-making concern?). This could lead to more expensive petrol, this then would mean more food prices rise due to the transport needed to get from port to warehouse, warehouse to store. Let alone the extra fuel cost of local transport (bus or car) getting to the supermarkets to buy the food. Probably home-delivery charges would also increase. Is there no end to our problems?

As a nation we have only so much money to 'spend', and if so much is paid out on benefits (especially to those who don't deserve it), then this means cuts have to be made elsewhere. Running the country is exactly the same (on a much larger scale) that running a domestic budget, and we all know how we are finding this much more difficult now. It must be very hard for those 'in power' to make cuts, knowing that there are always those out there who will start complaining because their standard of (very good) living will have to be (slightly) less. Doesn't seem to matter about everyone else, it's the 'me, me, me' attitude coming to the fore. Why should I have to do without?" Just how greedy a nation have we become?

Of course there are thousands out there who are sensible enough to know we are going through a bad patch and prepared to make the best of it. Just wish most would, then perhaps we would get back on our feet that much faster. Yet, now we have less money to spend, we now buy less, which means the industrial output is less, showing a minus drop in growth figures at the end of last year, so even our personal 'make do and mend' doesn't help those in small businesses who need our custom.
Thankfully China seems to have a sudden urge to buy 'all things British' (it used to be the other way around), as believe their bow affluent nation can afford our prices, so let us hope we get plenty of exports these coming months.

Because I am who I am (think they must have broken the mould when I was born), have no concern when it comes to shortage of money as am a born 'survivor[, indeed find much pleasure doing so. As you know, there is nothing I enjoy more than a challenge. Although - now at a great age - things are not quite so easy for me to do as in the past. However, those of you who have your youth (anything under 70 is what I consider 'youth' to be) and health, and (hopefully) a garden, should be able to 'dig for Britain' and grow much fresh produce to keep going for many months of the year. We can also barter - fresh veg for pots of preserves etc.

Those of us with less mobility can still grow herbs, mixed salad leaves....on our windowsills, and bake cakes/biscuits that could be used for barter. Wherever possible we should form 'groups' of like-minded people, neighbours etc, so food could be bought in bulk (esp from Approved Foods where it is exceptionally cheap), then shared between so that each pays an acceptable price, also do crafts together and have a chat (knit and natter etc). Maybe even have group baking sessions. Believe this already occurs in some rural communities, but it would be good to hear of the same thing happening in urban high-rises etc.

Thanks to Campfire for her offer of wrist-warmers. With the mention of 'finger-less' makes me wonder if these are what we used to call 'mittens'. Very useful for those working outdoors who need the use of finger tips when handling things (our milkman always wore them in the cold winter months, less chance of milk bottles slipping out of his hands, and easy to handle money when making the weekly collection of payments). Myself never could cope with mittens, but thanks for the offer.
Our daughter knitted me a 'frilly, lacy' scarf, and this I wear every day wound round my neck, as it keeps me very warm. She has knitted and sold loads of these in aid of charity, and they are very popular as they are far cheaper than the same sold in shops. It does seem that if a neck is kept warm, most of the body stays warm. Helps also to wear something warm on the feet (bed socks are good when sitting down). A bald man would keep warm if he wore a woolly hat on his head all the time. In olden days, men and woman used to go to bed wearing bed socks, a very long night-shirt AND a night-cap. Plus a hot water bottle put in the bed to warm the sheets before retiring. Before the 'bottle' it used to be a brass/copper bedpan full of hot coals inserted between the sheets to warm up the bedding.

Forgot it was Burn's Night yesterday, reminded when I saw haggis on the Alan Titchmarsh show yesterday. Hope you enjoy your Friday 'Scottish' meal Margie. Have never eaten haggis myself, so really should give it a try. Maybe now the traditional day of eating is over, any unsold may be availableat reduced price in the supermarkets.

Am slowly working my way through my food stores, probably more than half of the 'fresh' already used, and quite a lot of cans. Have only one can of baked beans left, but do have a pack of dried haricot, so will make up my own 'baked beans' using these.

Looking into the larder whilst I drank my coffee this morning (could only see the first few feet of the left-hand side), realised that most of the shelves on the left were almost the same as they were before Christmas. For some reason these 'dry' goods are not often used. True, have so much flour, sugar, dried fruit etc, that small amounts are hardly (visibly) missed, but the right-side of the larder (where I keep the cans, bottles etc) has shelve now showing huge gaps.

Is there a reason why I favour more the foods on the right shelves rather than the left. I began to wonder, for when in a supermarket ALWAYS work up the left-hand side of the aisle, which is odd as I am right-handed and would expect it to be easier to pick foods from shelves on the right rather than the left. Is it because pushing a trolley is a bit like driving a car, and in this country we drive on the left. The rare occasions that someone is working in the other direction (and then gets in my way) is when they are carrying a basket. Usually this is a man who probably lives on his own so doesn't need enough to fill a trolley).
When I reach the end of the aisle, I then do a U turn and come back down the other side, the shelf contents then still being on my left.
Realised that as often go and sit on my chair in my larder before choosing what to cook that day, as the chair faces towards the door, the shelves holding canned food are then still on my left.
There has to be a reason why I prefer to shop 'from the left', as do know I feel quite uncomfortable doing it the other way round. Even if I see something I want on the right (whilst shopping on the left) will not go across and fetch it, will always do that U turn and go back down the other side just for that one thing.

Is this the same way others shop, preferring the left-hand side of the aisle? Perhaps left-handed might do the opposite.? It would be interesting to know for this might be yet another way that supermarkets can 'pull our strings'.

The 'basic biscuit' recipe given the other day (with variations) seemed to go down well with some readers, so today am giving a basic recipe for a sponge cake 'traybake', also with alternatives.
This is very similar to the normal Victoria sponge recipe (weight of eggs, flour, butter, sugar being equal) but geared up to 'the metrics' so weights are 'rounded up'. Useful when it comes to butter as it comes in 250g packs (equivalent to 9 oz). The addition of yogurt gives a moisture texture. The recipe suggests each cake cuts into 15 squares, but we can make these these larger or smaller or even oblong or triangular if we wish.

basic traybake sponge recipe:
9 oz (250g) butter, softened
10 oz (289g) self-raising flour
9 oz (250g) caster sugar
half teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
5 fl oz (150ml) natural yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Put all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat well together until smooth then either bake as is (in a greased an lined 20 x 30cm tray-bake tin) at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until risen and cooked through, or continue with the variations. Oven temperature same for all (as above) but timings can vary.

Upside Down Traybake:
1 x basic traybake sponge recipe
1 tblsp caster sugar
1 tblsp flour
1 can peach slices, drained, OR...
...1 can pineapple rings, drained
Grease and line a traybake tin (as above). Mix together the sugar and flour and sprinkle this over the base of the tin. Cut the fruit into 15 pieces and place these evenly in the tin. Make up the sponge recipe then spoon this carefully into the tin, over and around the fruit, then bake for 50 mins to 1 hour until golden and risen and cooked through.
Turn out onto a flat board and cut into squares, each topped with a piece of the fruit. Can be eaten warm (with cream or ice-cream) as a dessert, or cold as we eat cake.

Mocha Traybake:
1 x traybake sponge recipe
1 tsp cocoa powder
2 tblsp instant coffee
4 fl oz (100ml) boiling water
5 oz (150g) icing sugar, sifted
12 oz (350g) soft cream cheese
Grease and line the traybake tin. Make up the coffee by dissolving the 'instant' in the hot water, then leave to cool (you could also use 4 fl oz of cold 'proper' coffee).
Make the sponge batter as per recipe, but include the cocoa and HALF the coffee before beating together. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake at the given temperature for 25 - 30 minutes until golden, risen and cooked through. Lightly stab top with a fork and drizzle over the remaining coffee, then leave to cool in the tin.
Mix the icing sugar into the cream cheese, then spread this over the top of the cake, dusting with a little cocoa as decoration. Cut into squares whilst still in the tin.

Bakewell Sponge:
1 x traybake sponge recipe
1 tsp almond extract
4 tblsp jam (pref blackcurrant or raspberry)
1 oz (25g) toasted almonds
icing sugar for dusting
Make the sponge batter as in the basic recipe but include the almond extract. Spoon into the prepared traybake tin and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately and rapidly drizzle the jam over and scatter the almonds on top, then return to the oven and bake for 10 - 15 minutes more or until the traybake has risen, golden and cooked through. Cool in the tin and dust top with icing sugar.

There are other variations we should be able to come up with. Maybe adding some dried fruit to the cake batter, or topping with lemon curd. Or we could cut the traybake in half to sandwich together with butter cream, whipped cream or jam.
Also we could freeze the basic cooked traybake to later assemble as a 'layer cake'.

Next week will see the start of February, with our minds then turning to Pancake Day and St. Valentine's Day. It is good to have more 'traditional celebrations' to look forward to and cook for. Then we have Easter (is that early or late this year?), after that we have to make do with any warm summer weather that our climate allows us this year. It could be - going on recent past year, if we have a late Easter in 2012, we will get our April heat-wave before we've even unwrapped our Easter Eggs. After that it is down-hill (weatherwise) all the way.

Cannot believe it is past 11.30, last time I checked it wasn't yet 10.00am. Apologise for publishing late AGAIN. I can't stop 'rambling' and - at the moment - having a good old moan about 'things'. Must try to stop, think kind thoughts, put a bit of sunshine into lives etc.
Well, maybe tomorrow. Join me then to find out.