Friday, February 10, 2012

Nothing Changes

Up late again this morning due to having more good dreams. Many about food of course, even as going far as assembling the Croqembouche! In any case, not a lot to chat about today as yesterday was hardly 'active'. No, I didn't sort out my papers in here, and yes I did cook a speedy supper for B (a chunk of fresh (frozen and thawed) salmon fried in the pan with some Jumbo prawns (took now more than 10 minutes to cook), served with a mixed leaf salad and Tartare Sauce). B has soon got used to his meals being served on a normal-sized plate (not his favourite meat platter), and he doesn't now snack QUITE so often, and with this causing a weight loss of half a stone, he seems contented to keep on eating that little bit less.

After the Christmas 'blip' (where I gained back a few pounds) am now managing to bring my weight back down to what it was and even lower than that. Am hoping to lose a further stone by the end of March when I'm due for my next six-month checkup. By then will have lost over 7 stone since I began (although it's taken me a good two years to do it).

Spent a little time on the comp yesterday checking Tesco's prices and fortunately (for me) many of the foods that I've now run out of ARE on offer and will be so until the end of this month, so no need to rush to place an order this week. Next week will do. By then will have run out of eggs, milk, bacon, potatoes, carrots, apples, oranges, cheese, so have just about got the timing right.

For some reason had a fancy to make Mulligatawny Soup today. Have just checked my data base to see if a recipe for this has been put up on my site (or more importantly is still on my site due to many past posting having to be severely edited due to blogger restricting my space).
Luckily it is still there, and although the date is 11th Feb '08 (almost four years ago to the day), this is the last posting on that page, so if you don't wish to read the rest, then scroll straight down to the bottom and work back slightly up.

As I so often do, then went back up to the top of the page (end of Feb) and began reading down. There is so much there I had forgotten I'd written (although much has been repeated since), and again found plenty of 'chat' preceding each recipe that showed my 'cost-cutting' approach. All very applicable today if not more so.
I know it's a bit of a bore, but if you can find the time, each month it is worth back-tracking and seeing what was written around the same time over the past 4 years. As I try to use vegetables in season, those in recipes given will often be cheaper now than other months of the year.
With the editing now done in the earlier years, there is not nearly so much 'reading' as here is today, and even if you are not interested in the recipes, the initial 'chat' with each does provide a lot of useful information you could put to good use with your own choice of dishes.

In many ways minimiser deb, already tend to role-play restaurant chef, but not fully in the way you suggested. B is always asked what he fancies for his evening meal, and then when he says 'beef', or 'chicken' or 'fish', then trot out a goodly number of suggested dishes, from which he makes his choice. A verbal 'menu' if you like.
It would be good to serve three courses, but he only seems to manage two - this being mainly the main course and dessert, and the dessert he often leaves to eat later (as the first of his snacks). Soup and main course would be too much for him, soup and dessert possibly, but again maybe leaving the dessert until later.
Both of us 'eating-in' restaurant style would not really be worth it from my viewpoint. Firstly as am still trying to lose weight (and don't wish to rock that particular boat), now have got used to eating two small simple meals (of one course only) each day. In any case have never found pleasure sitting down and eating what I've made, perhaps because I've been 'involved' with it from start to finish. I love cooking for others, but for me to enjoy a meal (or even a not so good meal) is when someone else cooks it for me, even if it is (these days) only a take-away.

Perhaps because I have to avoid eating anything sweet, eating has become just a way to keep myself healthy and alive. In the old days, eating a scrumptious dessert and I wanted another helping (or two). Starting a new bar of chocolate and I would continue eating the lot. Eat one chocolate biscuit and within very few minutes the whole pack would have been munched. No wonder I gained so much weight! There must be something about sugar that makes us want more. Carbohydrates also seemed to work in a similar way. Make myself one sarnie, then go and make myself a second. Eat a slice of fruit pie (which also contains sugar) and then eat another. Never find this when eating protein or salads, so in a way these are self-limiting. Thankfully!

Now that 'eating-out' is becoming so expensive, we have become familiar with the various stores offers of their version of a celebration 'eating-in meal for two'. Usually main course, with side vegetables, dessert an a bottle of wine. Pretty good value compared to the same served in a restaurant. Still good value, but have you noticed how the price has crept up. Originally these 'heat, serve and pour' meals were on offer at £10. M & S usually £15. Have you noticed now - on the run up to Valentine's Day - the lower priced are now £15, and the M & S £20? Do we get more for our money? Certainly the food looks good, but is it better than before or just 'different'?
What is more important is asking ourselves whether we could serve the same ourselves for less cost. Even including wine, am sure we could. But are we prepared to bother? Let us hope so for by 'bothering' we can serve great meals (formally kept for guests) to the family on a weekday basis. Then pull out all the stops when it comes to celebrating. Like making Beef Bourguignon (bet that's not spelled correctly) followed by a Crouqembouche. And yes, these ARE easy to make, just a bit more time-consuming than Shepherd's Pie and Rice Pudding.

Not sure whether 'gravy' is traditional to Britain or whether other countries serve this with their meats. France certainly serves most dishes being with one of the many sauces that they prefer. Or is it that our 'gravy' IS what they would also call a 'sauce'.
But whatever, when it comes to vegetarian dishes, a meat based gravy is a no-no. On the other hand, if we have meat but not the making for gravy other than Bisto (and often this can be too salty or 'unnatural' for some), why not make a vegetarian gravy?
Here is an excellent recipe and - if you don't wish to use soy sauce (this does give a 'meaty' flavour without using meat) you could omit this and dissolve a little Marmite (to taste) into the vegetable stock.

Because the gravy is sieved after making, leave the skins on the onions as these add extra depth of colour.
Vegetarian Gravy: serves 4
1 red onion (skin on, see above), cut into wedges
1 white onion (ditto), cut into wedges
1 rib celery, cut into half-inch (1cm)chunks
2 carrots, cut into half-inch chunks
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and cut into wedges
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 sprig each, rosemary and sage
2 bay leaves
olive oil
3 tblsp soy sauce
2 tblsp plain flour
1 pint (600ml) hot vegetable stock
salt and pepper
Put the veggies and herbs into a bowl and drizzle with a little oil. Spoon over the soy sauce and toss together, then tip into a shallow metal baking dish and roast for 30 mins at 180F, 350C, gas 4 or until the veggies are tender.
Transfer the dish to a medium-heat hob, adding a drizzle more oil, then stir in the flour to coat the veggies, and keep stirring for 3 minutes before adding the stock. Use a potato masher or fork and squash the veggies down, mixing them well together. Bring to the boil then simmer until thickened. Strain through a sieve back into a pan, pushing the solids down with a wooden spoon to get as much of the 'juices' as possible. Add seasoning to taste then reheat when ready to serve.

Somehow managed to fit in a recipe before I finished replying to the last comment, so hope you can pick up from where I left off. My suggestion then was to be that perhaps I could start at 'pop-up' restaurant here and invite neighbours and friend, the proceeds going to charity.
Don't know if there is a Women's Institute here that I could join. Will have to check up and see. It is the sort of organisation that appeals to me. Many years ago used to give loads of demos to the various groups all over the country, but never considered joining them as a member.

Hope you enjoy your books Alison, my favourite is Have a Goode Year, as this was my own 'baby', unlike the other book that was written to go with the series. Do hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did researching and writing it.
Despite frozen food now being said to be nutritionally 'better' for us than the fresh, if we can grow our own and eaten raw or cooked a.s.a.p after harvesting, then that brings us back to 'fresh s best'.
In the cookery world things always seem to change. Butter is now better for us than many margarine, we are advised that tomatoes and carrots are best eaten cooked - not raw - to gain 'important extras'. Also it doesn't now seem to matter how many eggs we eat each day, not limit ourselves to only two a week as we had been doing for years. I could go on...

An interesting comment from you Willow regarding Teflon coated pans. Did myself have a cast iron pan and it cooked beautifully, but was very heavy to lift.
Have checked the most recent Lakeland catalogue and they have many pans that might be suitable for you. Some are marked as Teflon-coated, others are 'coated' but not said with what.
There does look an excellent range (called The Colourful Pan Range p81 of the Spring 2012 catalogue) that has two layers of an 'Ercolon' ceramic based coating inside and out. Not the cheapest of pans, but then quite a lot cheaper than their most expensive.
Suggest you could also phone Lakeland and tell them you are looking for non-stick pans that do not have a Teflon coating, and they should be able to give you their full range.
Have never come across the so-called 'green' pans. Maybe other readers could comment on these?

Thanks for details of the site Sairy (Robin Ellis - diabetic etc). Will check this out later.

Having already given a recipe for vegetarian gravy, might as well include another vegetarian recipe, this one made using butternut squash (always a good veg to store as a whole veg as it can keep for months - but once cut, it won't keep for too long, so cover the open end with cling-film, store in the fridge, and check regularly to make sure it doesn't go 'off').
Not sure why but recently have been able to buy packets of walnut halves that cost less than packets of the same weight of walnut 'pieces'. Considering the 'pieces' are the walnuts broken during processing, would expect the halves to be more expensive. So always check prices.

This recipe is intended as a 'topping' for baked (jacket) potatoes, so start baking the potatoes about half an hour before the butternut goes into the oven. To speed up the 'jackets' so the whole dish cooks for the same time first microwave the spuds for 5 - 7 minutes before transferring them to the oven.

Roasted Butternut with Pears: serves 4
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed
1 pear, halved and cored
2 tsp olive oil
1 oz (25g) walnuts (chopped or pieces)
4 tblsp creme fraiche
rocket or mixed salad leaves
4 cooked baking (jacket) potatoes (see above)
Cut the butternut flesh and pear into cubes and place on a baking tray. Sprinkle with the oil and roast for 20 -25 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6, turning half-way through, until tender.
Split the cooked potatoes open and fluff up the flesh with a fork. Top with the roasted squash and pears, and sprinkle over the walnuts. Serve with rocket (or mixed salad leaves) and a spoonful of creme fraiche.

Another great 'jacket' topping made with ham (so not vegetarian) is also given as it is especially tasty. A good way to use up the scraps after slicing home-cooked ham.
Reading through the topping ingredients, am pretty sure that if a little less mayo and yogurt was used, perhaps a bit of diced red bell pepper to give colour, then the lot given a few pulses in the blender, this would make a pretty good alternative sandwich filling

Ham Remoulade 'jacket' topping: serves 2
2 oz (50g) cooked ham, chopped
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1 pickled gherkin, chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 fl oz (60ml) mayonnaise
2 fl oz (60ml) yogurt
2 cooked jacket potatoes
mixed salad leaves
Simply made by just putting the ham, gherkin, mustard, mayo and yogurt into a bowl and mixing together until well blended. Split open the hot potatoes, fluff up the flesh and then top with the ham remoulade. Serve with salad leaves.

So that's it for today. What I'll be doing today remains to be see. There is a possibility of one extra for supper, so had better make something worth eating just to be on the safe side.
With the weekend coming up, hope you will all be able to make the most of it, either by necessary relaxing, or even sowing a few seeds to start sprouting on the windowsill - you wouldn't believe how fast my lemon pips are now growing.

As mentioned yesterday, the day began with rain, and due to the extreme low temperature this began to freeze giving a covering of clear ice to the rounded top of the low wall to the terrace outside this room. The paving also covered in glass, almost in ripples. Looked very treacherous. B went out later to the gym and said the ice had gone, still drizzling but much milder compared to what it had been.
Looks as thought there might have been a frost last night, the grass looks a bit 'white' in parts, but this could just be moisture (B having forgotten to cut it at the end of last year, it is now getting very shaggy).

Please join me tomorrow, and already am looking forward to meeting up with you then.