Saturday, February 04, 2012

One Thing and Another..

Thankfully my hospital appointment went well. They just needed to check my blood was flowing properly through my legs, and ended up very pleased with me. No need for a further check again, so that's another 'clearance' (pity, 'cos the consultant was gorgeous. Young, male and just wish I was 50 years younger!).
Just need to have my eyes checked early March, and my six-month diabetic check in April, then fingers crossed, can carry on as good as new.

Not sure what the weather will do today, the overcast sky was - early this morning - the oyster pink colour that normally is a sign of snow, but this has now turned to deep grey. The forecast shows snow in our area, but this could mean on the hills in the Lake District, and although this is barely 15 miles away as the crow flies across the bay, we usually get milder and drier weather, so we just have to wait and see.

Beloved dropped a bit of a bombshell yesterday. He will be 80 towards the end of this month, and we had planned to just have a small family meal out on that day, but daughter 'who always knows best' has arranged a larger gathering later the same week, to coincide with the Italian evening at B's social club. Well, this birthday is 'milestone' one.
I suggested instead of making B a trad. birthday cake, I make a 'croquembouche' (a 'dessert' formed from 80 profiteroles built up into a cone-shape). He thought that was wonderful, so will make that for him to take to the club - along with the 40 portions (total) of tiramasu and Sicilian Cassata. As daughter has invited other members of the family, had better make extra portions of those too.

Not a problem. Just need space to store as much as I can, as do not wish to make everything on the day. The Cassata needs to be made a day ahead anyway, kept chilled, and - if necessary - can be frozen. The Tiramasu should be made on the day (but could be the day before) also chilled. This means at least 2 shelves in the fridge need to be kept clear for these. The profiteroles improve with freezing, so will need to empty a freezer drawer to hold them all, then only have to assemble the 'cake' the afternoon of the evening social (plus making the caramel for the spun sugar decoration on top).

That's put paid to my on-line grocery order (planned to fill up the shelves again), so will just have to buy what I need when I need from Morrison's and as our daughter wishes to go there today, and B will be taking her, then he can bring in just a few things. Especially carrots - have only 4 small ones left. Like onions, carrots are one of my 'essentials.
Also need some more Flora Pro-active spread as even though have plenty of soft marg, am using the Flora to see if it really will bring down my cholesterol level. Trouble is it's a lot more expensive than 'ordinary' marg, or - for that matter - butter, but as I count it as 'medicinal' (used for health reasons), then suppose the extra expense is necessary.

As yesterday was my first day out for weeks, was really surprised how cold it was outdoors. So cold that my legs and feet shrank and my normally tight fitting slip-on shoes were - that day -so loose that my feet came right out of the shoes with each step. Had to change into lace-ups before we drove off. The last time that happened (loose shoes due to cold etc) was about 18 years ago when we went to America for Christmas and bitterly cold then, lots of snow piled up at the sides of the roads, but no ice on roads, paths or frost on car windscreens in the morning. A different cold to that we have here (our air being much moister). In N.Y. State the air was so dry with a biting wind-chill that almost froze up the lungs with each breath.

We do have quite a selection of pickles and chutneys over here Lisa, maybe some are the same as yours but given a different name. Certainly piccalilli has turmeric in it, and most pickles are sweetish as they contain sugar. My home-made tend to be either piccalilli, beetroot chutney, and sweetcorn and pepper 'relish'. Wish I could make one as good as 'Branston', but never have, so always buy that to eat with meats.

Can't say I've ever noticed a 'sun-dog' over here, we do get mackerel sky and probably the sun sometimes throws off a rainbow effect, but probably short-term, can't say I've really noticed. We do have lovely rainbows though, sometimes two at a time. Beautiful sunsets and sunrises are the things we tend to stop and take more notice of because they don't happen often, and we never know when we will have them.

Your Lunch Club Lisa, sounds as though it is doing well. Suppose whether you continue depends upon the numbers (or limiting them) and whether it is only those who really need the good food you make, or whether others are hoping for a good meal, even if they can afford to pay 'over the counter'. Also you shouldn't end up out of pocket. Sometimes you may have spare ingredients that you can make something with and give these freely, other times let's hope you do get help with the costs.
The one thing about all this is you are giving several youngsters what they really need - the chance to eat good food and develop a healthy body. Let's hope they don't ruin it by stuffing themselves with junk food between times.

Your larder sounds well stocked up with meat/fish products Lynne, so really all you need are a few basics (rice, pasta, flour), and fresh (or frozen) fruit and veggies, and these shouldn't cost a lot, so hope you manage to eventually save up enough for your dish washer.

Another way to get the fruit part of our five-a-day is to use more dried fruits: the larger ones such as dates, prunes, apricots....these plus sultanas, soaked in either water or orange juice (this adding another to the 'five'), can then be heated to soften the fruit to be eaten as a warm or - then stored in the fridge - a cold 'compote'. Good eaten alone with (say) cream or served with muesli, or porridge.

Thankfully Margie, we still measure our roads in miles. It would be even worse if we had to change to driving on the other side of the road as so many other countries do. As far as I know we are able to still keep our miles and continue driving on the left.

Because of all the fuss made at the time when we changed to metric, some foods are now back to being sold in lbs, although the price tags have to show both metric and imperial weights and prices for both. Most older folk still prefer to buy (say meat) by the lb, rather than the kg, and the scales used today can be set to either weight and more often than not electric, they can also show the correct price (per lb or kg). On the chalkboard at our butchers, he writes up the cuts with prices for both kg AND lbs. I only look at the price per lb, because the meat appears cheaper, even though it isn't. The supermarket milk comes in containers showing the metric 'litres', but also gives shows the measurement in pints.
Other foods, fats, dry goods etc are sold marked only with the metric weights.

Myself buy the cheaper cuts of braising and stewing meat from Donald Russell (they vacuum pack and fast freeze the meat and it is EXCELLENT). At full price, not cheap, being the best quality, but when on offer (several times a year) the 'braising packs' are really good value, certainly no more expensive than at my local butchers, and this is when I stock up.

With the D.R. pack there comes quite a variety of cuts - often including a 'free gift' (sometimes a bag of bones to make stock, other times meat-balls, mini-burgers, ox liver etc, have even had 'free' fillet tails of beef...). There is no bone with the shin (or any other in that particular offer) so - when slow cooked - every bit can be used.

As mentioned before, I thaw and cook more than one type of stewing meat at the same time in our slow-cooker, then freeze it with some of its gravy to use later in a casserole or meat pie etc. The following day may cook more thawed meat in the surplus stock, so eventually this makes almost a 'gravy' that is so full of meat flavour it is as good as serving meat. This also can be frozen to later add to a spag.bol meat sauce, or chilli or any dish where you wish to add meat flavour but can't spare much (or any) meat.
Planning how the meat is cooked and the side products (fat, stock etc), we can end up with a lot more portions than first seems possible.

Varied recipes today, the first leaning in my direction, as still have a butternut squash to find a use for. Good thing about this veg. it keeps for ages - mine was bought several months ago and still 'as good as new'. If you haven't butternut, you might have some pumpkin in the freezer left over from Halloween.

Sweet and Sour Squash:
2 lbs (1kg) butternut or pumpkin, peeled and deseeded
3 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled but left whole
1 tblsp granulated sugar
1 tblsp chopped fresh mint leaves
good pinch of ground cinnamon
8 tblsp white wine vinegar
ground black pepper to taste
Cut the chosen squash into slices. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the garlic for a couple of minutes, discarding it as soon as it colours (it will then have flavoured the oil).
Fry the slices of squash for 3 minutes - you will need to do this in several batches - and when all have been fried, turn off the heat and drain away surplus oil, then immediately return all the squash to the pan, and sprinkle over the sugar, mint, cinnamon, and black pepper. Mix together well, then pour over the vinegar. Cover with a lid and leave to infuse. Can be served warm or cold.

Next recipe uses gluten-free flour. Am not sure whether 'ordinary' flour could be used in its place - perhaps someone could tell me whether the two flours are interchangeable. However do know there is more than one reader who has to keep away from gluten, so hope you will find this recipe useful.

The original recipe was to be used to make 'madelines' - those little flat 'sponge' cakes that look like the imprint of a hand with closed fingers pressed into snow. As the mixture is piped, see no reason why strips of the mix cannot be piped side by side to give a similar effect, or just pipe thick 'fingers' to eat. The mixture makes 16 'madelines' and probably three times as many 'fingers'.
The 'secret' (they say) to make the cakes as light as a feather, is to first chill the cake batter before baking, and although best eaten the day of baking, if they are like the 'sponge fingers' we can buy to make 'tiramasu' et al, possibly - if left at room temperature overnight - they will dry out enough to be stored (or frozen) to use in trifles etc.

Gluten-free Honey Fingers:
2 large eggs
3 oz (75g) gluten-free self-raising flour
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
2 oz (50g) ground hazelnuts or almonds
1 tblsp runny honey
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 oz (100g) butter, melted and cooled
icing sugar for dusting
Beat the eggs and sugar together until very light and creamy. Into this sift the flour and b.powder, and gently fold together, then fold in the ground nuts, honey, and orange zest, finally adding and folding in the melted butter.
Spoon into a large piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle, then - to avoid spillage- wrap the nozzle end of the bag in cling-film, standing the bag nozzle end down in a large mug/jug. Make sure the open end of the bag is also secure, then place in the fridge to chill for a good hour.
Grease the madeline tins (or a baking sheet) with butter, then pipe some of the mixture into the moulds or along the sheet in strips, then bake for 10 - 15 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until golden brown. If you wish, cook in batches, placing the piping bag of batter back in the fridge until ready to pipe out the next lot.
Carefully remove the cooked cakes and cool on a cake airer, dusting with icing sugar whilst they are still warm from the oven. Best eaten the day of making (see above).

Next recipe is for a savoury 'cookie'. They can be eaten as-is, or topped with a slice of cheese and spoon of pickle, alternatively spread with a little cream cheese and a slice of ham. Added garnish of cucumber and tomato if you wish.

Cheese Cookies : makes about 30
4 oz (100g) olive oil spread
2 oz (50g) Cheddar cheese, finely grated
3 oz (50g) mozzarella cheese, grated
8 oz (225g) malted granary flour
1 tsp baking powder
half tsp English mustard powder (opt)
pinch salt
1 tblsp mixed seeds
Put the spread into a bowl and mix in the cheeses, then add the remaining ingredients, stirring together until well combined. Gather and squeeze the mixture together with clean hands, then either break off small bits to roll into balls in the palm of your hand (about the size of cherry tomatoes) and place on two lined baking sheets (allow room to spread), flattening each with the palm of your hand, then prick each several times with a fork. Alternatively, roll the dough out on a floured pastry board and cut into any shape you wish. Space and prick as above.
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 15 or so minutes or until golden. Cool on a cake airer, then store in an airtight tin for up to a week.

Beloved has just gone out in a huff, and not taken the shopping list with him. I'll just have to make do using what I've got (but then that IS what my challenge is all about). He's very cross with me because our daughter says I could probably claim disability benefit, has even given me the forms that she filled in for me (she did that once before tried when I WAS more disabled and was refused any as not ill enough, so what chance have I now I'm much more mobile?).
Said to B I didn't like to think I was disabled, as now just having a bit of difficulty walking any distance. Could probably walk further than even I think, I'm just lazy. He says if I have to sit at the hob instead of standing, then I am disabled. I said I sit because its easier than standing for 20 minutes continually stirring, many cooks have a stool in the kitchen to sit on when working. I just don't have a high stool, have to make do with a dining chair. Often I stand and cook.

Am certainly not claiming for something I'm not due. Or even if I could have something, still wouldn't. Just don't need the money. B can't understand that. His attitude is 'free' money, take what you can. So he thinks I'm stupid. And seems to think I am very disabled. Well, perhaps I am, and even though I don't wish to be nd believe I'm not, maybe eventually have to realise I must be.

This has put me in a bit of a bad mood, so think I'll go off and have a sulk. But then sulking only works if there is someone to see it, so instead will think nice thoughts and forgive all B's idiosyncrasies. Maybe he will be in a better mood when he returns.

Have now completely lost the blog plot, so will say my farewells for today, and hope to be back in a better frame of mind tomorrow. At least have the trade mag to read, who knows what to expect next when it comes to food.

Bliss....large snowflakes are just beginning to fall. Doubt they will continue for long, but can only hope as seeing snow will definitely cheer me up. Already a smile on my face.
Whatever the weather, hope you all have a good weekend and can join me again tomorrow. If so, see you then.
.....even before I press the button to publish, the snow has stopped. Ah well, can't have everything.