Saturday, March 31, 2012

Be Prepared!

Didn't take long did it, for a lady to set fire to herself when decanting some petrol from her jerry can? Mind you, who would do this at the side of a lit hob (as apparently she did)? But even so... This just goes to show how - when we listen to bad advice - and can cause people to panic, and then all common sense flies out of the window.
Personally, I don't think there would have been a strike anyway, but then what do I know?

Being Friday yesterday - one of my favourite days as B is out during the evening - I was able to 'potter' (an easy supper made, chilli con carne with salad) - and had a wonderful time watching TV as with one EastEnders between two 'Corries', followed by Benidorm and THEN the first episode of the new series of Twenty Twelve (this one a bit like Marmite, you either like ir or hate it, but myself been at similar 'board meetings' (Consumer Council) have to say this programme has got it exactly right. It was just like being back there again. A lot of talk and nothing gets done!!!
In the couple of years I was on this 'board' (this meant travelling down to London each month - all expenses paid), there were several times I was offered a chance to get a 'consumer club' member to promote the organisation on TV, but the answer had to be instant. This I couldn't do as always had to wait for the next monthly meeting for the chairman and senior board members to mull it over and then give their agreement, and of course by then it was always too late and what could have been a wonderful opportunity to promote had been missed. I asked to have the freedom to take up such opportunities when they arose (a member of a local group would be on TV, not me), but "we have rules", so in the end I gave in my resignation, and in all that time absolutely nothing HAD been done by any board member over other decisions made, despite them saying they were 'going to'. There was always an excuse. What a waste of time and money!

It was good to hear about your Approved Foods order Jane, and hope that other readers will find this company's site worth taking a look at. They certainly have great bargains, but much depends on how many of them we would normally buy. With a group of people giving orders, then everyone should find something they really want, and this is probably the best way to go, rather than have a single order by one person.
Not that there is anything wrong with that, as long as the foods ordered are used within a sensible time. Fortunately b.b. dates allow for much longer storage (but not dried pulses as if too old they will never soften when cooked). Anyone with a large freezer (and room within in) could store things like dried milk, nuts, instant potato etc, or opened packets of 'dry goods' (scone mixes, crumble mixes etc) that are in large packs and it could be a few months before used up after opening. This gives them a much longer storage life.

One of my favourite uses for suet (other than sweet and savoury puddings) is to use this to make dumplings to pop onto a stew. Same proportions as pastry: 2 parts flour (pref s.r.) and one of suet. I also add a pinch of dried herbs and some salt and pepper. Mix with water to make a very soft (but not too sticky) 'dough', then roll into small balls (size of a golf ball) and pop onto the top of an almost cooked casserole. Lid on and leave them for a good 20 minutes to 'steam' and they will almost treble in size and be lovely and fluffy. Serve with the casserole, and - the dumplings being carbohydrate based - you could omit spuds from the dish (which saves a few pennies).

Campfire, if you are depressed then certainly you need to treat yourself. If you have enough petrol in your car to drive there and back home again (to visit your sister-in-law) then why not? Don't miss the opportunity. Only wish I could go and stay with my friend Gill, I'd just love to do that but she says she doesn't like having visitors "too much trouble". Doesn't stop her coming to stay with me for a week at a time - in the old days, often! But it takes all sorts. I love having visitors, she doesn't. We don't all have to be the same.

At the moment am not quite sure what to do next re my 'deliberate' saving. It's slowed down a lot since ;my initial rush, but that's normal for me. I get very enthusiastic for a couple of days and then it wears off rather too rapidly, but am still doing 'something' each day, even though it is - at the moment - mainly sowing seeds, transplanting etc. This is a form of 'saving by growing' but the benefits will only happen when it is time to harvest my 'crops'.

Must give another mention to that 'hay-box'. This is a way of 'slow-cooking' that has been around for centuries I believe, although almost lost in the mists of time until the last World War (or even the First World War) when it was used as a way to save fuel. Like anything else, fuel was (sort of) rationed. People with cars (and there weren't many) had 'petrol coupons' that allowed them to buy only a small amount of petrol each month. I believe coal was also in limited supply, and electricity and gas too. Almost everything we can think of was in short supply or had disappeared for the duration of the war - and for many years after (it was almost 10 years after the war ended that rationing ended).

I do remember - after that dreadful blitz in Coventry (where we lived at that time), we had not gas, electricity, or even water for several days after due to the pipes and sewers being smashed by bombs. We all had to have injections against typhus (or was it typhoid?).
My parents took in some 'refugees' for several days (their houses had been bombed flat) and my mother had to cook food over a coal fire in our front room. Don't think she manage much more than to make porridge, or a watery stew. My mother had only rations for our immediate family, as those sharing our house had lost their ration books, and with six more mouths to feed don't know how she coped. But she did, bless her.
My dad - being the 'Captain Mainwaring' of our local Home Guard had an idea of what could happen, and a couple of days before the blitz advised my mother to fill up our bath with cold water and use this for cooking purposes 'if the worst happened', so at least we had water for a while. After that Dad used to go and collect rain water from the garden butts and he would filter this through sand and Mum would then boil it to use for cooking purposes. In those days there was no 'acid' rain. Rainwater was pretty 'pure' and soft, and Mum always used it for washing my hair.

But that was yesterday, and this is today where - at this present time - we are blessed with having all the necessary fuel and water we need (if you ignore the drought and the 'possible' fuel strike, and the rising prices). So we should be grateful. On the other hand - never take such things for granted. This way we are more likely to 'be prepared' rather than get caught short.

Let's now 'chat' about something far more pleasant. Like food!!
Sweet Chilli Sauce seems to be becoming very popular (or should this be 'fashionable'?) as it crops up in many recipe. I love this, but tend to buy it and it can be expensive, but having found a recipe to make my own will now be doing so.
As I normally don't buy chilli peppers (those long red 'hot' ones) I use the sweeter, not-quite-so-hot Peppadew (bottled chilli peppers) in the following recipe, If you choose to use the 'proper' chillies you can either de-seed or keep the seeds according to how hot you wish the sauce to be. The bottles of Peppadew contain a liquid that is slightly 'peppery' and also sweet, so this could be used instead of all (or some of) the sugar and maybe just a dash of vinegar. With a recipe of this kind it is more a 'make it to your taste' rather than follow it exactly.
This does not freeze, but will keep for a few days in the fridge in a lidded jar.

Sweet Chilli Sauce: serves 4
2 long red chillies, very finely chopped (see above)
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
4 fl oz (100ml) rice wine or white wine vinegar
1 tblsp soy sauce
4 fl oz (100ml) water
Put all the ingredients into a small pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes until thickened. Blend in a food processor/liquidiser if you want a really smooth sauce, or leave it as it is. Store in a sterilised jar in the fridge.

suggestions for using the above sauce:
a dip:
blend equal amounts of the Chilli Sauce and mayo together. Good for dipping in fried or oven-baked chicken 'gougons'.
as a 'topping' or filling for a 'wrap':
mix together 2 tblsp of the Chilli Sauce blended with one of creme fraiche, then fold in some chopped cook prawns. Use as a topping for jacket spuds, or spread over a tortilla, add some watercress and fold to eat as a 'wrap'.
as a stir-fry sauce:
to 2 tblsp Chilli Sauce add a further 1 tblsp soy sauce and one of honey (plus juice of 1 lime - optional). Spoon this over stir-fried noodles or beansprouts etc.
as a salad dressing:
add a few tablespoons of the sauce to shredded cooked chicken, ham or beef, and toss together. Pile this onto a salad of mixed leaves, cucumber, radishes, spring onions etc, toss again and serve.

Often we find bananas softening up faster than we can use them, especially if you live alone, so this recipe is a good way to use them up. It takes only minutes to heat up in the microwave, so an almost instant dessert.
Most of us probably won't have a banana flavoured yogurt, but the normal 'natural' yogurt will do. Myself find 'Nesquick' a useful powder to keep in my larder. With this I can flavour cream or milk to make ice-cream, blancmanges, and yogurt.
Hot Banana Pud for You: serves 1
3 tblsp plain flour
2 tsp soft brown sugar
pinch cinnamon
pinch salt
half tsp baking powder
1 banana, half mashed, the other half sliced
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 heaped tblsp banana yogurt (see above)
1 small egg, beaten (or use half a large egg)
2 tblsp water
Mix all the dry ingredients together then mix in the rest. Put into a large coffee cup (or similar microwave proof container - whatever you use it should be not more than two-thirds full). Sprinkle over a little extra sugar and microwave on High (100%) for 3 minutes, by which time it should have risen and be sticky and bubbling. It will also have risen above the rim of the container - but it will sink (so no need to panic, you have done nothing wrong).
Remove from oven and leave to stand for 5 minutes before eating. Serve with the sliced banana on top with an extra dusting of sugar and cinnamon if you wish.

An early finish today as our B has gone to take our daughter shopping and they are returning here for lunch, so must go and 'be prepared'.
Light clouds today so probably no chance of rain, and it has turned much colder, think the weatherman mentioned the possibility of a little snow on the top of the Pennines! Well that's Britain for you, hotter than Jordan one day, and snow the next. No wonder our weather is the main topic of our conversation.

Before I sign off, MUST mention a programme I discovered last night (having half an hour with nothing to watch between Eggheads and Corrie. This I found on one of the Freeview channels and it was called 'Man v Food'. My goodness me - the gynormous amounts of food they serve as a matter of course in many of the America diners made me almost faint, let alone the extra portions the presenter tried to eat his way through to prove he could eat the most.
Even seeing a huge amount of very thick strawberry 'sauce' poured over what should have been a deletable and fairly simple strawberry gateau, made me realise that the American way of eating is not the same as us Brits. It just seems that what would be too much (for us Brits) would not be enough when it comes to 'eating out' in America. It's good that the 'helpings' are so generous (we are pretty mean about this over here) and presumably fairly inexpensive compared to over here, but not when it (obviously) brings on obesity with all its health problems. The man in the above programme I feel won't live to a ripe old age if he carries on doing this series. It's not even funny. The amount eaten (and served) is almost obscene (well at least to me).
But then I should remember that a programme such as the above does not always represent the American way of life. Just one part of it. Yet - having eaten 'Sunday breakfast' in New Jersey once (apparently this is what everyone does there - eat breakfast 'out' on a Sunday), was served with a plateful so 'mixed' (lots of bacon that was more fat than lean, fried eggs, and a lot more I can't remember, but on the same plate at the same time was also a pile of pancakes (like our drop scones) with maple syrup poured over, and a lot of other things on the plate and have to say after eating all that (yes I know I didn't have to eat it all, but I abhor waste even if it isn't mine - we've paid for it anyway!) have to say that for days after I was in agony with heartburn. It was like being served a whole day's meals on one plate so can you wonder?

Anyway, must go. Weekend is now with us so hope you all get time for some relaxing, or perhaps having a good 'cook-in' (which is probably what I'll be doing). Maybe even some gardening. This time next week it will be Easter weekend with the extra day Bank Holiday. So perhaps we should start being prepared for that also. I will try.

Hope you can join me tomorrow. If so - see you then.