Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bring out the Barbies!

Great news! The weather forecast is good for this coming week (and hopefully for longer). A high pressure area is coming up from southern Europe and pushing the two low pressure areas apart (these at present over the UK) and - wait for it - we can expect temperatures of 20C and possibly above. Yippee!

Do hope we have good weather for the Jubilee Street Parties. Have offered to make something for the 'sailing socials' six tables along the prom (six people at each table), and will find out what they want later this week. The previous day our daughter's 'village community' is having their own festivities, and she wishes me to make something for that too. Am really enjoying this 'cooking for others', it's good to feel useful again.

Spent another night sitting in my chair, and although my back was bad again late yesterday, it does seem to be slowly getting better. Will have to go to sleep in my bed tonight as sitting up is not good for my circulation, even though I do put my feet up on a pouffe. Let us hope the bed rest won't bring back my aches and pains.

Thanks for comments, and do wish to give a mention to Jane (and also everyone) about the storing of 'dry goods'. Even sealed packets can get unwelcome 'visitors' if not stored carefully. I remember decanting some grains (possibly cornmeal or similar) in a glass jar that had a cork stopper that fitted tightly, then left it on a shelf unused for some time. When I took it down noticed lots of gaps in the grain and also dark bits, and when checked discovered it was full of insects. There was no obvious sign of entrance, but the underside of the cork was 'rough', so can only believe the creatures were in the cork when I bought the set. Weevils can also get into bags of flour etc, (as I have found to my cost) so now always keep opened bags of flour in tightly sealed large Tupperware tubs.
Big metal sweet and biscuit tins (when empty) are useful for storing bags of grains (oatmeal, muesli, flour, rice etc, also dried beans). Glass jars of the Kilner variety good for holding smaller amounts.

Don't think I've ever envied people eating motorway service food minimiser deb, other than 'lucky them not to have to cook it themselves'. But do have a twinge of envy when I see the food served in the American diners when watching Man v Food. Not so much the huge bread rolls (about the size of our baguettes) but the lovely meat they use to fill it. At least it LOOKS good meat, and - being America - probably is. Although allegedly McDonalds in the UK have to make their burgers here using 'better meat' than that used in McD's in the US.

They always say Urbanfarmgirl that when we want something done we should always ask a busy person for they are more inclined to be able to 'fit it in', and this seems to be happening to you and people like you. Once we start 'helping out', then someone else feels they can ask, and then another, and so it goes on, none of them realising how much of our time it takes (or even so, if they really care). Every so often we should call a halt and remind them that we too 'have a life' and need to concentrate on that.

As you say Sarina, convenience foods (in the 21st century) are now part of our life, and no reason not to use at least some of them. We don't always appreciate that much of what we use on a regular basis is a 'convenient' food, such as tomato ketchup, brown sauce, made mustard, baked beans, dried pasta, stock cubes.... as all these a century or so ago were made from scratch (and can still of course be made this way today). I have still have a tin of Colman's dried mustard powder to use if I wish but still prefer to buy it ready made in pots, and I do have a pasta making machine that I now rarely use (but used to).

Most of us now buy meat ready minced, yet in my mother's day (and the early days of my marriage) meat was always bought in a piece and then minced at home (I still have an old Spong mincer, and an even older one that belonged to B's mother, neither of which I use now). So much we buy today has been made or prepared in some way, but we never think of these as a 'convenience' food. So as long as we take advantage when it doesn't cost us too much, there really is no reason to make EVERYTHING from scratch anymore. Ideally make a meal using as many fresh ingredients as possible, and then should allow ourselves some 'time-savers' when it really helps.

A couple more recipes for those who wish to spend the next few warm days sitting (and eating) outside in the sun rather than slaving over a hot stove.
This first recipe is meant to be served warm, but would also eat well cold. Use the quick-cook pasta penne for speed, standard pasta will add another 10 minutes to the cooking time.
Five Minute Warm Pasta Salad: serves 4
10 oz (300g) quick-cook pasta penne
4 tblsp mayonnaise
juice 1 small lemon (or half a large lemon)
1 x 200g can tuna in oil
2 red bell peppers, deseeded and thinly sliced
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
handful watercress leaves
Cook pasta as per pack instructions. While this is cooking, drain the oil from the can of tuna into a container and set aside. Put the mayo into a bowl with the lemon juice and 1 tblsp of the reserved tuna oil (you can discard the rest of the oil) then mix together. Flake the tuna and add this to the bowl then mix well.
Drain the pasta and whilst still hot, add to the mayo mixture with the peppers and onions. Serve in individual bowls with the watercress leaves scattered on top.

Final recipe today is for an unusual omelette. Any pasta will do (long spaghetti or the smaller shapes), and as this has to be already cooked, another way to use up any pasta 'left-overs'. To save even more time make up cheese sauce in advance and keep it in the fridge (a really speedy cheese sauce can be made using a tub of creme fraiche mixed with grated Cheddar and/or crumbled Stilton cheese).
Ten Minute Pasta Omelette: serves 4
2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped or grated
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
1 x 125g can sweetcorn, drained
10 oz (300g) ready-made cheese sauce
7 oz (200g) cooked pasta (see above)
2 eggs, beaten
Put half the oil in a frying pan and add the onion. Cook for 3 minutes until softened, then using a slotted spoon, remove to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.
Put the remaining oil in the frying pan and when hot, tip in the pasta mixture, pressing it down with a spoon or fish slice to cover the base of the pan, then leave to cook over medium heat for 3 or so minutes until nearly set. Finish by placing under a pre-heated grill for a couple of minutes or until the top is golden.
Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.

Looks like being a glorious day today, and if warm enough am hoping to be able to hobble outside and have a sit in the sun. My back is now aching again so must go and take a pain-killer, so will say my farewell for today and hope we can all meet up again tomorrow. TTFN.