Thursday, June 07, 2012

What Next?

Considering what has been happening to me these past few days, a sudden - and quite excessive - return of my 'allergy' yesterday has added to my problems. Have to take extra anti-histamines to try and control it, even then my throat swelled up (fortunately not my breathing passages). Am beginning to convince myself that 'someone out there' is sticking pins into an effigy of me. Where will they strike next?
Mind you, could cast my own spell (this I can do, believe it or not) and 'reflect' the unpleasant vibes back to whoever is causing it, but really don't wish to do this as they will end up worse than me, and they've probably got enough on their plate already or they wouldn't be doing this in the first place. Having said that, one more 'happening' and I probably will use my 'magic mirror'. I've had enough!

Was really fed up yesterday and not in the mood to cook, so after B asked for 'meat' (again) for his supper, suggested spag.bol, and when he agreed was able to pull out a container of the ready made meat sauce that I'd frozen some weeks back. Even decided to cook myself a speedy meal and made myself a vegetarian curry (chunks of red and green bell peppers, potatos, cauliflower, onions....) using - of course - curry sauce from a jar (the remainder saved to make a curry for B tonight), and a pack of microwave rice. I really did enjoy eating a 'proper meal for once. Very quick and easy to cook (no lengthy cooking when I don't feel too good).

However, today will have to do a fair amount of stirring pots and pans as I've thawed overnight three packs of minced steak and some chicken thighs, the intention being to make several containers of chilli con carne, spag.bol meat sauce, cottage pies, and chicken curries. The aim being to get plenty of 'ready meals' in the freezer so B can just thaw and heat in the microwave for those days when I'm feeling 'off'.

It's not like me not to want to cook, but yesterday really felt I'd prefer to cook less more often (if you know what I mean), and only when I feel like it. Yesterday felt almost on the verge of saying that I will 'retire' on my 80th birthday (next April) and do no more cooking. Will then have one of those companies who make meals for old folk deliver them (frozen) to our door for both of us to re-heat in the microwave as and when we want. Trouble with that is they will cost more than the same thing made by me.

Don't know if anyone has been watching the new series 'Jimmy and the Giant Supermarket' where Jimmy D is trying to get Tesco to sell quality meat at their (rock-bottom) 'Value' prices. I missed the first prog, but was able to watch the second, this being about sausages. Despite Jimmy having managed to make sausages that blind-tasting consumer panels preferred above Tesco's Value bangers, and even their 'Finest', once the people knew what the sausages were made of, none of them wished to buy them. Contents being: pigs' heart, liver and belly pork.

The very thought of eating offal seems to put many people off, yet when you consider that the 'value' sausages (and probably others) are often made with at least some 'pre-formed' meat, wonder why that is acceptable, and 'good meat' (even though offal) is not. Anyway, it seems that these sausages will shortly be marketed by Tesco, presumably with similar foods made from 'free-range' meats (he is doing Chicken Kiev next week) then if the price is low enough (after all this is the aim, to make the foods cheap enough that everyone can afford to eat good quality meat) myself will be buying some. The more people that buy, the more likely Tesco will keep up the good work (and then other supermarkets will follow).

When Jimmy was talking to a butcher (think it was a wholesaler), the price of some of the offal was mentioned (think it was sweetbreads or might have been brains), "25p a kilo" said the butcher. Cor blimey, if I could get any sort of edible meat for that price I'd be cooking it nearly every day. Certainly worth us asking our local butcher for the price of cuts of meat rarely asked for. 'Unfashionable' meat is usually very cheap, for instance not that long ago the butchers almost gave away lamb shanks, now they are very expensive. Pork hock is still cheap, as is also belly pork, both of which are really good to eat when cooked properly. As more chefs are now using these (as seen on TV), then the price of these will creep up. Hardly 'creep', more like 'jump up'.

It is at times like this - when something makes me feel very fed up - that I tend to turn to 'retail therapy' to raise my spirits, although for many years now all 'the shopping' has being mainly food (oh for those old days when I used to buy ear-rings, lipsticks, clothes, then after marriage, books, blue-white pottery, other 'collectibles'!!!). Yet despite our fridge now having more spaces than food on its shelves, and the freezer drawers only half full (one almost empty), the larder having room to breath again, have not the slightest wish to 'stock up'. Definitely must be something wrong with me to feel so disinclined to write up another grocery order, even though I now have vouchers that will save me lots of money, more if I spend some before then end of this month.

Today will be using even more veggies to 'stretch' the meat further in those bulk meals that will be made today. Probably most of the veggies if truth be told. Even my onion basket is now down to a single layer and that only covering half of the base (although it is a big basket). Almost out of eggs! Even down to using UHT milk. What is happening to me?

The above might be normal if I was doing one of my 'challenges', but am not even doing that this time. Maybe if the weather warmed up, the sun came out, all my aches and pains left me, then maybe I'll cheer up. Even having a chat to you this morning is blowing my personal clouds away, so already feel more like getting on with my 'bulk cook-in' than I did when I first sat down.

A few comments to reply to. Do know about some exercises that I can do Sarina, just can't be bothered to do them! But will try. Thanks for the thought. Bending down touching my toes does help to stretch my back and it then aches less. Even with my size (and age) am still able to bed down (with legs straight) and place the palms of my hands flat on the floor. Even B can't do that!

How lovely that your spiced buns fetched such a good price Lisa. It's probably the same in the US as in the UK, anything 'home-made' (or of the same quality) now can be very expensive to buy. This is especially good for families who regularly eat home-cooked meals as they are eating 'top nosh' in other words 'eat like kings' that doesn't cost any more than the cheapest foods on sale.

Not sure how 'culinary training' is carried on after graduation in the US. Here students can go on to catering college (this does have to be paid for) or could take up an apprenticeship in a local restaurant (if they have good 'grades' in this subject at school, then usually accepted, but the wage would be very low). The latter gives 'hands-on' experience, although possibly more in the washing of dishes and chopping of veg in the early days, with usually a 'day release' each week to attend the local college to learn the more scientific/nutritional side of things.

Am never sure about those 'memory foam' mattresses Campfire. Seeing them advertised on TV it seems the mattress 'remembers' our shape as we lie on it (so we can then settle back into the hollows when we next lie down), and this makes me wonder what happens if the position of the body constantly changes (as does mine) during the night. Does this leave loads of little depressions that can then 'join up'?

A welcome to John L. who has given a comment via a much earlier posting, so not visible to those who check only the most recent. He liked the sound of the recipes given on that day.

Which brings me to today's little 'collection', these being slightly more unusual in that they use ingredients from the store-cupboard that we have bought but tend to forget about (well at least I do). All based on pasta and any pasta shape will do, but those that hold a 'sauce' are the best (unless otherwise stated) such as the shells, spirals etc.
Warm Venetian Salad: serves 4
3 red onions, sliced
2 tblsp olive oil
14 oz (400g) pasta shapes
2 tblsp balsamic vinegar
3 - 4 tblsp sultanas
2 tblsp capers, drained and rinsed
3 tblsp toasted pine nuts
salt and pepper
9 oz (250) spinach leaves
Put the onions and oil in a frying pan and cook gently for about 10 minutes until very soft. Meanwhile cook the pasta as per packet instructions.
When the onions are cooked, add the vinegar, sultanas, capers and pine nuts, add seasoning to taste and cook for a couple of minutes to allow the sultanas to soak up a bit of the liquid. Add a splash of the pasta water and add the spinach.
Drain the pasta and add to the onion/spinach in the pan, the heat from the pasta/onions will start the spinach wilting, so no need to cook further. Divide between individual bowls and serve.

Next recipe again uses capers and red onions, but this time with olives to give extra flavour. Canned plum tomatoes are best as they have more flavour than the canned 'chopped' tomatoes.
These, together with basic 'fresh' ingredients, make a spicy soup that makes good eating on a chilly summers day.
Spicy Pasta Soup: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped (or Tabasco to taste)
1 x 800g can whole plum tomatoes
1.75 pints (1 ltre) vegetable stock
4 oz (100g) spaghetti, broken into small pieces
3 tblsp black olives, pitted
2 tblsp capers, drained and rinses
1 tblsp pesto
Fry the onion in the oil for a few minutes then add the chilli and cook for a total of 10 minutes until the onion has softened. Stir in the canned tomatoes, chopping them with a spoon as they go into the pan, then add the stock. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer - uncovered - for five minutes before adding the spaghetti, and continue cooking until the pasta is just cooked (al dente). Add the olives, capers and pesto, and when heated through serve in individual bowls.

To save making a creamy cheese sauce from scratch to serve with pasta, we can make it the easy way by just adding Philly-type cream cheese to hot pasta in a pan once it has been cooked and drained where the heat rapidly melts the cheese. Here is a slightly more elaborate sauce made with cream cheese (or you could use marscapone) together with spinach, a hint of garlic, lemon juice and Parmesan.
This sauce could be used with other pasta dishes, so one worth remembering. With this dish used the pasta shapes that have hollows or 'grooves' to hold the sauce.
Green Spinach Sauce with Pasta: serves 4
14 oz (400g) pasta shapes (fusilli spirals etc)
8 oz (225g) baby spinach leaves
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 x 250g tub cream cheese
juice of 1 small lemon
2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tblsp toasted pine nuts or flaked almonds
Cook pasta as per packed instructions, meanwhile putting half the spinach into a food processor with the garlic, cream cheese, lemon juice and half the Parmesan. Blitz to make a smooth puree/sauce.
When the pasta is cooked, drain well and return to the pan. Add the sauce, pine nuts (or almonds) and the remaining spinach, stir and heat until the spinach has wilted. Serve immediately, sprinkling the reserved Parmesan on top.

It's amazing how writing about tasty dishes has now got my own taste-buds tingling and am now ready to commence today's bulk-cooking and get those ready-meals made and packed away. Possibly will also make some fruit pies (as have some pastry that needs using up). Just an hour (or so) chat to you has really put back pleasure into my life and I'm now raring to get started.

One of the very best things about all this (aches and pains and so on) is that the lower I feel, the sooner I will come out of it and rise to heights of happiness. Life is full of these swings and roundabouts and as long as I make sure I enjoy the 'highs', then worth it.
My mother was one of those unfortunate beings who was forever pessimistic. She (like everyone) had highs and lows, but when she reached her 'high' said she could never enjoy it because she knew the 'lows' would then return and this thought depressed her so much she never ever did enjoy any good things in her life. She couldn't even enjoy the coming out from the 'lows' for the same reason.
For my poor mum her future always seemed black, and beeing a Scorpio, she did have that tendency to remember (continually) only the bad things that had happened in her life (and many never did happen, only believed to have) and so she never seemed able to recognise any good that came her way, and even if she did felt it was wrong to enjoy them.

Of course not every Scorpio is like this (but a great many are), much depends on where other signs are placed in a personal 'chart'. Scorpio could be the 'rising sign' not necessarily the 'sun sign', and not always realised.
It has long been proved that the majority of people under their sign of the Zodiac do fit into the right 'astrological' pattern. Maybe there is something in it after all. Have to say that some 30 or so years ago an astrologer (friend) made up my 'chart' for me, and not only wrote up the type of person I was (well he would know that anyway) but also told me what the star chart foretold for my future (especially health). I really poo-poohed this at the time, but what he wrote then has turned out to be completely true, down to the last detail. So can the future be known? And if so then it must have already been 'planned' (or may have even happened, for who knows, we may be continually be moving around along a circle of spirals and returning to the same place time and time again, for ever and ever....).

Really must bring myself back down to earth and get on with the day-to-day living and accept what the stars keep throwing at me. Sooner or later they will be in a position to smile on me again. And I can wait - but not for too long. Patience is not my strong point.

Hope you all have a good and industrious day. We now have to remember that 'charity begins at home' and make sure that we prepare for our own future in the best way possible. The world (financial) news is not good, yet I can't see where all the money that was around has gone to. Someone must be stashing it away. It doesn't just disappear.
The banks are crying poverty, yet considering the very low (if any) rate of interest they pay on our savings and the very high rate of interest they charge on money they loan, they must be raking it in. Still, what would I know about world finance? My 'accountancy' is only at domestic level. Maybe if women took over the world finances things might be run better (and this is not being sexist, just that over centuries women have been - and are still - more used to 'managing' on a small income and knowing every which way to save).

A thanks to Eileen who has just phoned to see how I am. Now must love you and leave you all for today. Can't wait for tomorrow when I hope to meet up with you all again.