Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Change of Life?

Am determined to get myself into a life of routine. Only that way will things get done when they should be done, not left for days, weeks, months (even years) before even thinking about it. So today (again!) have written a list of 'things to do today', and will try and work my way through all dozen of them before the end of the day.
If I can keep my mind focused on the work in hand, maybe I will succeed. Should we call today 'the first day of the rest of my life', or ' the start of my 'change of life'.
But have had these good(e) intentions before, the only hope is that this time will stick to it.

Thanks for comments. One from Oliver ( a new name, so welcome). He really didn't like Spam, and this made me wonder why I am addicted to it because it really isn't particularly tasty. It eats better sliced thinly and used for sarnies (or dipped in batter and fried) rather than in 'lumps', but even then have to ask myself why I keep wanting to eat it when I'm sure there are other foods that are cheaper and taste better that I prefer. Perhaps there is an 'additive' in the product that my body recognises and has the need for (pregnant women have these cravings for that very reason).

As to opening ring-pull tins. I too dislike them as very few are easy to open by hand. Sardines perhaps the one exception. I absolutely HATE cans of corned beef that have a ring-pull, and always have to end up opening them with a can-opener. Much prefer the 'old-fashioned' key to twist and open the can (still on many brands thank goodness).
I do have one of those plastic 'thingy's that make ring-pull opening much easier (Lakeland stock them, they are very inexpensive), but this doesn't always remove the lid completely, although bringing it over the end and down the side as it opens helps, then usually I can remove the rest by pulling the ring by hand.
It used to be that cans with ring-pulls cost 1p or two more than the same product that had no 'pull' but needed to a can-opener to remove the lid. Often (but not always), some of the 'four packs' of beans, chopped tomatoes etc, have no ring-pulls, although the ones sold singly do. So if we wish to save a very few pence (and pennies do add up over time), then check prices, you might find the same thing cheaper without the 'covenient' way of opening.

Suppose that eating raw potato will not do us too much harm Sairy, but do remember once reading these should always be eaten cooked, so there must be a reason. Maybe our bodies cannot digest the spuds if uncooked.
Once peeled and cut, potatoes (like apples) oxidise very rapidly when exposed to air, and to prevent them browning, we should always place them in water if not using them immediately.

Your experiences with your dehydrator Vixen (another new name, so welcome), has really got me thinking that it could be worth buying one. Could you, or any other reader who has used a dehydrator, tell me if the dried fruit and veg are crisp (like potato crisps) once dried, or remain a bit 'leathery'? I love to eat anything crunchy, so crisp dried fruit and veggies would make a very healthy and crunchy 'snack'. The 'crunch' is the important bit as apparently the brain enjoys this sensation (think it is something to do with the vibrations as we munch), and this is why so many of us like to keep eating crisps. Unfortunately (for me) crunching carrots and celery do not give me so much pleasure, and at my age have to be careful with my teeth.

Presumably dried vegetables end up similar to those we used to (and probably still can) buy in a pack. At one time used to fold dried onions into yogurt and leave overnight and the next day it would make a very good 'dip'. Am presuming an instruction book comes with the appliance, for I wouldn't know where to make a start.

As you say Margie, the one thing children love to do is to play without adult supervision. A lot of the time this is 'role-playing' and the only way to really get the 'feel' of the game is for everyone to join in. Adults would spoil the fun.
Perhaps I've never really grown up as I still like to 'role play', although mainly because this is the only way I can get a tedious job done. It is far easier being a 'Hilda Ogden' when I begin cleaning, than doing 'a Shirley'. My stores are more fun when I play both 'grocer' and 'customer', and I certainly find I can cook better when I wear my chef's apron (actually a deep blue with white stripes so more like a butcher's apron, but - like most of us - we do the job better 'when in uniform').
Have to say thought that (like children) only 'role play' when there isn't an adult around to make fun of me. Or I try to act normal on the outside and continue acting my 'role' inside my head.

Anyone who grew up reading Enid Blyton (I must have read dozens of her books and loved every one), remembers how the children all seemed to go off and 'do their own thing'. The 'Just William' books, and 'Swallows and Amazons' also were stories about the things children got up to when adults were not there. Loads of fun and enjoyment had by all, and such a pity that children are not allowed the same freedom today.

Recently there have been some lovely comments about non-foods bought that were real bargains. Bought from charity shops, car-boot and jumble sales. That reminded me of when a magazine asked me if it was possible to furnish an empty room for just £50. I said this could be done easily, and proved to them how this could be. In the end they never did publish their feature, and a pity as it showed many ways how to get what we need for just a very few pounds (or even pence).

At that time (and maybe even now) it was possible to go to a store that sold carpets or wallpaper and ask for their out-of-date sample books. I've made several rugs by butting together squares of carpet samples and sticking them down on the reverse side using carpet tape (or gluing to a backing of hessian), and if done with thought to colour and design these can look extremely attractive.
Wallpaper samples can also be used, on walls or used to cover something (even used to make lampshades).
Gloss and emulsion paint can often be bought cheaply, and one basic colour (magnolia used to be fashionable) can coat walls and some second-hand furniture to pull it all together.

Furniture itself need never be costly for the old 'brown furniture' (so fashionable in my parent's day) can be bought for very few £££s, sanded down and - if necessary - painted.
We still have several old bentwood chairs that B bought for 25p each from a junk shop. The original label is still stuck to the underside of the seats, think the chairs were made in Poland, and do know that now they are almost 'antique', and worth quite a bit of money. More modern chairs can also be bought from similar shops/car boots etc, for very few £££s.

An alcove in a room can be fitted with shelving by stacking up a few house bricks at each side(always some brick lying around that people have chucked away - we found many in the garden here when we moved), then laying over some second hand wood shelving, with more bricks at the end of each, then another shelf on top of those, and so on....

Strong cardboard boxes can be filled with tightly rolled up newspaper (stood upright in the box), then the flaps sealed. This is surprisingly strong enough for a heavy person to sit on, and all that needs to be done is to cover the box with material and pop a matching cushion on top. Acts and looks like a very expensive pouffe, but cost virtually nothing.

That's just a start, but think even now a room could still be 'furnished' attractively for no more than £50.
Bartering is another way, and can give an example. We had a small bedroom in Leeds (it used to be a bathroom, and was really small, barely big enough to hold a bed. However, we did need a bedroom for guests, and also able to be used by our youngest child at that time (who didn't mind the lack of space, the pleasure of having a room to themselves was enough.

The above room was furnished at no cost at all, as everything was gained through 'bartering'. A single parent (male, wife had died) asked me if I could make and decorate a cake for his daughter's 21st birthday. Instead of payment I asked if he could let me have some new carpet (he worked in a carpet showroom), so this he provided. A lovely pale lilac.

A neighbour was having difficulty making bridesmaids dresses for her two young daughters as both were not 'stock-size'. So I adapted the paper patterns to fit, and made up the dresses for her (she provided the material). As a 'thank you' she paid for the wallpaper and paint for the room.

Around that time my friend, her husband and family wanted to go on holiday but unable to take her elderly mother with them (or preferred not to), so I suggested the lady come and stay with us, and so she did. We drove her round and about, visiting the areas she grew up in, and took her for tea at 'Betty's in Harrogate, and the lady had never had such a happier time. In return she gave me a very substantial Z-bed that she had, complete with a virtually new mattress, and this just fitted into the room.

Beloved had previously brought home a sack of free material remnants and off cuts (he worked for a firm that sold fabric), so I collected all the colours that went together (from white, pale lilac through to deep purple, in different patterns and some plain colours, then cut these into squares and made a patchwork quilt (and this is the one I still use now to keep me warm in my chair), and also 'matching' patchwork curtains.
The room was then complete and really looked very good indeed, and had cost no more than a few ingredients.

Suppose I've been lucky being brought up at a time when learning skills/handicrafts were part of a way of life. It's only since the late 60's (the time of 'built in obsolescence' being the new way to keep industry in profit) that people have stopped 'making do', or even learning how to. I'd really love to try challenges such as the above again, but nothing stopping anyone else from doing so. Am sure a magazine would pay well for the 'before and after' photos and details of what can be accomplished on a small amount of money. So if anyone has an empty room then why not see what you can do with it.

Yesterday watched Valentine Warner demonstrating the cooking and food of the 60's, on a Freeview channel (think this was called 'yesterday') and more besides as it showed at that time the great difference and advancement in both food and kitchen appliances in that decade. As I can remember the years before the war, the 60's meant food was to be enjoyed not just to be eaten to keep alive. We were shown how fridges became popular (if you could afford them), and especially once these had a 'freezer' compartment, the frozen foods that were the manufactured.

Convenience foods also increased in number, and thumbs down given to Angel Delight and Vesta curry by V.W. after he tasted them, although these are still on sale today (but possibly 'new improved' versions). Watching the programme brought back memories and wish that many youngsters could realise that in just one (my) lifetime it is like (for us older folk) as though we now live on another planet.

Cannot say I'd enjoy cooking the meals that were demonstrated on the programme, too much 'Fanny Cradock' with the piping of egg yolk into egg whites, and 'prettying up' all the dishes in the way she used to. Perhaps better to go back to pre-war when 'plain cooking' was what was normally served, and very good it was too. Boring but good. If we can include some of those dishes today then we will enjoy them far more than we did then, because they will now be 'different'.

One of the best ways to enjoy all our food is to not eat the same too often. We then always have something to look forward to. Having just about all fresh produce on sale all year round (due to imports), we now take them for granted. In the old days, waiting for the first new potatoes, the first fruits (esp strawberries and tomatoes), and - in winter - the parsnips.... the very expectation made our mouths water at the time.

What is there today that we eat only at 'special times'. Perhaps mince pies? Christmas Pudding? Even Hot Cross Buns seem now to be on sale all year round. Maybe mince pies are too. By supplying us with all we need all year round this has removed much of the pleasure from our lives.
Of course we could be very strict with ourselves and buy foods ONLY when in season, but am sure there are very few of us who do this. It is just easier not to have to remember what is 'new and fresh' this week/month, and just buy what we fancy eating at the time. Well, I do anyway, so why do I make an issue of this? Perhaps just the memories, waiting for the first tomato sarnies (always tasted better eaten outdoors) made with my Dad's home-grown tomatoes. No tomatoes have ever tasted as good since.

Having made the apricot EasyYo yesterday, B used some of this to top another of the 'peach trifles', before adding the cream. Yogurt is such a useful product to keep in the fridge, and EasyYo keeps well, so I always have a couple of 'flasks' of it on the go, one being fruit flavoured, the other a Greek yogurt.
As I still have several packs of EasyYo mix, this should keep me going for weeks, and can drain some of the yogurt through muslin to turn it into soft cheese (when I've run of of the bought).

Made a pan of spag.bol meat sauce yesterday using a pack of pre-cooked mince (cooked in the slow cooker then frozen), so this meant it took less time to make. Started by frying some onion, then adding the minced beef, plus the rinsed out the last dregs from the HP sauce bottle, and a tblsp of tomato puree that was in the fridge, all it needed then was a good dash of Worcestershire sauce. OK so I didn't include the 'sofrito' or mushrooms, but did add a sachet of Beanfeast's vegetarian 'bolognese' mix AND a tablespoon of Bisto's 'Best' beef gravy granules to add more meat flavour. Together this made a huge panful, and it tasted so good that both B and I ate large portions with pasta penne with a Parmesan garnish, and still enough left to freeze for another time.

As I've discovered three packs of minced beef in the freezer, will today thaw these out and slow-cook overnight as this really does cut cooking time down later when wishing to making a chilli con carne, a spag.bol or cottage pie.

Having discovered a small 'half' gammon in the freezer, thawed this out and yesterday cooked it. It is now in the fridge (easier to slice thinly when chilled), and today some will be served with sausages, corned beef, and a cheese quiche - plus cooked beetroot and salad. As I quite fancy this myself, will again be joining B for supper.

Must also make a fresh fruit salad, not that I have many 'fresh fruits', but have saved a few of the frozen ones (the rest used to make jam), and these together with sliced red and green apple, grapes, a kiwi, and orange segments will make a change from trifle, although B will probably end up eating both desserts during this evening.

This is the good thing about fresh fruit salad, we don't need more than one of anything (but preferably at least five different fruits), as - when sliced - fruit seems to go a lot further and look more.

Here is a recipe that uses an even smaller amount of fruit, useful especially if you make your own yogurt as you could use a fruit flavoured yog instead of the Greek. When not in season, use defrosted frozen mixed berries. You don't have to stick to the ones suggested, include others if you wish.
A 'fool' is traditionally fruit puree folded into equal quantities of cold custard and whipped cream, so if you have left-over custard you could add this to this dessert to give an extra helping (or just reduce the amount of yogurt.
Mixed Berry Fool: serves 4
7 oz (200g) strawberries
7 oz (200g) raspberries
3 tblsp icing sugar
1 x 500ml tub Greek yogurt
1 tsp rosewater (opt)
Put the berries and sugar into a food processor and blitz to a puree. Either leave as-is, or rub through a sieve if you wish to get rid of the seeds.
Mix half the fruit puree into the yogurt, adding rosewater (if using), then gently fold the rest of the puree in to give a marbled effect. Spoon into individual serving dishes, then chill until needed. Serve with sponge fingers (aka 'boudoir biscuits') or shortbread biscuits.

Another recipe to use up 'seasonal' fruits (as well as the suggested blackberries, these could be strawberries, raspberries, or blackcurrants....). The original recipe would use marscapone cheese, but as this is exceedingly rich, myself prefer to use a carton of soft cream cheese. Blackberry Cream: serves 4
11 oz (300g) blackberries
1 tblsp caster sugar
1 x 250g carton cream cheese
half tsp vanilla extract
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
Saving a few berries for garnish, put the rest into a saucepan with the sugar and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved in the juice given off by the berries, then blitz in a food processor to a puree (which you can then sieve to removed seeds if you wish).
Beat the cream cheese with a very little cream until 'floppy', then fold in the fruit puree and vanilla. Put the remaining cream in a bowl and beat until the same consistency as the cheese (in other words thickish but not too thick), then fold into the berry mix. Spoon into individual serving dishes and garnish with the reserved berries.

Do hope the weather (forecast as sunny and hot) is better than here in Morecambe. Yesterday was cloudy and today is the same but with rain! Last night found it difficult to sleep as the humidity level was high (77 on the gauge in our bedroom), although the temperature was fairly low.
Still humid today, but thankful all the laundry dried out on the airer, and must remove the last before it takes up the moisture in the air. Let us hope that later this week we also get some of the warmer weather. We are warned it could be as hot as 24C further south, this won't mean much to those who live abroad and who have been having much hotter weather, but to us in the UK it will feel like the Sahara (or tropics if it stays humid).

EastEnders was good last night as they slotted in a 'live' few minutes when Billy Mitchell had his Olympic torch lit and was running with it round the square in 'Walford'. Good to know this actually was happening at the time of watching, and 'Billy' really did take part as a 'torchbearer'.

Before I leave, must mention that I watched part of the 'Today' prog where the Hairy Biker's were on, talking about their forthcoming series where they lost a lot of weight. Believe that will start to be shown next week.
Also a mention about all those stupid rules where no-one is allowed to use the Olympic symbols and many words associated with the games. Much annoyance by small shops and cafes close to the venues as they are not able to promote their businesses by mentioning the Olympics. Weren't the Games meant to help make more profit for smaller businesses?

At least did learn that we are allowed to take our own food to eat at the various venues, but NOT liquids. Believe this is because certain liquids can end up as bombs or something. With that thought couldn't someone smuggle a stick of gelignite in made to look like a stick of rock or black pudding?
So - if expecting to be thirsty when at a 'venue', then we either have to fork out and buy the drinks sold there, or take thirst quenching foods like oranges, cucumber, melon....

Off now to start my work for the day. Fingers crossed it all gets done. Doubt you even care but at least it will give me something to write about tomorrow. May even make something worth photographing. See you then.