Friday, November 23, 2012

Use It or Lose It

Despite the drought that much of our country had last spring, apparently - after a very wet summer, most of our land is now saturated and cannot absorb any more, so every time it rains more and more areas are becoming flooded as the water cannot soak away.  We are promised more rain over the weekend, and sure I heard a mention of high tides, this plus a couple of low pressure areas bringing gales makes me wonder how worse it can get.  But we Brits will soldier on...

Do hope the weather is not too bad when you take your trip to Scarborough Jane.  Regarding your fish in the freezer, why not have both - this AND then more when you are away.  Fish is good for us, so the more we eat the better.

When you mentioned your freezers Jane, presumably fairly well stocked, it made me think that perhaps we take to much advantage of their ability to store foods for months (years in fact although too long and the flavour gets lost), so we bulk-buy to freeze when the price is right - but then do we bother to eat it?  Many of us tend to store for that rainy day (no pun intended), and we should always remember that freezers have fairly substantial running costs (I call it 'rent a space') so anything bought at a lower than normal price, and kept frozen for over 6 months, taking the 'rental costs', this could well end up more expensive than when bought at the full price. 

This is not to say we shouldn't store food in our freezers for longer.  It's just a fact that we should consider, and plan to use frozen foods regularly instead of just keeping them.  We may think we do this anyway, but how many of us (myself included), decide to sort out or freezers and then discover foods/meals there that we had completely forgotten about.  Chest freezers are the worst for this as we seldom delve down into their depths, preferring to use items from the baskets that hang halfway down.  The 'treasures' below the basket we tend not to bother with too much.

At least my front-loading freezers make it easier to see what I have, but even then things get pushed under and behind others, so do need to have a sort-out two or three times a year, then use up what I can.  Unlike 'fresh' produce in the fridge, there is not the problem with 'use it or lose it', as frozen food doesn't go 'off', but really can alter for the worst (flavour and texture) when kept too long.

Despite my wish to complete my freezer/fridge 'stock-taking' yesterday, found myself in larder-land again, happily moving around some foods on the shelves, and - more importantly - building up a stack of shelving at the end of my kitchen table to hold baking ingredients because now I do more baking (for the social club) find I get fed up of having to continually get up from my chair to go and fetch something I'd forgotten about from the larder.

The 'shelving' I built up using four small drawers that used to fit into a kidney-shaped dressing  table. These I stood side-ways on against the wall at the end of the table with the top of the drawer now facing forward.  The four drawers made four shelves with space on the top to place something else. 
In the drawers I placed all my baking ingredients (other than flour/sugar - these are kept in large Tupperware containers still in the larder), and I now have all my raising agents, food colourings and extracts, spices, paper cake cases, flour sifter, and just about everything needed when baking.  Even my slim-line scales are tucked in, and also my own cook-book/diary where I write in all my favourite 'bakes' (saves me going to hunt out the different recipe books).

During the morning made a big pan of soup using the chicken stock made the day before, and adding diced carrot, parsnip, potato, carrot, onion, plus a good handful of pearl barley (and seasoning to taste).  When cooked I stirred in a sachet of chicken cuppa soup to help thicken it slightly and give a bit more 'chicken' flavour.    Have to say it was rather good.  I ate a big bowlful for my lunch and was going to have the remainder for my supper, but B said he wanted that, so then decided to make him an apple, pear, and dried fruit crumble (with a dash of cinnamon) - finding this so easy to make once I put the fruit in front of me on the table, for the spices were on the shelving at my side, as was a bowl of sugar.  The pears were in the organic box, and absolutely gorgeous as they were firm but tender and appeared to have no core.  As I was peeling the apples and pears I ate the peel from both (use it or lose it), and really enjoyed it.

So, instead of soup for my 'sups', decided to make myself a sort of macaroni cheese, but instead of macaroni, used up the last of the pasta 'wheels' that I had bought some time back.  Not sure why, but I've never really enjoyed eating this shape of pasta.  However, yesterday the meal was better as once the pasta was cooked and drained, I then added the end of a pack of 'garlic mushroom' sauce mix, this blended with milk, and then heated it to simmering until thickened.  Then folded in some of a bag of grated cheese I discovered in the freezer 'check'.  Spooning the lot into a dish, I sprinkled the remaining cheese on top and put it into the oven to bake alongside the fruit crumble. 
It took only about 10 minutes for the cheese to begin bubbling, so I removed my pasta supper, turned down the oven and left B's crumble in to carry on cooking - giving him responsibility to check when it was ready - he could also heat up the remaining soup for himself.  This he did.

The cheesy pasta dish tasted far better than expected, and as the 'wheels' had absorbed a little more of the garlic sauce as it cooked, even this pasta shape was more to my liking.  Certainly the garlic sauce gave the dish much more of a 'lift' than if a normal cheese sauce had been used.

Today am having a bit of a clear-out of our dining room, aiming to bring in a set of book shelves that at the moment is in a cupboard, and putting them under a small window as these take less space than a big butler's tray that is there at the moment.  Then perhaps our single chair/futon can be pushed into the corner instead of sticking out like a sore thumb into the room. 
The only reason I'd doing this is because next week we will be hosting a small dinner party, and I want the room to look nice (being dark-oak wall- panelled with a handsome carved mantel over a marble fireplace, it can look really lovely - when tidy).  Normally we just use it as a 'study' with books and paper (both mine and B's) stacked everywhere.

Of course I should keep our home tidy all the time.  Unfortunately have never been that 'house-proud' usually finding more interesting things to be doing than dusting and tidying.  In any case B doesn't like 'tidy', it makes him feel uncomfortable, and have to say I feel the same when visiting homes that are more like show houses than a real 'home'.   I've even visited homes (even friends) where anything I lay down (like a magazine I might have picked up) is immediately whisked away to be put 'back in its place', and - even worst - had a vacuum cleaner brought out to hoover up a couple of crumbs that fell on the carpet when I was eating a biscuit with my cup of coffee, and this while I was still eating the biscuit and drinking the coffee!!!  Perhaps not surprising that their young children preferred to come and play at our house with our offspring.  Or maybe it was their mothers that just wanted them to make a mess elsewhere.

An early start again today as really do need to get on and try and complete all the work I need to do before the weekend is over.  This time next week it will be the start of December and countdown to Christmas.   Despite the cold, it doesn't seem to feel much like winter, perhaps because we are still waiting for that summer that never arrived.  
With plenty of evergreen trees and bushes in ours and surrounding gardens, we have few trees that have lost their leaves, so when looking through the window in front of me as I write, the pampas, cordyline (or is it yucca?), the holly bushes and others not sure of are still the same as they have been all summer.  Only the lovely copper acer has now dropped its leaves, and the apple tree also but that is so large I can only see the trunk (due to a half-drawn blind pulled down over the very tall narrow window).   Next door has several different cone-carrying (fir?) trees, and a yellow variegated holly bush, and down the side and in the front garden we have several large hydrangeas and the flower heads stay on throughout most of the winter, although I may cut some to dry out then spray with gold and silver dust to make Christmas decorations.

Enough now or I'll carry on chatting until noon.  Story of my life - can't stop talking once I start, but must remember I have things that need to be done, so had better get on doing them. 
Hope you all enjoy your day and are not too troubled by the weather conditions.  With at least one of the major railways having their tracks under water (not to mentions roads close by), it could be that many people are forced to stay at home as they have no way of getting to work.  
After a night of heavy rain (and it WAS heavy), this morning looks very promising, with so far clear skies and sunlight.  But more bad weather is forecast from later tomorrow and lasting over the weekend, and beyond. 
So if you need to go shopping, our take a trip out, then tomorrow will probably be the best time.  TTFN.