Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Early Birds...

Late starting my blog this morning due to my decision to bake a ginger cake, do a load of laundry, get some 'prep' done for B's supper, and wash all the pots before coming in here for a sit-down and finger-tap. 
Having taken those few days off (from blogging) recently, have found I can do so much more (cooking/chores....) when I make an early start.    Usually the first thing I do after my first cup of coffee is to come in here and begin blogging.  Then - as you well know - I get carried away and ramble on until often after 11.00am.  By then I have little time left to do anything really constructive as I wish to watch TV (useful progs like Superscrimpers or Kirstie, then TV, followed by 'Doctores', and then - due to my great age (well I have to have an excuse), put my feet up and watch more TV, allowing myself (if I haven't nodded off) an hour to start preparing B's supper, then return to watch a programme about competitive bakers (am really finding this inspiring).  By then time to cook B's supper (or finish it off), then back to TV to watch 'Pointless', 'Eggheads' and whatever else takes my fancy.
Last night was great - lots of cookery on BBC 2, so was a happy bunny.

Maybe I should change my routine (some might call it habit) and begin the day by doing all the cooking/cleaning necessary, then can sit and blog.  By then it will be lunchtime and my normal 'routine' can then take over (TV, TV and more TV!).

Beloved went to the library yesterday, he renewed the book I previously mentioned (as I wanted to give it a third read), and brought me another on cooking by Clarissa Dickson Wright, only - bless him - he brought the one he'd borrowed a few weeks ago, and it wasn't one I wished to read again.  Do wish he had a better memory.

There's a gorgeous aroma of ginger cake wafting through the house (well apartment), plus the smell of tangerines, for once the cake was out of the oven, the citrus peel I'd saved over the past couple of days (I eat clementines and tangies like sweets) was spread out onto a flat baking sheet and popped into the just-turned-out oven to help dry off (I could have put the peel on top of the radiators). 
When dry will add this to some dried flower petals (saved from a recent bouquet given to me - and not by B!), then add a few sprinkles of cinnamon, and some suitable flower essence, put the lot in a bowl and let it fill the room with a scent of Christmas.

The cakes/biscuits for the Foodbank Christmas Carol evening have now been made, and I can't really begin to do the sailing club's desserts until Friday at the earliest, so other than having Tesco deliver this morning (they've texted me to let me know delivery will be between 12 - 1.00), that leaves tomorrow to catch up with what delights need to be made to keep B happy over the Christmas period.   Probably do more on Sunday and Monday.  Have to wait and see how I get on.

A thanks and welcome to ABTC (male, female?) for sending in a short comment (perhaps heard about this site via Clippy's prog?). 

Thanks also to Lisa for the Queso Dip (recipe suggestion).  Have to say I do enjoy most things that have chillis as an ingredient, as long as not too hot.

Eileen has answered your query Marjorie re the Four Bird Roast.  The Three-Bird is much the same.  Not sure which one we had a couple of years back but possible the 'three' as it seemed to be three layers of different bird breasts (turkey, goose, duck?) sandwiched together with stuffing - it has to be said it had a great deal of stuffing and not a lot of meat despite the photo on the pack showing more meat than stuffing.  Think there were a lot of complaints re this so probably now improved.  The 'four-bird' sounds much better, and have to say these 'roasts' are really easy to cook - just follow directions on the pack.

Sarina mentioned serving red cabbage with the bird, and it does seem that most of the Christmas 'meals' shown on TV and in cookery mags now suggest we serve this along with our carrots, peas, Brussels sprouts, roast and mashed potatoes.  This must be a new 'trend' as until recently have never heard of red cabbage served on Christmas Day (or even Boxing Day).  Have - in the past - served it with cooked beef/pork, but just as a vegetable. 
However, red cabbage cooked with apple, sugar and a little vinegar really makes a gorgeous side dish, so am pleased it has now become more popular.  It's also good eaten cold.

The mention of ginger and lemonade reminded me that in a recent Lakeland catalogue saw the 'makings' for a ginger beer 'plant'.  Used to make this drink for B years ago, and think I'll send for one with my next order and have another go.   Ginger is a flavour that goes with many sweet or savoury dished, and ham cooked in ginger beer is something well worth trying.  I bet the resultant 'stock' with split peas and diced veggies would make a good and warming winter soup.  A sweet version of Mulligatawny?

Pleased that you were able to find the lamb recipe Marian (Maz).  I felt a bit guilty not writing it out again for you, but having myself scrolled back many times through past postings, do find that this always gives me the chance to discover other recipes I've written (and forgotten about) as I do so. All the recipes that were missing and have now been 'brought back' (by severe editing out of 'the rambles') are worth making, and all (except perhaps a few) are extremely easy to make and very tasty to eat.  It goes without saying they are also 'as cheap as chips'.  I bet that expression is now out of date considering the cost of potatoes today.  Is anything cheap anymore?

So many recipes have been given on this site that there is a danger now I'll keep on repeating them. However, with new readers continually joining our happy band of 'supersavers', feel that the following should have another airing as canned sardines (also pilchards) are a very good source of protein and the omega whatever that we all know we should be eating, and by canny shopping (by this I mean buy the cheapest on sale - check the labels and you'll see that the nutritional content is the same whatever the price) we can end up with a really low-cost meal.
Spaghetti (and other pastas) can also be bought in 'value' packs, some of them also 'quick-cook' (saves fuel!), and we could omit some - or all - of the olives (not everyone likes them), ditto the capers, although these do add a lot more flavour to the dish, so perhaps we could substitute something else?  Maybe a dash of Tabasco instead of chilli flakes (or even a dash of Worcestershire sauce?  If nothing to hand to 'lift' the dish, then add plenty salt and plenty of pepper and - if possible -  an extra helping of herbs?  Use canned plum tomatoes if you have them as they have so much more flavour than the chopped, and we can always chop them ourselves.
The recipe suggests using canned tuna (drained) and a couple of teaspoons of tomato puree instead of the sardines in tomato sauce.  But as canned sardines are cheaper and nutritionally better for us then don't even think about it.

You don't have fresh herbs?  Well here's a thought - buy a packet of seeds and in the early months of next year, sow them in a little soil and keep them on a warm windowsill, and every couple or so months, sow a few more seeds and you'll have a continual supply of fresh herbs to cut at will throughout the year - and maybe even longer for many could be planted outdoors and continue to grow on each year (rosemary, sage, mint, chives...).  Yes, I know, you won't have them now, but one of the secrets of cost-cutting success it to always plan ahead.  Like a year ahead.

Spaghetti with Sardines: serves 4
14 oz (400g) spaghetti (or other pasta shapes)
1 tblsp olive oil (or sunflower oil)
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed (opt)
pinch of chilli flakes (see above)
1 x 227g can plum (or chopped) tomatoes
2 x 95g cans sardines in tomato sauce (or pilchards)
3 oz (75g) pitted black olives, roughly chopped
1 tblsp capers, drained
handful fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
Cook the pasta in salted boiling water as per packet instructions.
Meanwhile make the sauce by heating the oil in a pan over medium heat, and fry the garlic for one minute.  Add the chilli flakes, tomatoes, and sardines, breaking them up roughly with a wooden spoon (don't remove the bones, these are soft and contain loads of calcium).  Simmer for 3 minutes, then stir in the olives and capers with most of the parsley and mix well to combine.
Drain the pasta - reserving 2 tblsp of the cooking water - and add the pasta to the sauce, and mix well.  If the sauce is too thick, add the reserved water.   Season to taste, then serve in four individual bowls with the remaining parsley sprinkled on top. 

Am now changing the habit of asking B what he'd like for supper, instead choosing what I'd like to make (this way I can use what I have).  This doesn't always work as the other day said I'd be making a Cauliflower Cheese, and he said he'd prefer sausage, egg and chips.  So the cauliflower is still waiting to be eaten, and all the sausages and chips now used up (but more delivered today). 
However, MY choice of today's supper:  lamb's liver, bacon, cabbage, and potatoes has got a thumb up from B, so the liver is thawing, a chunk cut from the cabbage (to later shred and steam over the potatoes), so not a lot more to prepare.  This means can still watch cookery progs on TV until 5.00pm.  Well, at least some of them.

Have a feeling that I'm coming to the end of my cold.  My cough has now disappeared, but still feel a bit 'stuffed up'.  Really do believe that eating raw onion (again) yesterday has helped clear up a lot of the congestion (which happens almost immediately each time after eating raw onions), and do feel a great deal better - almost normal in fact.  Let us hope it stays that way, B is still coughing but otherwise seems fine.

Must love you and leave you for today as must clear the decks to unload the Tesco delivery - then put it all away.  From then on am hoping to last weeks (and weeks, and weeks...) without having to go out and buy anything else.  In other words - make the most (and BEST) of what I already have, and telling you all about it as it happens.   Could make good reading.  Well, that's the plan anyway.

Hope you find time to join me again tomorrow.  A reminder that I'll be taking another 3 days off writing my blog  (24th, 25th, and 26th Dec), but then all of you will be far too busy to sit down and have a read over this Christmas period.   Once over it will be no holds barred when it comes to really 'scraping the barrel' whilst still aiming to eat well.  So watch this space.  Keep those comments coming...! TTFN.