Monday, January 14, 2013

Makes a Change!

It almost began to snow yesterday, but hardly visible.  Myself don't like snow that comes down like sifted icing sugar.  What I love to see are those big, big flakes that float lazily down, almost like fairy feathers.  Remember my dad taking me outdoors when huge snowflakes were falling, he caught one or two on a piece of black velvet, then let me look at them through a magnifying glass.  They were so pretty, and all different 'patterns'.   It is said that no two snowflakes are alike, but considering the amount that fall, can't see that this could be true.   However, the memory stays with me for it was quite magical.

It was a very cold winter then, and - after heavy snow -  I was worried about the fairies, for like most little girls then, firmly believed in them (perhaps with the help of Enid Blyton).  Asked my mum for a piece of pink lint from the box where she kept her bandages, and sowed up a strip (not very well, I was only 5) to make a little cape with a hood, to keep a fairy warm.  Dad helped me hook it over a twig, and the next day the cape had gone, and the fairies had left me a little bar of chocolate in its place.  Wasn't that lovely of them?

Good that you managed to get a new kettle jane, and relieved that you didn't have the use of your car or am sure you would have been tempted (again!) to buy food that was reduced.  This is the problem with 'bargains',  on one hand it makes sense to buy food when it is much cheaper, on the other hand if we don't really need it, then it makes sense to leave well alone and keep the money in our purse.

Yesterday, remembered that when we were planning to move to Morecambe, to save having to pack a lot of food that we had in store, began to use it all up (it took us two years to get a buyer for the house, so did have time to do this).  We left with only a small box of food - mainly some home-made jam and marmalade, not a lot else.  
When we arrived in Morecambe, we had a few take-aways before we set off to the supermarket to re-stock, but it took many months (two years in fact) to build up to what is in the larder/freezer etc now. 

It crossed my mind that if anything happened to me, my Beloved would have absolutely no idea what to do with most of the food in the larder, other than the obvious: canned sardines, baked beans and soups.  The rest he would probably throw away.  
Much the same could be said of the frozen food.  He could manage to heat some frozen veg and oven chips (following instructions on the packs), but again would have no idea how to cook most of the meats.  He might be able to manage the fish as he has cooked a chunk of salmon for himself more than once, and he can thaw out cooked prawns. 

So have decided now to thaw and cook most of the meat that is in our freezer, then make at least half of it into 'ready-meals' (curries/chilli con carne/spag bol/casseroles etc) so that if the worst comes to the worst, B can at least thaw/reheat a meal for himself.  The rest can be frozen 'as cooked' and used in other dishes.  Whilst waiting for this worst to happen, the ready-meals will save me having to make B a meal from scratch, so also make it easy for myself as well, as happened yesterday when I.
made a speedy casserole for supper by frying a sliced onion in a little bit of oil, then adding the gravy from a reheated pack of Beef Rib Trim that I'd cooked then frozen several weeks ago.
Thickened this with a little of the 'powder' from a sachet of beef casserole mix (I rarely use a whole pack of mix, just what I need, then fold the pack over and put it back with others to use later).  When the 'gravy' was ready, popped the strips of beef on top, then covered and left to barely simmer whilst I reheated some previously cooked sliced carrots and parsnips in the microwave, where two jacket potatoes were also cooking.  At the same time boiling some frozen Brussels sprouts on the hob, then when the spuds were ready, just plated up the lot for us both.
Pre-cooking meat really does shorten the time and then it is very easy to assemble and 'cook' a casserole in less than half an hour.

Incidentally, myself  always use for freezing, the shallow plastic containers (with their lids) that originally held the Chinese 'take-away' that B and I sometimes have.  As B and I choose a different meal, most of the time this means it comes in four boxes, two with rice/noodles, the other two with the different 'toppings'.  So - over the months - have collected many of these. 

Have found if I put one 'boxed' meal (or meat and gravy) into the microwave and heat at full power for 8 minutes it then gets both thawed and thoroughly reheated.  I always check the middle to make sure, give it a stir and another blast if necessary, but it seems to work and saves me the bother of having to first defrost and then reheat.

Thanks CTMOM for your tip about using left-over cornbread to make stuffing.  Cornbread is not normally something I make, but when anything has a second use, it is always worth knowing as there is less chance of any waste.

Regarding war-time rations Les, I do believe that we would be healthier these day if we went back to eating the small amounts that people had to live on at that time.  Obviously advancement in medication now helps to improve our lives, but it could be that really old people (like myself) are living longer because they were healthier when younger due to their restricted diet.  There is far more chance that younger folk who are obese today, caused by too much 'junk food' (not available in wartime), will end up with health problems, and maybe have a shorter life.  Sitting in front of computers (a technological 'advancement' that does nothing for our health?) instead of healthy outdoor exercise also is shown to make a difference, and not a good one. 

Yesterday I listened to The Food Programme (Radio 4 - this repeated today), where the subject was food labelling.  Very interesting, especially the end comment when a form of 'wartime rationing' was advocated so that a nation's food consumption could be controlled, no-one would be short of food and go hungry, and we would end up a healthy nation again.

The 'traffic light' symbols that will now be appearing on processed foods, am sure will make quite a difference to how we shop.  With the red symbol showing the 'baddies' (sugar, salt...or at least more than we should be eating for our health), it could be we begin to choose only the packaging that have no red symbols.   It was mentioned than some people might buy only those packs that show 'green'.  This could mean that food processors would then have to change the product to gain back customer trust.

But there again, another point made by a nutritionist.  She said that butter, cheese etc would have a big red label, but she'd rather buy these 'natural' foods, than a processed low-calorie 'diet' meal that has no red lable but would contains a lot of other things (additives etc) that are not good for us.  Myself do agree with this, as have always believed that 'natural' foods don't do us as much harm as the dietitians say.  As long as we eat these in moderation.  
We have already had that 'U' turn back to butter  - that originally was said was bad for us - they having now proved that (some) margarine on sale is worse for our health than butter, and we can all remember how we were told that we should only have one or two eggs a week, but now we can (safely) eat as many as we like.   Salt too is tottering on that same tightrope, and which way that will fall remains to be seen.
If anyone has time to listen to the repeat of the above prog. then it's worth a hearing.

Thanks to Sarina for giving us her recipe for soup.  The spices in it really will give it added 'warmth'.  

Your mention of your dad warming a bed using a hot flat-iron Sairy, brought back memories of me doing something similar with an electric iron.  I used to keep mine by one of the beds (the electric plug was at the side), so that I could quickly warm up the bed if necessary, although used it mainly to iron the creased sheets that had been put directly onto the mattress, finding this easier than ironing sheets on the ironing board.

The Foxford you mentioned Rachel, is that the name of the firm that makes the wool blankets? Or is the town (in Co. Mayo), that is close to where our daughter lives? 

Think most of us agree that we don't need quite as much heat (room temperatures) as recommended, although of course it is important that the elderly do keep warm.  Maybe more necessary today to have higher temperatures because we have stopped wearing layers of clothing.  Sometimes following  'fashion' can cause us to spend more on other things (like fuel as well as clothes/food etc).

As you say Bets, we should always have a well-ventilated room, our 'top windows' are kept open in every room in the house.  Always have done this, the only time they were ever closed was when we used to have 'smog', something we never have now, but reminded of this when on TV yesterday saw the thick 'smog' that is currently covering one of the cities in China (was it Beijing?) - due to all the smoking chimneys and exhaust fumes from the many cars.  Youngsters today will never have experienced it, but in my day (even up to the 60's) smog often happened during the winter when many people still used coal fires to heat their rooms.

Now to the important part of my blog.  Food!
Today's recipes can easily be altered, in that I give the original recipe then suggest changes we can make.  Here's the first example:

The idea behind this is to prepare the dish on Sunday, using the meat from the roast chicken. My 'change' would be use meat stripped from the carcase once it has been boiled to make stock.
Flour tortillas work well of course, but my 'alternative' would be use up home-made pancakes that turned out a bit thicker than intended (ideally, interleave cooked pancakes, and freeze so they can later be thawed - almost instantly - and use for a dish such as this).   Pancakes can also be used as a substitute for pasta sheets, either used flat like 'lasagne', or rolled round something as 'cannelloni'.

Chicken and Bean Enchiladas:  serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 red onion, chopped (could use white onion)
1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)
1 tblsp fajita seasoning (or other spice of your choice)
2 x 400g cans red kidney beans in chilli sauce....
... OR use red beans and add a teaspoon of chilli sauce
2 roast chicken legs, meat shredded off the bone
1 x 195g can sweetcorn kernels, drained
8 flour tortillas (see above)
5 oz (150g) grated Cheddar (or other hard) cheese
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion for 5 minutes, then stir in the garlic and fajita seasoning, and fry for a further minute before adding the shredded chicken and sweetcorn. 
Divide mixture between the tortillas, sprinkle over half the cheese, then roll up an place in a greased baking dish, fold side down.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.  These can then be covered and left in the fridge overnight to cook the following day.
Bake for 20 - 25 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until golden and bubbling.

Next recipe is a cross between a sausage roll and a Beef Wellington.  My 'changes' would be use any favourite flavoured sausages you like (pork or beef), and use those oddments of ham that have been saved (frozen?) that fell from your home-cooked ham as it was being sliced (or use the end piece).
Don't even bother using quail's eggs (too expensive), as you will find (as I do) when buying a large tray of 'mixed sized eggs' there will be one or two (hopefully three or four) smaller eggs amongst the medium/large.  These would be perfect for this dish.
If you use medium eggs, they will take up more space, so that would mean using less meat, or you could end up with a longer 'pie'. My tip when using hard-boiled eggs for a dish such as this is to take a slice off each end (especially the pointed end), as the eggs can then butt up to each other to make one long 'egg', otherwise someone could get a slice with just the white 'tips' of an egg in their portion. The left-over bits of white could be chopped and added to the other ingredients for the filling.

Instead of Tabasco, you could add a teaspoon of tomato puree, or a shake of tomato ketchup or HP sauce.  Alternatively work in a one or two teaspoons of mustard (English, Dijon, or whole-grain).  The herb used could also be varied (or omitted) according to the flavour of the sausages used.
As this 'roll' is meant to be eaten cold, best made a day ahead of eating, and keep chilled.  It is then easier to slice.

Cumberland Roll: cuts into 8 - 10 slices
18 quail's eggs (or 5 - 6 medium) hardboiled, shelled
1 lb 7oz (Cumberland sausages, skins removed
1 small onion, grated
1 Bramley apple, peeled and grated
handful flat parsley, leaves only chopped
dash of Tabasco sauce (see above)
half-inch thick slice of ham, cut into small chunks
2 oz (50g) fresh breadcrumbs
1 x 500g pack puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Mix together the sausagemeat, onion, apple, parsley, Tabasco, ham, and breadcrumbs.  Roll the pastry into an oblong, about 25 x 35cm (goodness knows what that is in inches, about 10" x 16"?), place this onto a baking sheet and brush surface with beaten egg.  
Spread 2/3rds of the sausage mixture along one of the long sides of the pastry, leaving an inch clear at the edge, and half the pastry empty on the other side.  Run your finger down the length of the sausage meat to make a 'dip', then lay the eggs along this (if using larger eggs, make the 'dip' wider).  Lay the rest of the sausage meat on top, sealing in the eggs, then fold over the rest of the pastry.  Brush egg along the borders, and seal together.   
Brush the surface with the remaining egg, then bake at 220C, 425F, gas 7 until golden. Leave to cool until cold, then chill an slice.  Serve sliced, good eaten with a crisp green salad.

Final recipe today is yet another variation, my only altering of the recipe is to suggest we use home-made pastry, and perhaps an alternative chutney with a different (but similar) cheese to those given.  The reason why I like this particular version is that it uses eggs in a different way to make the end result deeper and 'lighter' than a normal quiche.
As there is Parmesan rolled into the pastry (if making your own pastry you can add this to the flour before adding water), save all the trimmings shaved from the border after cooking - eat these as 'nibbles' as you would 'cheese straws'.

Double Cheese 'Souffle' Quiche: serves 8
1 x 375g pack of shortcrust pastry
3 oz (75g) Parmesan cheese, grated
4 tblsp onion chutney
2 oz (50g) butter
2 oz (50g) plain flour
half pint (300ml) milk
10 oz (300g) soft goat's cheese
1 tblsp thyme leaves, chopped
3 eggs, separated
Roll the pastry out large enough to line a 9" (23cm) loose-bottomed quiche tin, allowing for a little overlap around the rim.  Sprinkle a third of the Parmesan over the pastry, and roll it in, then line the tin, remembering to leave a slight overhang.
Bake blind (200C, 400F, gas 6) for 15 minutes, then removedbaking beans and bake for a further 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool slightly before spreading the chutney over the bottom of the pastry case.  Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour, and cook for 2 minutes before slowly adding the milk.  When thickened, remove from the heat.
Crumble 2/3rds of the goat's cheese into the white sauce, and add the thyme and remaining Parmesan.  Beat until the cheese has melted, then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, fold 1 tablsp into the cheese sauce to slacken it, then gently fold in the rest of the whites.  Spoon this on top of the chutney in the pastry case, sprinkling the remaining crumbled goat's cheese on top, then bake for 25 - 30 minutes.  Cool slightly and carefully trim away the surplus pastry from around the edge.  Them remove quiche from tin, and serve. 

Busy week for me as will be making several tray-bakes and lots of scones for the Foodbank 'opening' this coming Thursday.  B will be going into Lancaster that morning where he hopes to be chosen as an 'extra' for some filming that will be done, so if he isn't able to be back on time, will have to take the cakes by taxi!  Or suppose could arrange for someone to collect them.
Being an 'extra' can be quite lucrative (think they are paying £80 a day this time).  B has done quite a bit of 'extra' work in the past when we lived in Leeds.  He really enjoys doing it, but so far haven't really ever seen him on the screen (sometimes he is just driving a car), other times his 'bits' have been left on the cutting room floor.  However, he still got paid, and that's what really matters.

If all goes well, will be able to publish today without the gremlins as happened (twice) yesterday. All I have left to do today is spell-check and edit, but even that can go wrong.
Until tomorrow.  TTFN.