Saturday, January 26, 2013

Silver Linings

Yesterday, around 4.30pm and just as it was getting dusk, the snow began to fall.  Like REAL snow, flakes that were fairly big and floated in the breeze.   I had barely had time to admire them when my Beloved came into the room and drew the curtains.  "Well", I thought "I'll be able to open the curtains later (when B had left for his 'social') and enjoy seeing the big, big flakes lit up by the street light", but well before then the snow had stopped.   No sign of it this morning - still dark as I write but the terrace outside our patio door has no snow on it), and as this region has now to expect rain, and a lot of it - later sweeping across the country to the east - plus higher temperatures, this means as the snow thaws and unable to drain away due to the already saturated soil, with more rain on top - goodness sake, we'll be flooded countrywide, not just certain areas!

Thanks to those who sent in suggestions as to how to retrieve my lost recipes.  I had discovered they were 'returned' with the message sent by the 'not able to send' email.  However, decided to type them out again in 'word', and while I was doing so, thought up more recipes, also improving the original ones.  Made sure this time they had been 'saved', and then sent them to the same email (that hadn't worked first time) but this time omitting the 'dot' that I'd inadvertently put in when it shouldn't have been there.  And the recipes got sent!!!

Had I been 'computer' literate, and known what to do at the time, the original recipes would have been able to be sent at the time, and the improvements then not made.  Just goes to show that perhaps fate threw that particular spanner in my works to make sure I did the job properly, and as the extra recipes that I wrote were quite inspiring, aalmost felt that there had been 'someone up there' pulling my strings.

Somehow I feel that Kathryn has a 'guardian angel' who is inspiring her to look for new ways to save/make money.  Her comments are often full of the most interesting ideas - and they seem to work!  Loved her idea of sharing./bartering meals/food with friends and neighbours.  It might even work to get a few together to form a 'share 'n save club'' where the much cheaper economy packs of foods could be bought, then 're-sold' to 'club members' in smaller packs.  Big sacks of vegetables (carrots, onions, potatoes....) also bought, then sold - in small quantitites by weight - all working out much more cheaply than the average sized supermarket packs.  

What was the phrase yesterday re the 'recession'?  We are now going into 'triple dip'?  So it is getting worse, not better, and for several years to come.   Beloved and I yesterday were having one of our rare 'chats' about this.  My idea (and B agreed) is that everyone on benefits (who could work, not those ill etc), would - after three months on benefits - have to do community work given to them until they could get a 'proper' job.  There is so much that could be done:  cleaning up graffiti, keeping streets clean, helping to clean unused canals (so they can be used again), and especially clearing ditches so that excess rain water has somewhere to flow and help to prevent flooding. 
This 'work or else no benefit money' scheme of mine would apply also to anyone who has come from abroad and been given a house and money without ever lifting a finger to give anything back to our economy.

Why do we have to be so 'generous'.  It would make a lot more sense if we did what the Australians did when they encouraged us to go and live and work in their country.  As the six week sail trip there was subsidised (cost only £10) many people went.  We had friends who took up this offer.  On arrival, the women and children were put into one camp, the men into another, and were only able/allowed to resume family life together when the man had got a job and could afford to put a roof over their heads.  The outcome was that many families did grit their teeth and stick this out for several months, but others, like our friends - who expected a good life from the start - decided to return home.
We should follow this example, no home comforts until you've earned the right, then maybe those who come here expecting free hand-outs and house, may think again.   Myself cannot think of anything worse than having to live in rows of Nissen huts, surrounded by screaming children, with sodden ground outside and rain continually falling on a tin roof.  That would perhaps sort the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the workers from the layabouts.

However generous this country is, there is only so much money, and this has to come from the taxes paid by people who WORK!  It is not fair to expect to be paid money and give nothing in return, and yes, I do realise there are many who do receive benefits through no fault of their own, it's those who seem always to avoid doing any work, and fake bad backs (or can't/won't speak English) etc, that I'm having a moan about.

My next moan is about the EU. It seems we pay out millions into the EU 'national bank',  and all that seems to happen is we now have to open our shores to all Europeans so they can work here. Suppose it works both ways, but the continent of Europe is a hundred times larger than our small island and we are restricted for space, but this doesn't stop people wanting to work here and taking jobs that we Brits could - and should - be doing.  Cannot see that we have gained much from the EU when it comes to business finance.  We can only sell what is worth selling, and people will buy only what is worth buying (and only if we can afford it). This is global, not restricted to just Europe. Am surprised the EU hasn't banned items from other non-EU countries being sold.  No-one seems to stop goods made in the Far East coming onto our shelves.  So the Common Market really doesn't make sense.
At the moment it seems we have to run our country under EU rules and regs, even if they don't fit in with what we prefer to do, and have done traditionally for years.  Can anyone tell me what benefit we will have if we stay in the EU? Otherwise I'll be voting OUT!  Then I can go back to using recycled jars to pot up my preserves.

Maybe we should let our government get on and do its worst.  We are still better off than Greece (and is it Spain also?), so we must be doing something right.  That phrase that JFK said, something like; 'Don't ask what your country can do for you, ask yourself what you can do for your country" makes a lot of sense, but can you see that happening?
We could at least do something on a much smaller scale, like pulling up our own drawbridge, battening down out hatches, and reminding ourselves that 'charity begins at home'.  Within family life we can do much to help each other, and no reason why this 'togetherness'  can't spread within the local community.  Just as long as we still have a roof over our heads, clothes on our back, and food in our belly, we shall survive!  From little acorns, great oaks will grow.

Liked the idea of you selling a charity shop Harris Tweed jacket (bought for £8) on eBay (for £50) Kathryn.  Hope you did manage to sell it.  This could be another way we could make money, buy cheap (charity shops, car boots, jumble sales....) maybe alter, adapt, or sell on as-is, and keep making those few pounds extra that can make such a difference to our lives.  Have heard of several people who make a very good living from buying at car-boots then selling what they have bought (either at auction, another car-boot, or on eBay).

Whenever I get a cold jane, especially one that starts with a sore throat or cough, I always eat a raw onion (sometimes in a sarnie), as this really seems to 'loosen' the cold within almost seconds.  It certainly eases a chesty cough.  Very few people these days use 'real' handkerchiefs, most of us use disposable 'Kleenex' type tissues, however these are very expensive compared to the boxes of 'facial tissues', that are just as good for colds as for their real purpose, and much, much cheaper.
My dad used to have quite a few 'sniffles', and remember my mother boiling his many large white cotton hankies in a huge galvanised pan on top of the stove.  After washing and drying, it was my job to iron them.  This I loved doing - being the only ironing I ever did then (must have been about 12).  After marriage and endless hours of ironing sheets, pillowcases, hankies, shirts, and clothes worn by husband, myself  and four children (all made mainly of fabric that creased badly - because non-iron fabric had not then appeared on the scene.  Remember Crimplene?  I decided to retire from ironing like I've retired from doing a lot of things, so now don't do any ironing at all.  If B wants a shirt pressed he does it himself.  All my clothes are stretchy 'jersey', because they fit more easily, and most bedlinen seems to be almost crease-free these days (other than the few I have left with the wartime 'utility' label.  Over 70 years old and still as good as new!!!  Says a lot about the quality of goods made today.

It's a good idea to chop up veggies in the food processor jane.  I've done the same, sometimes using the blade, and sometimes using the shredder disc.  Veggies prepared this way (especially for soup) cook to tender in a very few minutes, so it saves both prep and cooking time.   The chopped veggies CAN be frozen without blanching, but should be used within a very few weeks, as if kept too long enzymes start working (and not for the good).  Next time best to put the processed veg into a pan of boiling water and 'blanch' for about half a minute, then drain, run under a cold tap, pat dry and pack up into bags of the amount you will need at any one time.  Or why not make a big batch of soup with the veg and freeze that as 'chunky', you can always blend it down later if you wish for a 'cream soup'.

Did notice that my recipes had been returned to my email box MimSys, but have explained above why I didn't bother to copy them out from there (the thought had crossed my mind). In a way I'm glad I sometimes get in a mess with the comp, for often this makes me use my brain instead of letting the comp do all the thinking (and work) for me.

Do hope you soon get more mobility with your shoulder Margie.  My friend Gill once tripped and broke her upper right arm in two places, and it was several weeks (if not months) before she was able to use her arm easily.   Being right-handed she couldn't write, and - in the early days - she said it was almost impossible for her to get dressed, showered, do her hair, open tins, open packets, open letters, cut up her food, especially as she lives alone.  But, bless her, she managed. We take so much for granted, and don't appreciate how lucky we are until something has been taken away.

My Beloved has been enjoying his food this week, because yesterday he told me so..  One day he had his favourite: liver, bacon, cabbage and potatoes (lamb's liver cut into 'gougons' and tossed in flour, then fried in a pan, to which I added some chopped small just-cooked potatoes to 'fry' alongside.  In another pan fried the bacon, then put this on top of the liver, using the bacon fat in the pan to fry the steamed shredded white cabbage (steamed over the potatoes as they cooked).  A very simple dish but so tasty.

Yesterday B had a couple of small Chicken Kievs, stuffed with cheese and bacon, with a few oven chips and some peas.  Earlier in the week he had some thick-sliced beef in gravy (the beef from that 'roast' cooked a week or so ago, then sliced and frozen). With Yorkshire pudding, jacket potato, and Brussels sprouts.  Perhaps today he might like some fish?   I have a fair amount in the freezer (smoked haddock, 'white' fish fillets, salmon, prawns, kippers....) so he could have Fish Risotto, or Kedgeree.  Or maybe even a Fish Chowder.  He can make the final choice, and I bet he will choose something completely different.  Like sardines on toast.  I will bow to his wishes.

My larder shelves are now looking a bit empty.  But only a bit.  Months ago the shelves held a row of cans, with more cans sitting on top and room for a further row of 'topped' cans in the front. Now the front rows have disappeared, and the back rows are down to single cans with few on top, and occasionally a gap between these.  I have never seen so much empty space on my shelves for AGES. This means my 'use up what I've got' is working, and have confined myself to buying only the 'essentials':  fresh milk, eggs, butter, and some fresh veg.  B sometimes brings in a loaf (he keeps forgetting I have a lot of bread mix to use up), and has brought in lovely Navel oranges (these are best at this time of year and we LOVE them).

My freezer/s now have slightly more space,, although very soon filled again with home-made 'readies' (meals, puddings, cakes, ice-cream...).  The fridge also has a slight Mother Hubbard look to one or two of its shelves.  But still plenty of food to use up. 

Today must sort out the cheese and grate up the bits that have been (deliberately) left to dry out.
Then box/bag up and store in the freezer.  Think I'll also make up some boxes of crumble mix and scone mix as this will save me loads of prep time in the future.

Must repack the freezer (both), as 'Boris' (the upright) has much food just shoved in, meaning when the door is open some often slide out onto the floor (they are wrapped), and if I decant veggies into containers they will pack far more neatly, giving me more space.   The freezer drawers (in both also need repacking, keeping all fish together, all beef together, all chicken together etc, and really MUST write down (on the plain back of a used Christmas card), the contents of each drawer so that I know what is in there (crossing it off when used), as the drawers are wide and deep enough so many containers/packs get hidden under or behind others and so 'out of sight, out of mind'.
Sometime during the day I also intend to do some baking.  Think this must be a genetic 'habit' as Saturday always seemed to be 'baking day' in my mother's time (and before then), and it just feels 'right'.

One very useful cheese to keep in the fridge is halloumi.  This has a very long shelf life compared to others as the date on the packs I buy shows it can be kept for about a year.  So today am giving recipes using this cheese.   Halloumi does not 'melt' like most hard cheeses, it just softens slightly, so is perfect for 'grilling' on griddle pans. 

Vegetable and Halloumi Pan Fry: serves 4
3 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
9 oz (250g) halloumi, cut into slices
2 onions, cut into wedges
2 courgettes, sliced
8 tomatoes, halved
1 x 420g can butter beans, drained
salt and pepper
Heat 2 tblsp of the oil in a large frying pan and fry the halloumi on both sides, until golden.  Remove from pan, cut into quarters, and set aside.  Add the onions to the pan and fry over medium heat for about 5 minutes until turning golden, then add the courgettes, and when these have turned gold, remove, with the onions, and set aside.
Add the remaining oil to the pan, and fry the tomatoes until softened, then add the onions, courgettes, halloumi, and finally the beans.  Toss together rather than stir (otherwise they will break up) and heat gently until warmed through.  Add seasoning to taste, and serve.

This next dish uses a jar of 'mixed pepper antipasti' as an ingredient, this is basically a jar of roasted (and skinned) red and yellow bell peppers in a little olive oil, so we could make up our own version by roasting chunks of colourful bell peppers (tossed in oil) in the oven, or even spearing them with a skewer and holding over the gas hob flame to blacken skins (then put into a poly bag to 'sweat' and steam - the skins can then be easily peeled off).
Couscous is a great 'grain' to use as it only needs soaking - and can be left to get on with that all by itself, making this dish one of those that should be able to be made in 15 minutes.

Halloumi and Pepper Couscous: serves 4
5 oz (150g) couscous
half pint (300m) boiling water
1 x 290 jar mixed pepper antipasti (see above)
2 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 oz (100g) mushrooms, sliced
5 oz (150g) halloumi cheese, cubed
2 tblsp chopped mixed herbs (marjoram, basil, parsley)
salt and pepper
Put the couscous in a bowl and add the boiling water.  Cover lightly with cling film and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the antipasti into a small pan and heat for 3 - 4 minutes.
Put 1 tblsp of the oil into a frying pan and fry the garlic for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms, and fry these for 3 - 4 minutes until light gold.  Using a slotted spoon, remove from pan and set aside.
Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the halloumi for a couple or so minute until lightly golden,  Stir the antipasti and at least half of the herbs into the couscous, adding seasoning to taste, then spoon this onto a warmed serving dish (or individual plates/bowls) and top with the pan-fried halloumi and mushrooms. Garnish by sprinkling remaining herbs on top. 

Final recipe also makes good use of halloumi, although suppose there is no reason why another variety of cheese could not be used.   Pitta bread is used as a 'holder', but as this is nothing much more than a closed 'wrap', we could instead use a small flour tortilla. Or - if you don't mind being a bit British and boring, just stuff the filling between two slices of lightly toasted thin-cut bread.  As ever, your choice.
Myself use small Little Gem lettuce leaves (baby cos).  This lettuce keeps quite well in the fridge, and the curly leaves make good 'cups' as a holder for savoury fillings that can be eaten in the hand.

Halloumi and Tomato 'Lunch-Munch': serves 1
2 -3 baby 'cos' lettuce leaves, shredded
1 plum tomato, sliced
1 thin slice sweet (pref red) onion, separated into rings
few mint leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper
2 - 3 thick slices halloumi
1 pitta bread
Put the lettuce, tomato, onion, and mint into a bowl.  Drizzle over the oil and toss the lot together. Add seasoning to taste.
Place the halloumi on a baking sheet and place under a pre-heated grill (or could use a griddle pan on the hob). Cook for about 2 minutes or until turning golden, then turn and grill the other side.
Grill the pitta bread for a few seconds on each side until it puffs and opens, then tuck the cheese and prepared salad inside the pitta.  Eat immediately.
(If using a flour tortilla, place this in a heated dry frying pan for a few seconds to heat, then turn, place the grilled cheese over one half, salad on top and fold the other half over.  Remove from pan and eat immediately).

The day has started well, lots of blue sky and sunshine (so where is that torrential rain they forecast?).  Craning my neck I can just see small irregular patches of white on the lawn closest to the house -suppose that is the remains of the snow, there is none to be seen on roofs, paths, tops of walls.... 

Before I leave, mustn't forget to reply to that query re using clementines from Becca.  Have not myself found them hard to peel, as their skins seem quite loose, perhaps there are different varieties.
Not sure what to suggest.  Perhaps grating the zest to collect and store (in ice-cube trays?) with or without the juice squeezed from the fruit?  Another idea is to stud the unpeeled fruits with whole cloves, then leave in a warm place to dry.  Later they can be dusted with cinnamon, a ribbon tied round, then given away as gifts.  These 'pomanders' (usually made with oranges) make a room smell lovely, and are often hung in rooms (or piled in bowls) to scent a room during the winter (esp at Christmas).

Let's hope (for the sake of those that have to travel some distance) the snow and icy roads will soon disappear, and we will have plenty of sun to allow much of the snow to evaporate rather than add more water to that on our already saturated land.   Enjoy your weekend, and hope you will find time to join me tomorrow.  See you then.