Sunday, March 24, 2013

Keeping Culinary Control...

Another interesting article in yesterday's paper. Two actually, but the first to do with family meals.
Surveys in the UK have shown that 6 in 10 meals are eaten in front of the TV, and often in silence (presumably because to watch TV, silence is best?).
A survey of youngsters in Canada, aged between 7 and 11, showed that on average, they
ate dinner with their parents almost five times a week, and a third had a family meal every day.  That really shows how lax we have become in the UK about our eating habits, and probably not understanding what a difference it makes to the children's emotional well being if left (or even allowed) to eat on their own. 
The researchers said that "family mealtimes are an opportunity to talk and share problems and experiences, and for parents to pass on advice".   That is true.  I've met families where the older children tend to spend all their time in their bedroom in front of computers, getting their own food when they feel they want to eat, and most of the time all members of the family doing 'their own thing', so hardly ever speak to each other.

Much of the blame has to go on the food that children eat.  The 'ready-prepared'/processed - by this I mean microwave 'ready-meals' or canned foods, are ready to just need heating (or not), therefore easy for an older child or certainly a teenager to deal with all by themselves.  Who needs Mum? Who needs anyone?

Research seems to have proved that the more family meals eaten together, the less likely a child was to be anxious and lonely and skip classes at school or get into fights.  Those who regularly had family meals felt happier at home, had more energy, and more trusting and helpful.
Previous research discovered that teenagers who eat alone are more likely to be overweight (comfort eating??) than those who regularly sit down and eat with their parents. 
The more frequently a family ate together, the more emotionally stable the children were.

Your comment jane, brought the above to mind with grandson Daniel eating his favourite food in front of TV.  Not a problem, we all do this, but you are in the perfect place to wean him away from the cheaper canned products and make something similar yourself.  Blitzing minced meat (with onions etc) in a food processor will bring the meat to canned-meatball texture (this is what the children enjoy), and when cooked in a good tomato sauce (bottled pasta sauce?) in the oven (after an initial frying) these meat balls can be frozen-in-sauce in individual quantities to defrost and heat up when required.  First steps to eating better quality meatballs.

Common sense tells me that the rather dreadful canned meatballs and hot dogs still are 'fit to eat'. Just because these are made from 'reclaimed/retrieved' meats doesn't mean they are lacking in nutrition.  It's just that the bits of 'meat' used would not be of the quality we are used to.  How many of us would want to eat hearts, brains, lungs, even other unmentionable parts (we can now included horsemeat), when each is served as a dish in its own right?  Yet some or all of these could all be used when making cheaper sausages, burgers, meat pies. When minced up into a 'slurry', all meats become 'anonymous'.  As long as the end product - made with these - tastes good enough to be edible, then we eat it. The food value is still there, the quality is not.

Yesterday tried to do something interesting with meatballs in tomato sauce.  First removed a few meat balls and tossed them in some plain flour (could have tossed them in dry instant potato or dried milk, crushed crisps, crushed cornflakes, crushed savoury biscuit - anything to give a coating). Fried these in a very little oil in a frying pan, continually shaking the pan so the balls rolled around until crisp all over.  Removed from the pan and cooled for a minute, they were far more 'tasty' than when left as-is.  Certainly had a lovely crunchy texture to the surface, so would be good served with (say) mashed potato and vegetables. 
Unfortunately sampled a spoonful of the sauce the meatballs had been canned in.  This had a very definite 'fishy' taste, which concerned me.  This flavour was more pronounced when the meat balls were heated in the sauce.
A few meat balls were squashed together with a fork to make one 'burger, this coated in flour fried in the pan for a couple of minutes, turned and then fried the other side.  Just another way to serve.
I finally mashed the remaining meatballs into the sauce to make a 'spag.bol (type) meat sauce' that could be served with pasta.

Canned minced meat is useful, canned corned beef, ham, chicken, luncheon meat - all useful. Canned meat balls and hot dogs.  Just don't even go there.  Or am I just setting my sights too high?  If people buy them, they must enjoy eating them.  Or is it that they've never had the chance to eat anything better?   Let's at least give children a chance to find out what good home-cooking really tastes like/

A welcome Ivy (or is it welcome back?).  Have not yet made Paul H's scones using strong plain flour, other things got in the way yesterday.  Hope to make scones today and will let you know how they turn out (compared to the Delia Smith one I normally use).

Have checked the pack of Morrison's instant potato TravellingNinjas, and no mention of gluten under 'allergy advice' ('only contains milk and mustard' shown there).  So presumably gluten-free.
Smash do some flavoured 'instant', but only in small packs.  The larger tubs of Smash are always 'plain'.

Further to yesterday's comment about cheese.  We too have several different cheeses in our fridge, nearly all are regularly eaten.  B's favourites are mature Cheddar and Red Leicester, occasionally Stilton.  Myself prefer Red Leicester, Wensleydale, Double Gloucester, and Lancashire.   All (but Stilton) are what I call 'hard cheeses', so when coming to the end of the packs will grate the lot together to store in the freezer to use for quiches, cheese sauce, and even piled on toast to pop under the grill.   I also like to sprinkle a handful of cheese over a bowl of salad that has been moistened with French dressing or diluted mayo.  When tossed together the cheese sticks to everything so each mouthful has a lot more flavour than just 'salad leaves'.

Other cheeses that have fairly regular appearances in our fridge are Parmesan (bought in a block to grate as needed), Halloumi (has a very long shelf life), Feta cheese, and cream cheeses (Philadelphia or own-brand).  Other types bought when needed to make a savoury or dessert.

Noticed this week that Lidl are having an 'Italian' week, and they have a couple of Italian cheeses that I've often sought but never found, so might get B to buy some to store it in the freezer.  Maybe don't really NEED them, but as many Italian recipes use these, really should try them just to see if there is a noticable difference in flavour - for 'research purposes' you understand.  If you believe that you'll believe anything.  No - it really is for the need 'to try' just so that I can report back to you.

A welcome (or welcome back) to Ali.  Liked the sound of your meal made with sausages, shallots, garlic, cheese sauce etc.  So many 'oddments' of food can be thrown together and make numerous dishes.  We should all try doing this more often.

Was astonished at the price of those cupcakes in the US Pam. This could - of course - be relative to earnings.  Maybe wages/salaries in the US are higher than they are here, or other things sold such as petrol (gasoline in the US), cheaper than here in the UK. Your chicken breasts certainly are much cheaper (in Missouri) than over here.   The size given of the cupcakes are what I expected an average cupcake to be, but the price for these (in the US) would buy a whole, proper, cake here - like one 9" (20cm) across and 2" (5cm) deep.
Haven't heard from Lisa in Missouri recently, hope all things are well with her.

Sorry about the problems you are getting with the 'robotic entry' to my blog Sairy.  This isn't any of my doing, it was blogger who decided this was needed, presumably happening with all the blogs they 'publish'.  Left to me I'd get rid of it.
You too have heard about our gas supply running out.  Apparently we have only 36 hours of gas in reserve and if we don't cut down our use each day, we will be faced with rationing.  This means at least four hours a day with no gas for heating or cooking.  Not necessarily a problem unless happening at meal-times, but could be dangerous when pilot lights go out, or if an old gas fire was still in use that had no pilot light and needed matches to light it.  The fire would go out when the gas was cut off, but if the appliance itself was not turned off and forgotten about, when the gas was then turned back on, would then fill the room with gas and explode if a light switch was turned on, OR if someone was asleep on a sofa in the room, they could be suffocated by the gas.

Almost certainly, if the weather doesn't improve rapidly, and no signs of this happening at the moment, next week we will be asked to cut down on the gas we use, so will have to hunt out more quilts, jumpers, scarves, gloves....ready to keep ourselves warm.   Probably need to bring our electric heater into the room to take the chill off the air, and this will add to our electrical bill.  If - as is said - we will be paying 15% more for our gas this coming year, dread to think how those already having difficulty keeping warm will be able to manage, for so many are now having to choose between 'heat or eat'.

Yes, Granny G.  The nearly 2 hour 'shop' in Morrison's was certainly the longest I've ever been in a supermarket.  Usually (as I take a list) I can be in and out in less than half an hour.  But even though in M's for that length of time, their 'scooter basket' (and its a big one) was only half full.  I can easily fill it to the top in half an hour keeping to my list (plus other things that have tempted me).  The recent trip was (again) 'for research purposes', and had much enjoyment just 'window shopping' rather than 'hunter gathering'.

Although I got up reasonably early this morning, decided had not quite enough time to write the normal length blog, so decided to wash a load of laundry so that it would be out of the machine in time for me to place close to radiators to begin drying before I 'blogged' (radiators still having nearly an hour before they switched off).  Then began preparing veggies (celery, carrots, onions, parsnips, potatoes) ready to add to chicken stock to make a big pot of soup (for lunch or supper or both). 

When Gill phoned she said a lot of snow had fallen where she lived (in Leicester), and snow was still falling as she spoke.  With high winds a lot of snow and drifted and this made driving very difficult. She was not intending to leave home until much of the snow had been cleared from the roads.  Lucky for Gill she had a small parade of shops (fish and chips, groceries and 'greens', post office etc), less than a hundred yards away from where she lived, and that she could manage.

Next week have to call in at the medical centre to book appointments with the nurse (who takes my blood for checking) and the diabetic nurse (a week later) who then will have the results of the test.  Whilst there will also book an appointment to see my doctor (probably have to wait several weeks for that too), as this morning woke to yet another facial swelling that began on the bottom corner of my right lip, spread to the cheek, and is now spreading across my lower lip to the other side and cheek.  Not as bad as the previous attack (that being one of the worst yet), but as photos were taken of that, can now take these with me to show the doctor in the hope that the cause will able to be (eventually) discovered.  Have had these attacks with extreme regularity for the last six years now, they started when I came out of hospital and was put on six different drugs, and have a feeling it might be the drugs that fight each other. 

If it is something I eat that does it (or one of the things - it could be several) then perhaps it was some additives in the canned meatballs that I've been eating the past couple of days. It is said that these 'additives' can build up in our bodies and although they don't normally cause any problem, after several years, when our bodies have stored enough then they can backfire and make themselves know, and keep on doing so.  Our bodies try to fight them off (the facial swelling and 'hives' being a sign of this) and maybe calm down thing for a while, but if we keep eating them, then the same thing keeps happening.  The only way to find out is to have tests, and more tests I suppose.

Because of a late start and it is almost noon, will now take my leave and wave a farewell for today in the hope that you all manage to cope with the weather that Nature is throwing at us (well most of us, here in Morecambe we are the most fortunate, and always seem to be although we didn't get the drought last year when we really could have done with it.  Win some, lose some I suppose). 

Thanks to all for the comments, I don't normally get so many at the weekend, and seeing so many really cheered me up.  Keep 'em coming!   Hope you can find time to join me again tomorrow.  TTFN.