Friday, March 08, 2013

Larder Lovelies

Took a look at the Truro food bank site you mentioned Cheesepare.  Very interesting site, especially those recipes provided by local chefs.  But - and it is a big BUT - the recipes are no real use to foodbank 'customers' as they all contain ingredients that are not allocated, such as onions, garlic, eggs, oil...  The Morecambe Foodbank has asked me to give recipes that use ONLY food that is allocated.  How much harder it is to do that.
On the other hand, it could be that some of the customers still have a little money to spare, enough to buy an onion or half a dozen eggs, so all cheap and easy recipes are then welcome.  It's something I'll be discussing with the organisers when I meet them next week.

Pleased that my recipe suggestions for 'flans' was useful Chris, so you were able to make something different using your broccoli and mushrooms.  Not sure what you meant by 'not a robot', obviously you are not.

Expect all foodbanks are run on similar lines Janet.  Some churches just supply hot meals each day, mainly for the homeless - these meals using supermarkets offerings of 'fresh foods' (that have come to their 'use-by' date').  The Foodbanks - I've been told - have to supply only canned and packaged foods that still have a good shelf-life (and not allowed to give out any canned product past its when we/they all know canned food keeps almost for ever.  But these can be given to other organisations be used for the 'daily meals'.
The venue (store-room) for the Morecambe branch is an old Methodist church that is no longer used for services, but believe used for meetings as they have just had the kitchen updated and have a small area close by with a service bar so vistors (volunteers and 'customers' et al) can have a cup of tea and something (like cake or biscuits) to eat.

On the programme about America's poverty children Pam there was something said about enemployment reaching over 41 million in the US.  Possibly that is not a lot when you consider the size of the USA.  As with over here in the UK, the US have much the same organzations to help those in difficulties, and we did have a similar TV prog about the British 'breadliners' having to use foodbanks etc. The programme producers just seem to pick out the families or single parents or old folk with a life-style that pulls at our heartstrings. So we tend to feel everyone has such hardship, when many are not nearly as badly off (still 'dirt poor' but seem to cope better).
The one thing that might be different between our countries is with health problems.  One lady in the US programme had to go to a medical centre to have some stitches put into a cut, and because she had had to leave her home and most of her belongings had disappeared or mislaid, she couldn't find her medical insurance, and even though she had been paying it, the hospital said she had to pay for her care - this was really worrying for her.

Over here all citizens have free medical treatment (including asylum seekers and anyone from abroad who shouldn't be here), but there are charges for prescriptions (free for pensioners), and we have to pay for at least some dental treatment.  Eye tests are free but we have to pay for specs (sometimes not the lenses, but only the frames).  Possibly there is help towards paying for these if unable to afford these, I'm not sure.

Our view of America is that it is very much a 'fast-food' place, and so perhaps recent generations (as over here) are more likely to eat out - especially as the US has such wonderful diners where the food seems remarkably cheap for the amount served - so less need to learn how to cook a meal from scratch. 
When we visited my cousin who lived in New Jersey, knowing her to be a wonderful 'home-cook; was very surprised to see her have packs of ready-mix pancake batter for those US breakfast pancakes, as well as other 'readies' in her freezer.  Admittedly she went out to work, so her time was short, but she said "almost everyone over here buys things ready to make, or partly made, hardly anyone cooks from scratch anymore, so I tend to 'go with the flow".

Our daughter took us to a large supermarket in Kingston N.Y., and I was amazed at the HUGE amount of fresh fruit and vegetable on sale, not just a couple of varieties of things like apples, potatoes, and tomatoes etc, but at least six or seven, often more. Yet no-one seemed to be interested in these, we seemed to be the only ones buying 'the fresh'.  There were fresh lobsters in tanks that could be bought.  Almost sure there was beaver (or was it bison?) in the chilled meat section (and what a gorgeous meat selection there was too).  The cheese on sale was mainly American cheese or their 'versions' of English cheese, nothing like our cheese (I was able to taste samples), and their bacon was mainly long strips of fat with what looked like thin lines of pink stencilled in with a crayon. 
The 'dry goods' aisles were eye-opening - and full of people buying.  Surprisingly, not quite as many different varieties of biscuits (US 'cookies') on display than we have here, and somewhat different (like Oreo's, these we now do have and I don't care for them - what want's a black biscuit?).  But so many different varieties of of things like Betty Crocker Cake mixes, and other similar mixes, frostings etc. . 
Bread in America too is different to ours (at least it was then), their 'white sliced' being much sweeter than ours, and only their sourdough tasted like British bread.  All the eggs on sale were white - here in the UK ours are all brown for no reason other than that we are supposed to believe that brown eggs taste better than white (which they don't - they taste the same).  Truth is that Warren hens (bred for egg production because they lay more eggs a year than any other breed, therefor more profitable) always lay brown eggs. So brown eggs we have to have.

Don't know whether it has changed, but one noticeable difference between the US and the UK was the bottled drinks.  It didn't matter if it was lemonade, or cherryade, or any other fruit 'ade', all the drinks were uncoloured, looking like water.  Here our drinks are always coloured according to the flavour.  Pink for raspberry, deep purple for blackcurrant.  Only lemonade is colourless (although there are some 'real' lemonades that are slightly yellowish and more opaque. 

Remember at that time (almost 20 years ago) the 'Dr Pepper' drink was the most popular for youngsters.  We hadn't heard of it, but see now it has appeared on supermarket shelves in the UK.  Many changes have happened since our visit to the US.  We are eating more like America as each year goes by due mainly to imported American products and pizza parlours and 'burger bars'.  We are even getting Mexican restaurants.
However, there is great concern at the moment over here because a McDonald's has been allowed to open in the vicinity of several schools.  Student's always seem to prefer spend their dinner money eating burgers and chips than the healthy school meals that are now provided. and a Big Mac does nothing to help the juvenile obesity problem we are having today.  How can we stop kids eating burgers et all when they able to be bought virtually on their own (school) doorstep?

Having had my moan about life now and how it could be so much better if people went back to the old ways of cooking from scratch, I'm now about to give recipes that do use ingredients that we have bought and stored in the larder or freezer.  Does that make me a gigantic hypocrite?  Do hope not, for all of use use SOME ready prepared ingredients.  Come to think of it all foods that can be stored will all have been processed in some way.  How many of us grow our own wheat, grind it down and then use it for baking?.  Not one I should think.  So let's take advantage of the prepared-up-to-a-point but always do more cooking and less of the packet opening.

First recipe uses stored items, although the potato 'wedges' could be made at home (being similar to 'chunky' chips - a recipe to make our own is given below), but as frying chips from scratch is more costly (oil used) and less healthy than oven chips, in the Goode kitchen frozen oven chips are kept in the freezer.  So no reason why frozen potato wedges shouldn't be used.  The remaining ingredients are pretty standard in most (cook's) kitchens.
Tuna Melt Potato Wedges: serves 4
1 x 750g pkt frozen potato wedges
4 tblsp mayonnaise
1 small onions, very finely chopped, or grated
4 oz (100g) mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1 x 300g can tuna, drained
small bunch parsley, chopped
Put the potato wedges onto a large baking sheet, making sure they are in a single layer, and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix together the mayo, onion, cheese, tuna, and parsley, then - when the potatoes have had their 10 minutes - spoon the spuds into a large heatproof baking dish and spoon the tuna mixture over the top.  Replace in oven and cook for a further 12 - 15 minutes until bubbling and golden.  God served with a crispy green salad.

Here's a recipe for making our own 'potato wedges', this time given a spicy coating and to be served with a mustard 'dip'.  Note that this serves 8 , so if wishing to make plain potato wedges for the above recipe, omit the spice and dip.  Use Desiree or Rooster potatoes if you want to keep to the red-skinned, otherwise use a white spud such as Maris Piper.
Instead of curry or jerk seasoning, you could use Cajun or similar.
Spiced Potato Wedges: serves 8
1 lb 2oz (1 kg) red-skinned potatoes
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
1 tblsp mild curry powder or jerk seasoning
salt and pepper
for the dip:
1 tblsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp runny honey
5 tblsp mayonnaise
First make the dip by putting the mayo in a bowl, then drizzle over the mustard and honey, working it through with the end of a teaspoon to give a ripple effect.  Cover and put in the fridge to chill.
Cut each potato into 8 wedges, then cook in salted, boiling water for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put the butter and chosen spice into a large bowl, adding seasoning to taste.  Drain the potatoes thoroughly, then add to the spice mixture and give a good shake so the wedges are coated. 
Spread the wedges onto 2 baking sheets and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 - 25 minutes, giving them a turn once or twice during this time so they become evenly crisp and browned. 
Serve hot with the chilled dip.

Here is a recipe that makes use of goat's cheese, but you could, instead use another crumbly white cheese such as Lancashire, Wensleydale, but these possibly better grated before used for topping the tart.
The ingredients suggest this could be a savoury cheese 'quiche', but with the addition of sugar, lemons and (optional) fruit and using the cheese as 'topping', these turn it into a sweet dessert. 
If - as I do - you always keep a pack of shortcrust (and puff) in your freezer, almost certainly the other ingredients you will already have.  But of course, we can always make the pastry from scratch! (the only reason I don't is that I cannot make good pastry by hand however hard I try).
Lemon and Goat's Cheese Tart: serves 6
1 x 500g pack shortcrust pastry, thawed if frozen
4 eggs, beaten
zest and juice of 2 lemons
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
1 x 200ml tub creme fraiche
100g pack (4oz) rindless fresh goat's cheese, crumbled
blackberries or other fruits, to serve (optional)
Roll the pastry to fit an 8" (20cm) loose-bottomed flan tin (just over an inch (3 - 4cm) deep.  Chill for 30 minutes, then line with greaseproof or foil, and fill with baking beans (or whatever you use) and bake blind for 15 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 6.  Remove paper/beans and brush base with a little of the beaten egg, then return to oven and bake for a further 5 minutes.  Reduce oven heat to 150C, 300F, gas 2.
Put the lemon zest, juice and sugar into a bowl  and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Beat in the remaining eggs and the creme fraiche.  Put the cooked pastry case onto a baking sheet and pour in the lemon/egg mixture.  Sprinkle the crumbled cheese on top and bake for an hour (or a bit longer) until set (with a very slight wobble in the centre). Serve warm or cold, topped with fruit if you wish.

Next recipe is definitely 'store-cupboard' (apart from the carrots, but we all have these in our fridge or veggie basket.  Don't we?).  We could omit the icing, but again most of us should have the necessary 'makings'. 

When we use cream cheese for mixing with anything else, ALWAYS use it at room temperature, otherwise it is incredibly difficult to blend with a softer ingredient.   In fact, when blending together one or more things, these are much easier to fold together when they are the same consistency.  An example: when folding meringue and whipped cream together, make sure you don't overwhip the cream, or you will lose a lot of air from the meringue as you try to fold it evenly into the cream, or end up with lumps of either left in the mixture. When everything has the same density, they will fold together quickly and easily.
Carrot Cake Muffins: makes 10
9 oz (250g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb. of soda
half tsp salt
4 oz (100g) light soft brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 fl oz (175ml) milk
2 oz (50g) margarine, melted  (or sunflower oil)
8 oz (225g) carrots, finely grated
2 oz (50g) raisins
5 oz (150g) soft cheese
2 tsp icing sugar
zest of 1 orange
Sift together the flour, raising agents, and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar.
In another bowl, beat together the eggs, vanilla, milk,. and melted marg (or oil). Stir in the grated carrots and raisins.  Add these 'wet' ingredients to the dry ones and stir together until just combined. Don't overmix.
Spoon the mixture into 10 muffin cases (that have been already placed in a muffin tin), and the mixture should be enough to almost fill each paper case.  Bake for 18 - 20 minutes at 190C, 375F, gas 5 or until risen and firm.  Cool on a wire rack.
Make the topping by beating together the (room-temperature) soft cheese, icing sugar and orange zest.  Either serve separately to spread on muffins (these can be split in half and eaten like scones) or spread a little on top of each muffin before serving.

Final recipe today is more of a snack and (dare I even mention it) uses a bought tub of 'four cheese' sauce.  Goes without saying that we could make our own cheese sauce (and I give no apology for saying I make this using a sachet of cheese sauce, then would add extra cheese, or using Bisto cheese sauce granules, also adding extra cheese). 
Spring onions are not always part of my 'stores', but shallots are, and would substitute one of these for the 'scallions''.  Ham would almost certainly be in the fridge (or freezer) as I cook my own, and save all the scraps - and ham scraps could be used for this dish.  With grated cheese also stored in the freezer, this can be a quick dish to throw together.  Even a hungry teenager could make this without asking mum to provide.
Speedy Cheese and Onion Rarebit: serves 4
4 thick slices white bread (toasting bread)
350g tub (12 oz) four-cheese sauce (see above)
3 spring onions, sliced (see above)
ground black pepper to taste
4 oz (100g) slices ham, shredded (see above)
2 oz (50g) grated cheddar cheese (see above)
Toast the bread (might as well do this in a toaster).  Meanwhile mix the cheese sauce with the onion and pepper.   Transfer the toast to a grill rack and spread the ham over the top.  Spoon the cheese sauce mix over the ham, spreading it evenly with the back of a spoon, then sprinkle the grated cheese on top.  Place under a hot grill and cook until the cheese turns bubbly and golden brown.  Cut each slice diagonally to make two triangles, and serve whilst still hot. 

Today the repair man comes to fit the new thermostat/s into the washing machine, so with any luck it will be working normally from now on.   Most of the day I'll be spending in the kitchen anyway as have bread to bake and planning also to make several pots of marmalade, the mixed fruit jam and mango chutney now completed.  Will need to find shelf space to store all these. 

Almost decided to buy that 10-minute pie maker that Lidl had on offer this week, but B said there wasn't any space in the kitchen to store it.  Am sure I could have made space, and showed him where it could (possibly) go, and I said I'd really like one, but he thought the pies would be too small for him - he likes large pies - so he didn't bother to go and get me one (even though I was paying).  Just as well perhaps.  Did I really NEED it?  No, not really. But it would have been fun and use far less fuel that oven baked pies.  Who knows, maybe I'll be given one as a Mother's Day gift.  Will have to wait and see.

Cannot believe it is Friday again.  Am going to have to re-write my weight chart as I'd started off so well, and written up a target weight of 2 lb loss a week (easily done) and also the 'actual weight' (shown my my scales) that began as more than 2 lb a week loss..  Unfortunately, I've fallen by the wayside (due to two cakes given as gifts for B and visitor and I ate more than my fair share of each when I shouldn't have had any) so this led me to start eating more food again and my weight has gone UP not down.  I am ashamed to see the target weight now less than the actual weight when it should have been the other way round, so if I start off again with the weight I am now, set new targets and work down from that then maybe I can be a good girl and keep up the weight loss.  Really have to lose weight as have now only two months before my next weigh-in, with more than a stone to lose.  Why am I so weak when it comes to food?  Perhaps I should stop watching cookery programmes, and reading cookery books and mags.  And stop writing about food.  Even stop writing my blog?  At least sitting here writing keeps me away from the kitchen.  Maybe  I should go out more.

Enough 'rambling', will now get on with making marmalade, at least not inclined to taste that. Then fairly low cal soup for lunch and hopefully little else except similar for supper, then maybe one or two lbs lost by tomorrow.  Still a long way to go.

Weather has changed for the worse with fairly high winds.  No rain at present, but it seems to have turned cold again and spring seems to have deserted us for the moment.  Let us hope the weather is better in your area.  Enjoy your day and hope we'll be meeting up again tomorrow.  See you then.