Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Have asked my grandson if he can find time to come over and sort out our comp.  Yesterday it drove me mad as it took nearly 2 hours to do something that should normally have taken me only a couple of minutes.
Either the comp has reached the end of its life, or has a virus that slipped past the Antivirus security. Almost everything I do - especially moving from one page to another - seems now to cause the comp to 'freeze' and the little hourglass pops up on the screen.   This morning, after the comp had been switched on (I leave it on standby as this helps a bit), I timed how long it took between 'movements', to reach this page.  Once I'd got the broadband connection, after clicking the blogger icon, it then took 90 seconds to reach the 'sign-in page', then another 60 seconds to reach this page, but then a further 100 secs before the 'loading' was finished and I could start writing.

Then, when I begin typing, after a few lines the comp again 'freezes' and what I type does not appear on the screen, although I have found if I continue typing, the missing words suddenly will appear, all at once, but if I have made mistakes (easily done when we can't see what we're writing), the comp then 'freezes' again each time I go back to correct them.

But enough about my problems. Perhaps better if I keep thinking outside my personal box and remember what is happening to others around our world, putting things into perspective.  In a way just thinking that makes me grateful for what I have, not what I don't have., like "I'm lucky to have a computer anyway, and still able to write my blog".

Up late this morning due to having a good night's sleep (although full of frustration-packed dreams, which have to say is pretty normal these days).  At least my aches and pains are not so bad today, but not yet gone altogether.  My face is slowly subsiding, but yesterday evening both forearms itched like mad, and on one the redness (that began just below my thumb) has now reached almost to the elbow, but not as red as it was before, so hope the hives are also on their way out.

Thanks to those of you who sent comments re my allergy (Tessa, Granny G, Dottiebird...).  I do have some fish oil capsules Pam, so will try those and see if they do any good.  As several of you have said, it could be preservatives, or anything in foods that I could have always eaten, but now affect me.  Normally I would expect eating something that causes an allergy to react fairly rapidly (or at least within 24 hours), but having deliberately eaten what I thought might cause the problem, then finding nothing happened, then another time cutting out most foods but those home-made containing no preservatives (that normally cause no problem) then still get the allergy appearing 'on time', the only thing/s I've had continuously since the attacks began are the 'cocktail of pills' prescribed when I came out of hospital.  I have to take 6 a day, and am not including the anti-histamines as these were prescribedd after the attacks began. 
Speaking to our local pharmacist about this, it appears that two of my pills can cause an allergy reaction, so maybe the effect does build up in my body and the reason for this 'regularlity'. Will just have to see what the doc. says and hope that the real reason can be found.

An intersting thought that it might be oranges Sarina, as I have been eating one or two every day since Christmas, but as I don't eat orange during the summer and still have the allergy, it may be one of the causes, but not the only one.

Your query Mandy, re meat-free meals for your baby. As meat seems to be enjoyed and you wish to supply enough protein,  then maybe occasionally make a meal using fish (or chicken), perhaps alternating with more vegetarian based ones.
When a child (even at baby level) enjoys eating a traditional English 'roast' dinner, that is a very good start to get him/her to eat most or all vegetables for the rest of their lives (a lot of children brought up on 'take-aways' etc, often refuse to eat almost all vegetables because they've never been used to them), and suppose that when a child is growing so rapidly, they do need to eat regular protein.

When you wish to serve meat-free meals that include protein, you would get this using eggs.  Scrambled eggs should 'eat well' (maybe mixed with vegetables or fish), and certainly (soya) milk puddings (semolina or rice) can have an egg added.
Am not sure whether goat's cheese can be eaten by those who are 'lactose intolerant', and am hoping there will be readers of this blog who also have to cut out the lactose, and can give suggestions as to what can be eaten and what can't.  If you can help, then please write in.

It's surprising (or perhaps not) how many manufactured foods contain milk.  One of the most 'basics' being bread, the manufatured loaves on sale mostly contain some dried milk (but read the pack), so the obvious way to make sure bread is 'milk-free' is to bake our own from scratch, not using a bread mix as this probably also contains dried milk. 

Baby foods on sale are horrendously expensive for the small amount the jars hold, and I'm very thankful that 'in my day', all mothers used to make their own 'baby food' by pureeing/mashing a little of what the parents were eating.  Much the cheapest (and best) way.  The main thing to avoid is salt.  So for adults, add this at the table, and omit it from the baby's helping.
Even today mothers don't seem to want to bother with cooking a meal for slightly older children, even when they could be eating what the parents have chosen for themselves (on second thoughts perhaps not when you think that most parents also prefer to eat 'ready-mades'), so 'toddlers' meals are now appearing on supermarket shelves alongside the baby foods.  These are nothing more than a much a tiny adult meal, chopped into smaller pieces.  Sold at a price not much different to an adult sized portion.

Flicking through a cookbook dealing with 'dips and dippers', it crossed my mind that dips (both the creamy and the slightly 'coarser' ones) would also make good 'baby food' as being the right texture but hese would also help to introduce young children to the more unusual flavours.  It does seem that many children prefer savoury meals, and although most really love to eat anything sweet, best to avoid these whenever possible purely for health reasons.  If sweet it has to be, then preferably let the sweetness come from fresh (or dried fruits) rather than a dessert high in sugar.

Today am giving a few 'dip' recipes that children might enjoy.  Some have probably been given before on this blog (for adult eating), but worth repeating as newer readers will have missed seeing them, and with the warmer weather hopefully on our horizon (please let's hope so), dips make good eating when outdoors whatever age we are.

First dip is a classic, made with aubergines.  When making for young children we can omit spices if we wish, or just add a smidgin so that they become used to them, than add more later.
Am hoping that there is a soya version of yogurt, if not use just enough soya milk to keep the mixture to a thick puree.
baba ganoush: serves 2 adults
1 small aubergine (about 8 oz/225g)
5 fl oz (50g) yogurt
2 tsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp tahini
pinch ground cumin
few drops sesame oil (or olive oil)
Half the aubergine and place on an oven tray.  Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for about half an hour or until the flesh is very tender.  Leave to cool then peel away and discard the skin.  Put the aubergine flesh in a food processor with the remaining ingredients, and blend until smooth.  Cover and chill for 30 minutes before serving.

This next dip does have sour cream as one of the ingredients, but a soya yogurt (if obtainable) could be used instead, or use a little more mayo diluted with soya milk.  Hellman's do a VERY low fat mayo that really does taste good (I use this all the time).
avocado dip: serves 4
1 large avocado (approx 11oz/310g)
5 fl oz (150ml) sour cream (see above)
3 oz (75g) mayonnaise (see above)
2 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp (or to taste) Tabasco sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
handful fresh coriander (or other herb) leaves
1 tblsp lemon juice
Put all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blitz together until smooth.  Then spoon into a serving bowl.

This next dip uses no milk (of any kind), and the only thing to be careful of is salt that may be in the tomato paste, but as the recipe suggests using a no-added-salt tomato paste, am assuming this will be on sale in our supermarkets.  If any readers know a supermarket that sells this, then again a plea from me to let us know.  Always take care when adding spices when children are not used to them, start with a tiny pinch, then you can always add more another time.  Or - if you prefer - omit the spices and add a pinch of sugar (which offsets the acidity from the tomatoes).  If not using fresh ripe tomatoes, you can use canned plum tomatoes, the plum having a much richer flavour than the ready-chopped (we can always do the chopping ourselves!).
spicy tomato dip: serves four
4 large ripe beef tomatoes,  chopped finely
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp (or to taste) cajun seasoning
2 tsp (salt-free) tomato paste (see above)
Remove skins from tomatoes, then chop and put into a pan with the rest of the ingredients. Place over medium heat, and - stirring continuously - cook for about 15 minutes or until the onion has softened and the sauce has thickened. Leave to cool.  Eat as-is (slightly chunky) or blitz in a blender if you wish to make a smoother dip.

Last of the dip recipes for today is for another based on tomatoes, but this time a 'salsa' where the ingredients have deliberately been left 'chunky' to keep the colours separate, and have to say this does look very attractive.  However, the ingredients can be put into a food processor and pulsed down until they are as small or smooth as you wish. Best to omit the red chilli if making this dip for youngsters to eat, you can always add them after to the adults portions.
If wishing to keep this 'clean and chunky' then use fresh tomatoes you have chopped yourself. If intending to blitz it down to make it smoother, you could use canned tomatoes but make sure you drain these well before using.  From the picture in the recipe book their 'chopped' is what I would call 'diced' - in other words all ingredients are about the same size (cubed) about the same or slightly larger than a sweetcorn kernel.
tomato salsa: serves 6
1 lb (or more) tomatoes, finely chopped
1 small avocado, flesh finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped (opt)
1 - 2 tblsp coarsely chopped fresh coriander
1 x 130g can sweetcorn kernels, drained
1 tblsp lemon juice
Put everything into a serving bowl.  Serve with tortilla chips or what you will.

As so often happens when I'm hoping to give recipes to suit a query, an idea suddenly enters my head, and the one that has just 'popped up' is a substitute for the more normal yogurt or sour cream often used when making a dip.  This is used mainly to bind the other ingredients together, so possibly we could make 'something similar' to use instead.  I've already suggested using an alternative yogurt made with soya (if there is one), or perhaps we could mix a little gelatine into the soya milk so that when combined with the other ingredients it gives a slight 'set'. 
Yet, my mind keeps coming back to using something like cooked and cooled mashed potato or parsnip as a 'binder', and the dips that contain avocado, when mashed with a little soya milk, would then make as good a binder as yogurt.
Like many savoury recipes, as long as the end result is similar to what it should be, and tastes just as good, then it doesn't really matter how we achieve that end (as long as what we use is edible of course).

Am finishing with a neat little pudding (baked in teacups, or you can use individual pudding basins),  that was on the last page of that Woman's Own supplement.  For this I used the 'basic cake mix' (published a few days ago), but it's the standard 'use the same weight of flour, fat, sugar and eggs' (beaten together) so no real need to look up the recipe, just weigh out the amount you need.  The recipe below uses the 'basic mix' that is made from 4 oz of everything (2 eggs = 4 oz), but when wishng to make for just one person, then use just 1 oz/25g weight of each ingredient (am sure you can find a way to use up the remaining half an egg!). 
Because this is baked in small cups it cooks in far less time than when steamed in a full size pudding basin.  Am sure those proficient in using microwave ovens would find this would cook in a very few minutes. Serve with custard (made with soya flour if lactose intolerant).
Canary Pudding: serves 4
1 basic cake mix (see above)
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
glace cherries, chopped nuts (opt)
Make the sponge mix and stir in the lemon juice, zest.  Divide mixture between 4 well- greased tea or coffee cups. Cover each with greaseproof paper and secure with string.  Place in a steamer over boiling water and steam for 20 minutes.  Serve with custard.

The comp has been fairly kind to me this morning, only had about 10 freezes whilst writing today's blog, when normally it would be 50 or more.  Perhaps the comp too has 'feelings' and today it is a happy bunny. 
Myself feel am cheering up because of this, so think it's time for me to wend my way into the kitchen and hopefully manage to finish sorting out my stores to make more room for all the stuff that needs keeping together (baking tins etc that at the moment are here, there and everywhere). 

After a cloudy day yesterday (or at least it was when I looked) today is a good one with lots of blue sky and sunshine.  The larger trees are now showing buds, and several of the bushes in our garden that have never blossomed before, are now doing so.  Unfortunately most of these are close to the house and not visible from the windows unless I crane my neck.  This means I've got to go outside to take a proper look.  Oh dear, all that exercise!  Something I'm not used to, but common sense tells me it is time to stop sitting around and get up on my feet and keep moving.   Why I can't do this now puzzles me as many years ago I loved walking so much that I would walk all the way from town (Leicester) to the village where we lived and then continue walking to the next village before turning round to walk back home.  A good ten miles of walking, and that late at night and often in shoes not make for walking.  Now I can barely walk to the gate. 

Hope some readers might be able to help with some of the queries sent in, and am thanking you in advance (in the hope this spurs you on to write!!), for this blog is a 'sharing blog', not just all about me (which unfortunately it often seems to be....like boring, yawn, yawn!!), and the more we can all share our experiences the more chance readers will be able to empathise and hopefully gain a bit more knowledge, expertise, call it what you will, so that we can - together - discover ways to make the most of what little (money) we have, and end up with a more enjoyable and pleasant life.  
Until tomorrow - with the hope "I'll see you then".