Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Giving Thanks...

A welcome to Druidsgarden, who sent in a very 'worth reading' comment.  Just proves that those who do 'research' seem to interview the wrong people.  What we need to know are the real facts of today's life as give by Druids...  

Also a thank you to Alison for reminding us that in the 60's and 70's it was easier to budget as prices remained stable, and also the average family then did not expect to cosy up with central heating and duvets etc.  If we felt cold we wore an extra layer of clothing, and in those days it was REAL wool that kept us warm, not the synthetic man-made fibres of today that don't keep us nearly so warm. 

Despite all our modern 'conveniences' and easier way of life in this 21st century (when we can afford it), reading the many comments that come in from 'strapped for cash' readers, mostly all seem to be finding a certain amount of enjoyment (if you can call it that) from coping.  That great sense of achievement we gain that those who have money never are able to find any more.  Their loss. Our gain. 
I'm always saying to my Beloved "money doesn't bring us happiness" (or at least in my case it never has), but then B's reply is "having money means we can be unhappy in comfort".  He always wants more money, does that mean he will be more unhappy?  Myself find the less money I have the happier I am, but then having said that I've always 'managed to cope' even when I hadn't any, and that I put down to using skills taught me by my parents.  Skills that seem sadly lacking today.

Druidsgarden's mention of not having a holiday (abroad) for many years...well, have to say the same myself.  Only yesterday was looking at an ad for coach trips in the hope of just getting away from the house for a while.  If I had a car I'd probably drive around and explore the immediate countryside.   Think I was over 50 before I had my first holiday abroad (this to Tunisia as a companion to an older lady - Saga trip).  My best holidays have always been in the UK, but sadly these can now be more expensive than holidays abroad. 
The Superscrimpers prog. have given some cheap family holidays,  and one particularly good idea is to 'house-swap'.  Anyone who lives somewhere worth visiting (a city or county), can swap homes for a weekend (or a week etc), with someone who maybe lives in another interesting place.  Often people who live by the sea are only too happy to exchange homes so they can visit inland places.  We had friends who lived in Cornwall, very close to the sea, a lovely place to live, yet they came to stay in Yorkshire with us en route to the Lake District because it was 'so different'. 

With the above 'exchange' (and this can also be with someone from abroad), the accommodation is free, all that is needed is money for transport, food, and entry fees if visiting places that need payment. 

How I wish we lived in a larger house, then I could go back to doing Bed and Breakfast, or even the full Monty (plus evening meal) throw in some cookery demos/tuition, and B could take visitors out in his car sight-seeing.  Goes without saying my charges would be low (I'd enjoy the visitors and cooking which is almost payment enough).  But we have only one bedroom!   Suppose we could move to another place with two or three bedrooms.  Have to have a serious think about that.  House prices are VERY cheap here in Morecambe, don't know why, it is a lovely place to live (now I've come to terms with having to leave my lovely home in Leeds).

My routine has now changed slightly.  Instead of getting up, then after my morning cuppa and maybe breakfast, moving into here to write my blog.  I get up early (just before 6.00am) so that I can watch the Food Network (B still being in the land of Nod) as at that time there are several programmes about cakes (Cupcake Wars, followed by Planet Cake, followed by Amazing Wedding Cakes, followed by Anna Olsen's bakery course).  I'm now wanting to return to my first love: decorating cakes, and am getting some wonderful ideas after seeing the American and Australian creations.  However, my favourite prog is Anna O's, and I now sit there with my notebook and pen and write down most of the recipes she is demonstrating.  Today one was all about making cheesecakes.  Normally I make the 'English' version (unbaked), but will now try her New York Cheesecake (baked) and then later make her Key Lime Cheesecake.

The new kitchen/cook shop in Morecambe has loads of different shaped tins, cake-decorating materials etc, and I've already bought some cutters and more icing nozzles, even some 'edible glue'.  I'm now wanting some 'edible varnish' (to make the icing shiny), so hope the shop owner will be able to get some for me. 

Of course, there is no need to go to such extremes of decorating.  A lovely home-made cake should be able to stand on its own without the need of any trimmings, but when 'catering' for (say) B's social 'feasts', it's nice to be able to make things look a bit special.  Trick is - making things look as good as those on sale BUT make sure they still have the 'home-made' taste (which bought foods now never have). 

Am a very happy bunny this week as 'The Chef's Protege' (BBC2 6.30pm each weekday) this week has Michel Roux jnr as the 'mentor'. He is - to me - my favourite chef EVER, and I find his love of food and good cooking most inspiring.  The best present anyone could give me would be a day spent in the company of Michel R.  Not necessarily doing any actual cooking (but that would be good).  Just talking about food - and how to cook - with him, for hours on end.  My idea of heaven.

Am giving a recipe today that would probably make Michel Roux run in the opposite direction, for there's not a lot of 'hands-on' about this dish.  More like opening one can after another.  But then I'm a domestic cook at heart and only pull out all the stops when the occasion demands.
At one time Campbell's Condensed Soups seemed to disappear from the shelves, but now see that some flavours are back (wish the others were too as they were even more useful), and this recipe uses one of them. 
You could say this is a store-cupboard recipe if you allow that the chicken might come from the freezer (then thawed), the veggies from the fridge or veggie rack.  Heaven forbid we have to go out and  BUY anything to make this meal.  Although it serves 6, you could reduce the amount of chicken by half, use only half a can of the soup (freeze the rest?) reduce the other ingredients by a third, then it should serve four.

Chicken Chilli: serves 6
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 lb (450g) chicken, diced
4 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 can Campbell's Condensed Chicken Soup
6 fl oz (170ml) water
6 oz (170g) frozen sweetcorn
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 oz (50g) grated Cheddar cheese
Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Add the chicken, chilli powder, cumin, onion and green pepper and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through and the veggies are tender.
Add the soup, water, sweetcorn and beans, give a stir, bring to the boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When ready, spoon into 6 individual dishes, sprinkling the top of each with the cheese, then serve hot.

Several days ago (could be weeks, time seems to fly by so fast these days) I was chatting about a war-time recipe book published by 'Miller's British Baking Powder'.   The other day, watching 'Bitchin' Kitchen'  lard was mentioned as being 'clarified pork fat containing less saturated fats and other transfats than margarine...!'  Suppose this must be true or it wouldn't have been said. 
With this in mind am giving a war-time recipe that uses lard and, well, it sounds 'interesting'.  Maybe I'll give it a try.  As well as their 'British Baking Powder', Miller's also produced 'Miller's Golden Raising Powder' "which imparts a good colour and light texture to cakes, steamed puddings, scones, buns, tea-cakes, dumplings etc.."  Both are in this recipe so can only suppose that the 'raising powder' is bicarb (today not coloured), so suggest we use this or increase the baking powder.
No metric weight in those days but I've included these as younger readers probably have never used the 'imperials'.

Cheese Crisps:
8 oz (225g) plain flour
4 oz (100g) lard OR...
...2 oz (50g) lard and
...2 oz (50g) grated potato
3 oz (75g) grated cheese
1 tsp Miller's Golden Raising Powder (see above)
half teasp Miller's British Baking Powder
water to mix
2 oz (50g) grated cheese
2 tblsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper
Make the pastry then roll out into a rectangle and sprinkle with the grated cheese, parsley and salt and seasoning. Roll up into a Swiss Roll shape and cut into thin slices.  Bake in a hot oven on greased tins until crisp and brown. 15 - 20 mins.
Electric Temperature 425F Regulo No.6
Serve these crisps with:
Vegetable soup (to supply protein)
Raw vegetable salads
In place of bread with salad fillings etc.

How different life is today than it was in my youth. In some ways now so much easier with all the modern appliances (how I give thanks every time I use the washing machine). Yet in the 'old days' life seemed less stressful, there was less 'rush' (even though working hours were longer), and we all seemed to be happier.  Little things meant a lot.  Looking forward to something (like the first strawberries) was a real treat when it arrived, then we would start looking forward to something else, then something else....  Now we have almost everything any time we want it, we are plain bored with it all (and fresh food now doesn't taste nearly as good as it used to because all the flavour has been bred out of it. Shape is more important).

However hard life was in 'those days', because we knew no better, we survived and coped quite happily. Now we have so much more, contentment and happiness seems to have been lost.  We just want a bigger version of what we already have, and a year later, exchange it for something even 'better'. 

It's easy for me to live simply because my life started that way and for many years stayed much the same.  Even later, still being short of money, things didn't change much for me, so I find no problem in 'doing without' (what we never have we never miss).  This means that sometimes I may appear a bit critical when I read about, talk about people who are finding it hard to cope on 'a small amount' of money that others would think is a fortune.  But then nothing is easy when we don't know how to do it.   Stick my head under the bonnet of a car and I'd break it within seconds.  When I had my own car even had to ask B to check the oil level for me, and get someone to put the petrol in for me (although later had to learn how to do that myself).  Amazing that I was able to actually DRIVE the car.  All by myself.

Time for me to begin another day of 'what shall I do now?'  Need to have a bit of trial and error making cake decorations, and using sugar fondant is good as if things go wrong, can just scrunch it all up together and start again. 
Weather still cloudy, but dry for the moment.  Still cool, so have to snuggle up under one of my quilts when sitting in the living room.  Do wish it would get warmer.

Hope you all have a good day, and look forward to chatting to you again tomorrow.  See you then.