Saturday, June 29, 2013

Just to be Different!

Despite my good intentions to try to have more of a 'pioneer' approach to my life, yesterday was miserably devoid of doing anything 'useful', although after my blog I did grate up the end of a white cabbage with carrots and red onion.  Mixed some extra low-fat mayo with some Tabasco Chipotle sauce, then folded the lot together, throwing in a handful of grated cheese for good measure.   Enough for several helpings, but ate it all during the day.   As it had no visible carbos, a little protein (cheese), it sort of fitted into my 'diet'.  Pleased to report I'm 2 lb lighter this morning, even though later in the day I ate Spam with cucumber and tomatoes, plus a bar of chocolate.  Forgot to mention I'd started the day eating 3 (or was it 5?) hardboiled eggs.  Nothing like protein to help you lose weight.

Yesterday also made a big pan of mixed vegetable soup (potatoes, onion, celery, carrot, parsnips) cooked in home-made chicken stock.  Enough for 3 good helpings, my intention was to have a bowlful myself for supper, but discovered that greedy B had eaten the lot.  Hence my rather unbalanced 'diet' I was forced (well, hardly forced) to eat later that evening.

I was doing so well cutting down the amount I eat, but now seem to want to gorge myself, and even after a filling meal, still want to eat more.  Food can be (I suppose) as addictive as alcohol and drugs, problem is with the latter two, we don't NEED these, but we do have to eat. 
So today is another 'try and keep self control of yourself Shirley' day.  Even if I can just cut down the amount I eat, and stop having something else AS WELL, that's a start.

The two British tennis players won their matches yesterday, so that was good.  I was so happy about it I got up and got myself something more to eat!!  So it can't be comfort eating that is happening to me.  Just the love of food I suppose.  

Anyway, the clothes I'd ordered (over the phone) that were expected to arrive at the end of next week, were delivered yesterday.  And I didn't even pay for express delivery. How good is that?  Naturally everything ordered was in the 'summer sale' brochure, several very much reduced in price, so was pleased I'd held back to wait for the sales before I ordered as some things I wanted were higher price in the normal catalogue had I sent for them earlier.  Now all I need is to lose a stone to get into a couple of things that do fit, but a might too tight at the moment. This is the incentive I need.
Even so, I'm now wearing 5 sizes smaller than when I first moved to Morecambe, and that's without taking much (or any) exercise.  So weight can still be lost - even when old - when the right foods are eaten (in my case cutting out carbs and eating plenty of protein, with - of course - plenty of fruit and veg - and just two meals a day!!!).

Didn't do any gardening yesterday as the weather was still 'unpleasant', but hope to do some today. Not sure why (maybe high winds?) but see this morning - through the window in front of my desk - the lawn is covered in dead leaves.  Not sure where these have come from, unless the big apple tree, but that looks healthy enough.   It was covered in blossom this spring, but so far cannot see any tiny apples, so must go and take a closer look.  We have had no 'June drop' of fruit, but maybe that will also be a month later like everything else.

Not sure what could be causing the small holes in your plants Pam.  It sounds as though it could be small caterpillars, but these usually munch in fairly straight lines.  Perhaps it is a type of aphid that is doing the nibbling.  Take a closer look and see if you can find any tiny creature, these would probably be under the leaves or on the stems.

Fireworks are normally banned here in domestic gardens although I believe allowed when celebrating something (usually have to ask for permission from the police or somewhere).  This is because normally we used to have fireworks only on Guy Fawkes Night (aka Bonfire Night - Nov. 5th).  I remember how young children used to make a 'Guy' from old clothes stuffed with rags or straw and sit with it on the pavement singing out 'Please to remember the 5th of November, Gunpowder, Treason and Plot", then ask for 'Penny for the Guy' from passersby.   Like carol singers, we now see them no more.

Our rapidly increasing Asian community always seems to set off fireworks - usually late at night - to celebrate family, national, and even religious occasions, and what's the betting they never ask for permission to do so.  In Leeds, where we had many Asian residents (Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims - all hating each other but living in the same area as we did), we were regularly frightened to death hearing unexpected and very loud explosions when they had their late-night parties.  Sometimes starting at 1.00am in the morning!   I wouldn't have minded so much if they let off the pretty fireworks, but many today are just very loud bangs, that not only scare elderly folk (I was getting pretty old in those days), but also dogs and cats and other pets.

Thankfully, in Morecambe, have heard only one firework display 'out of season',  and as we live in a cul-de-sac, there is less chance of young lads throwing 'bangers' in the streets before Nov. 5th as so often happens elsewhere.

With Margie mentioning Canada Day on July 1st, and the US having it's own celebration on July 4th, am thinking that people who live close to the border will be able to drive over to celebrate both. 
We don't have a 'national day' to celebrate in the UK, just Bank Holidays at Christmas, Easter, and in the Spring and Autumn.  We don't even have a national costume which I think is a great pity as most European (and other countries around the world) seem to have them.  The nearest we get is the costume worn by the Yeoman of the Guard (aka 'Beefeaters') at the Tower of London.  Or perhaps the scarlet uniform worn by the Chelsea Pensioners.  The only other 'traditional clothing'' that comes to mind is that of the Morris Dancers.  At least Wales has it's own traditional dress, and Scotland does have it's tartan, kilt, and sporran.  Ireland too has a type of plaid and kilt.

Interesting to hear about Whitstable Taaleedee.  The only thing that I knew about that place was its famous oysters, this being one shell-fish I could never bring myself to eat. I mean, surely these are slid down the throat (and sometimes chewed) whilst they are still alive?
Am not very well up on what's in Kent (other than oast-houses and fields full of fruit trees...), but believe Canterbury is there and I have visited that city and its cathedral.  Maybe Tunbridge Wells is also in that neck of the woods, and that I only know about hat town because of the 'Tunbridge Ware' (wooden marquetry 'treen'.

You've definitely got the right idea Kathryn with your 'skills-swapping'.  Generally, when we do this, everyone wins as it would cost each person more if they had to pay for what they wanted instead of 'swap'.  We should all try to do more of this. 

Well done Janet for teaching your daughter to bake.  Those Chocolate Fudge Brownies sounded lovely. 
I agree that using metal tins rather than a ceramic baking dish works better, and always wonder why a quiche is so often baked in a china quiche dish instead of a metal flan tin.  The only way to avoid having a soggy bottom is to first bake the pastry case 'blind', and my belief this is best done in a metal tin.

We used to collect all our old copper coins (halfpennies, pennies, and the decimal twopence piece) and uses these for 'betting' when the family played card games etc.  I still have a large metal cashbox full of these and now use them as 'weights' in the lined pastry case when baking blind.  The metal coins get very hot so help to cook the base of the case almost as crisp as the sides.  These seem to work better than the dried beans that I used previously (I still have these to use when I'm bulk blind-baking).

Before I give today's recipe, I'd like to repeat a request of mine (no-body replied the first time round) - aimed mainly at readers in the US.  What type of frosting (UK 'icing') is used to top the ubiquitous cupcakes in America?  Here we would normally use butter icing but far less amount than the huge pile of frosting seen on the US cupcakes otherwise we'd end up feeling sick.  The US frosting often looks very light and almost 'foamy', yet seems to be able to sit for a while, even travel, without collapsing. 
I'd like to have a go at making cupcakes the American way.  So please give me some advice on how to.  PLEASE!

Recipe today is for biscuits (I believe named after one of our queen consorts). Similar to shortbread, these can be eaten plain, iced, or sandwiched together with jam or other chosen filling. 
Because custard powder is one of the ingredients, sandwiching two together with butter cream would turn these biscuits into 'Custard Creams'.

Custard powder is basically flavoured cornflour, so cornflour could be used with the addition of some vanilla extra, and by the same token, if cornflour is used in another cake/biscuit recipe, you could instead use custard powder.
Might as well also mention that by adding cocoa powder to custard powder, when made up this will then turn the custard into a 'chocolate blancmange'.  My children used to love eating 'jelly and blancmange' but today never see this combination mentioned in cookery mags.  Jelly yes, blancmange no.

Alexandra Biscuits: makes 16
2 oz (50g) custard powder
2 oz (50g) self-raising flour
1 oz (25g) caster sugar
2 oz (50g) margarine
1 egg, beaten
Sift together the custard and the flour, stir in the sugar and rub in the margarine.  Fold in the egg then mix to a firm dough.  Turn out onto a lightly floured board and roll out thinly.  Cui into biscuits using a scone cutter (or cut into any shape you wish), then place onto greased baking sheets and bake at 160C, 325F, gas 3 for 10 minutes until golden.  Leave to cool on tin/s before removing to a cake airer.  Store in an airtight tin.   If wishing to sandwich together, best do this on the day of serving.

A couple of days ago mentioned that I was making a big batch of Spag Bol meat sauce, freezing the surplus.  As B was eating supper at our daughter's house, he ate his portion the following day, with some pasta penne.  When he came back into the living room he said it was REALLY good, very tasty.
He said the same once before when I'd made it much the same way so think I'll carry on cooking it this way from now on.  Previouly had included a 'sofrito' of finely chopped onion, celery and carrot, adding this to the fried mince along with a can of chopped tomatoes, a dash of W. sauce, and also HP sauce, but my 'new' way is to fry plenty of chopped onion for a few minutes, then stir in the minced beef (approx 1lb).  When that has browned I stir in a heaped teaspoon of Bisto Best Beef Stock granules, plus some water (this really gives the meat a rich 'beefy' flavour, then add a carton of tomato Passata (NOT canned toms), let it simmer for as long as it takes for the meat to become tender (maybe adding a bit of water to prevent it drying up too much), THEN I stir in a pack of Batchelor's Bolognese Beanfeast, plus extra water, and when it comes to the boil, simmer for 15 minutes.  Finally I add a good dash of Worcestershire sauce, also HP sauce, and seasoning to taste.

Because of the 'Beanfeast' (and extra water) the above makes a huge panful (I make mine in a big deep frying pan, placing a lid over and simmering it slowly), enough for at least 8 portions (well, NORMAL helpings, B can eat two all by himself).   If I wanted to extend it further I could have thrown in a good handful of porridge oats early on as these would absorb the meaty flavour and cook down enough to be undetectable, but also help to thicken so extra liquid (water, meat stock or tomato juice) could be added.

On the front page of yesterday's paper was a warning (threat?) that we could be having electricity cuts next winter.  Having experienced these before (was it in the '70's?), problems come only if we don't plan ahead.  Cuts are not made over the whole country at the same time, each region (often just part of one city/town) has electricity cut off for 4 hours, and we were always warned when this would be. What we don't do is start cooking in an electric oven, or start doing the laundry in the washing machine when cuts are due.  Also don't open fridge and freezer doors during that time.

The worst thing that happens is that central heating won't work - even if gas-fired - due to all the timers and switches being worked by electricity.  So we have to boil up water to fill 'hotties' before the electric kettle stops working (tip:  fill up several thermos flasks with boiling water in advance, then at least we can make ourselves a hot drink, fill 'hotties' etc).  Gas hobs and gas fires lit with electric ignitions are not a problem providing we've made sure we have matches or gas-filled 'lighters' to light the gas.  Mind you, if the heating is off for only 4 hours, and we've managed to warm the rooms up before then, we're hardly likely to feel THAT cold.  But then I still cuddle a 'hottie' even during the summer, our living room never getting really warm unless the c.h. is on, and - because of costs - HAVE to switch it off during the 'warmer' months. Hopefully for at least 5 of them.
But - like B says - "why worry? It may never happen".  Me, I just like to 'be prepared'.

That's it for today as I have to buckle down and have yet another sort out of my freezer/s.  Need space to store some 'ready-mades' (not yet made but will be over the next few days), and also remind myself what I've already got (yes, have made a list -several - but always forget to cross things off when they have been taken out and used. One day I'll get myself organised).

One final thought.  After reading B.MacD's books with many mentions of 'canning foods' it does seem this is not how it sounds as all her 'canning' seems to be done in jars.  Here in the UK 'canning' is exactly that - food stored in cans/tins, and many years ago we could buy the equipment to do just this (but the filled cans then needed to be heated to a high temperature to prevent botulism and other horrors so hardly anyone kept up the practice. and we then moved to preserving food in Kilner jars).
What the US still call 'canning', we call 'bottling', yet was slightly horrified when I read that lots of what I considered 'unsafe' foods (at least in the book, if not now) were 'bottled' in rural areas.  Foods such as meat, chicken, fish etc.  Or is it that we are a bit too conservative and stick to bottling mainly fruit, veg, jams, marmalades and pickles?

Of course, in areas where they had no fridges or freezers, then canning/bottling was the only way to preserve foods in almost their 'natural' state (other than having a root cellar for root veg).  Nowadays we really don't need to bother with much more than just preserves/pickles as the freezer can comfortably store almost all of the rest. 
How technology has changed things, so easy for us now compared to the much harder life of those 'pioneering' ladies, although maybe in rural areas of the US/Canada some homes are still 50 years behind the times. Even now, although delighting in the life of ease given me by the washing machine, vaccum cleaner, fridges, freezer, and c/heating, I do sometimes wistfully wish I could go back to those 'good old days' (and there is no reason why I couldn't I suppose, just switch the power off).  But then thought can be far more pleasant than attempting the experience, and why I now prefer to do a lot more thinking and don't even bother puttig anything into practice.  I can live the way I want in my dreams.     Enjoy your day.  TTFN.