Monday, June 24, 2013

Now and Then...

Now we have longer days,  I tend to rise earlier and instead of almost immediately starting to write my blog, have decided to watch a bit of Food Network while I drink my morning coffee and take my pills.
Today began a new series called 'Unwrapped' (shortly after 7.00am), and have to say this I am finding extremely interesting.  Two episodes were shown today (back to back) the first about eggs.  Had to smile when the presenter said that "brown eggs are just as nutritious as white" (this because mainly white eggs are sold in the US), whereas here we a nutritionist will tell us (because brown eggs are the ones normally on sale "white eggs are just as nutritious as brown".

There was a lovely bit about a lady in Texas who decorated blown eggs, usually the larger duck or turkey eggs, possibly even ostrich eggs.  She was able to buy the eggs already blown and had made some absolutely gorgeous effects, even carving eggs (with a dentist's drill) to give a lacy effect.  She had her own shop and her eggs sold from a few up to thousand's of dollars each.  She had even sold them to royalty (Saudi Arabian).

We saw how 'Egg McMuffins' originated, the idea taken over by McDonald's who gave them then name, the originator getting 33cents of each dollar when these are sold.

The second episode was to do with 'children's foods', and here I have to say was very surprised that children were given such sugary concoctions from a very early age.  US readers will be familiar with the Saf-T-Pops (a lollipop that had a looped handle that a very young child could hold easily).
Then we saw a cross between a milkshake and ice-cream called 'Blizzards', with a team of child 'testers' saying which of the new flavours they enjoyed the most. 

We saw the Archway ABC (sugar) Cookies being made.  The idea good "a cookie that was also a spelling aid", each pack guaranteed to contain ever letter of the alphabet. Myself feel that Alphabet Spaghetti would be more nutritious and just as educational.

Did feel that the Sunmaid Raisins WERE acceptable even though these still were fairly high in natural sugar.  At least I learnt something new: "raisins are 'shelf-stable' for almost eternity".  So no need to take much notice of any b.b.dates on the packs of dried fruits then (as if we do anyway).

Interesting history about Gerber foods.  The child on the label is still the original one, and we saw the lady today, now grown up, well into her 70's and still with some resemblance to the sketch of that baby on the bottle of baby foods (or can as it was originally, and now sold in tubs...).
The tragedy is that over 700 MILLION of the Gerber baby foods are sold EACH YEAR year.  Add to that the Heinz baby foods and those of other producers (this would bring it up to over 1,000 million - is that a trillion?) and considering almost every mother could VERY EASILY make the baby food herself (well we all had to up to about 50 years ago) how much extra money must come out of housekeeping to pay for all this 'convenience'.

A breakfast food, enjoy by US children for decades is the  Malt-O-Meal.  Think this was something like a wheat-based and malt-flavoured mix to make a type of porridge.   Even more interesting was hearing the presenter tell us that this cereal is often used instead of sand - in children's sandpits - as it is 'cleaner and healthier to play in'.  One wonders if the children also like to eat it when some gets into their mouths.  Quite possible, but considering that many children (some with maybe wet knickers!!) have been sitting in it, or have dirt on the soles of their feet (or even shoes), is it still THAT healthy a sand-substitute?

Am looking forward very much to watching more of this series (hopefully on tomorrow) to find out more 'unwrappings' of basic American foods. 

At the moment am reading an autobiography of an Italian cook, and he often gives the Italian name for certain foods/dishes.  In one chapter he was talking about foraging (during wartime) and he mentioned 'rucola - a wild rocket'.  In the US 'arugula' (I spell it as pronounced) has the look of rocket, although not as 'toothed' as the wild one, so perhaps they are using the Italian name, but with slightly difference pronunciation and spelling.  
Am sure I have a packet of Italian rocket seeds (bought a pack of 8 different veggie seeds, all Italian packing and wording, but on the back there are translations into other languages, English being one of them).  Will check today and see what the pack says.

One question for my Canadian readers (I know I have at least two).  Anna Olsen often mentions the use of 'Turbando Sugar' which seems very similar to the coarse brown 'granulated' sugar that we call 'demerara'.  Is it the same, or is 'turbando' more like crushed palm sugar?

This week really have to plan a menu for evening meals as am into 'gardening mode', and spent some time yesterday planting more seeds (mainly herbs, mixed salad leaves etc) so I will have young plants to pick in succession.   Also have seeds that can now be planted outdoors, some slightly late, but then the season is late so I expect they will catch up (hope so anyway).
My aim is for me to spend the first part of the morning preparing the evening meal (and maybe part prep meals for later in the week),  nearer noon then move into the garden/greenhouse to finish potting up the plants and hopefully sowing seeds.  Into the kitchen again to do more culinary work, then back into the garden for another hour, before returning to cook/serve supper.  
If there is nothing worth watching on TV and the weather is still fair, may then go outside and check my plants, do watering if necessary, and then return happily indoors feeling that for once I've almost earned the right to live.

We are due to have fairly good weather for at least the first part of this week, Wednesday being a bit iffy, and then improving again, although frost in rural areas is a possibility, but 'townies' need not be concerned as bricks and mortar and fences, hedges, trees etc, give protection and also give off warmth absorbed during the day, so frost won't be anything I'll be concerned about.  My toms I'll keep in the greenhouse until the really warm weather arrives (if it ever does).

Even though the sun is shining and blue sky can be seen (still plenty of fluffy white clouds though), the wind is still pretty strong, but said to decrease.  Hope it does as it keeps knocking some of the smaller plant pots over.  Perhaps I should arranged these along the outside base of the garage, still in full sun, but with far less chance of toppling over.   These can still be seen from the conservatory window, so will look attractive, and if we do have a barbie, easily moved to their 'proper' places surrounding a gravelled area (originally a pond that B emptied and filled in).

If I carry on 'chatting' much more, blogger will begin 'freezing' again, so will now reply to comments.
How fortunate you are Frugal Queen to have a butcher that sells lamb shanks and pork hocks for £1 each.  I've yet to find them (raw) for less than £3 each, although Tesco do sell packs of (2) frozen lamb shanks that are reheated from frozen (takes 10 mins) for £5.50 a pack.  Much cheaper than me buying them fresh and cooking them myself.  So think it's worth me shopping around to see if I can find a cheaper butcher.

Do remember the Suez crisis you mentioned Ciao.  Probably this did cause a petrol shortage and maybe petrol was rationed.  My B has always worked as a sales rep, because he wanted a job where he got a 'free car', even if it only paid a low wage (with commission on sales).  As B often travelled some distances, around that time certainly he stayed away from home during the week, so maybe he had to be close enough to visit various companies without having to travel so far each day, and the firm would provide him with enough petrol coupons to just allow this - and return home at the end of the week. 
Am not sure he did that well in sales (he only used to stay in a job for about 60 months, then he would be out of work for perhaps as long again, before starting a new 'sales' job).  He did have the chance of good office work, but preferred 'travelling around'.   He should have been a lorry driver!

How interesting Sairy, that a girl in America could be charged with rape.  Would have thought that was almost impossible, but in hindsight, perhaps not.   The kidnapping charge reminded me of that film 'Misery', where a man was saved from a car accident in deep snow, then tied to a bed (his leg being broken with a sledgehammer so he couldn't run away!!).  Was it Kathy Bates the lead actress? Or am I getting her mixed up with a comedy actress with a similar name here in the UK.  Anyway it was a good film.  One of Stephen King's I believe (he also wrote 'The Shining' which I also love to watch - again, and again, and again). 

Yesterday heard the name 'Claybourne', and it reminded me of another of the above Cathy's films....but could I remember the first name?  I spent AGES trying to think of it and ended up with 'Victoria Claybourne' but still it didn't feel right.  As I sat down at the keyboard this morning, the name 'Dolores Claybourne' popped into my head (for no reason whatsoever), and am sure that was the name of the film.  It is so strange how we KNOW things, but often can't get our brains to release these when we need them, but it always does later, usually out of the blue when we aren't asking for it.

A further comment from Christine, but this one directed to Taadeelee (or is it Taaleedee? I scribbled it down) requesting the recipe for her Toad in the Hole. 

Many  people don't care to eat meatballs.  Maybe this is because they've either eaten the canned 'balls', or bought the readymade-to-cook.  Have tried both myself (several brands) and found them completely different to home-made meat balls.  By 'different' I mean not nearly as good or tasty.

Myself like to blitz together the chosen minced meat together with the rest of the ingredients, until slightly closer texture, this makes them easier to eat once cooked (I hate gristly bits in meatballs). But more 'pulse' than blitz otherwise the mixture becomes more a puree (although perhaps better this way if making for small children).

Normally, the 'Goode' meatballs are made with beef, lamb, chicken, or turkey, but occasionally do use minced pork, and here is a recipe for these that I find easy to make and very tasty.  The smoked paprika I add because I enjoy the spicy smokiness and it makes the pork taste a bit like chorizo, but this can be omitted.
Again I tend to blitz/pulse the mixture, just because I do.  You make the balls any which way you like.  If you prefer to make smaller ones, you end up with more and also they will take a little less time to cook through. As ever, you choose to cook any which way you like.

Pork and Pepper Meatballs: serves 4
1 lb (450g) pork mince
1 apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 slice white bread, crumbed
salt and pepper to taste
1 - 2 tsp smoked paprika (opt)
2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
3 roasted red peppers (from a jar) chopped
9 oz (250g) spaghetti, cooked read to serve
Put the pork into a bowl with the apple, garlic, breadcrumbs and seasoning (with or without the paprika).  Mix until well combined, then form into 16 balls, cover and leave to chill.  Resting the mixture helps the meat it absorb the flavour of the other ingredients.
Heat half the oil in a saucepan.  Fry the onion for a couple or so minutes, then add the tomatoes and half a can of water.  Stir in the peppers with seasoning to taste, then bring to the boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
If you put the pasta on to cook now, it will be ready about the same time as the finished meal.  Once the pasta has begun boiling, heat remaing oil in a frying pan and fry the meatballs for 10 minutes, continually shaking the pan so the meatballs are browned all over, then - when the sauce is ready - blitz that in a food processor or blender (or use a stick blender) and pour over the meat balls. Continue simmering for a further 5 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through. 
Drain the pasta, and divide between serving plates, top each with meatballs and spoon the sauce over.  

As I only buy tofu when wishing to try out a new recipe, am not sure how the price compares to that of meat.  But even if almost as expensive, tofu can make a good vegetarian substitute for meat as soya (tofu is made from soya beans) it is a 'complete' protein in it's own right. 
Here is a recipe to make 'Scotch Eggs' without using meat, and myself think almost an improvement.  Just remember not to boil the eggs too long as they will continue cooking as they fry.  The recipe says 'boil for 3 minutes', and if left to cool in cold water the whites will firm up enough to make them easy to shell.  Really fresh eggs are almost impossible to shell easily without breaking into the whites, so use slightly older eggs.
Even though this is basically a 'vegetarian' recipe, we can of course use ordinary cheese, and plain flour instead of rice flour.

'Panko' (Japanese dry breadcrumbs) seem always to be used in American cookery shows, and now appear regularly in the UK recipe mags. although I've yet to see any on sale.  Any UK readers know which supermarkets sell them?
Apparently these are much the same as the dried breadcrumbs we can make ourselves at home, and as the recipe does suggest we could use any fine dry white breadcrumbs (that we can make ourself), do we really need panko?  Maybe not, but I'd like to try them even if only once (they are bound to be more expensive than 'ordinary' breadcrmbs).

Herby 'Scotch' Eggs:  serves 2
4 eggs
salt and pepper
3 oz (75g) panko crumbs (see above)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped curly parsley
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan (or veg Parm...)
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon mustard powder
2 oz (50g) rice flour
5 oz (150g) silken tofu
Put the eggs into a small pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and boil for 3 miinutes, then remove from heat and cool under cold running water.  Carefully shell the eggs.  Put a little salt and pepper into a shallow dish and roll the eggs in this so they are slightly seasoned all over.
Put the breadcrumbs into a bowl with the herbs, cheese, lemon zest, half the mustard powder, and a little salt and pepper.   In another shallow dish mix together the rice flour and the remaining mustard powder.   Blend the tofu mixture until smooth, then pour this into another bowl.
Take the eggs and first roll them in the rice flour, then in the tofu, and finally in the breadcrumb mix, carefully patting the crumbs on securely.  Chill until ready to cook.
Fry the eggs for about 2 minutes in hot oil (180C) in a deep fryer or pan. Remove when the coating is nut brown and crisp, then drain on kitchen paper.   Good served with watercress,potato salad, and a good dollop of piccalilli. 

That's it for today, B has requested I put together the ingredients ready so that he can cook himself a Chinese Stir-fry tonight, so that saves me a bit of time as most of these will be raw (although have to part-cook the carrots, sugarsnap peas, and baby sweetcorn as they are still too crunchy for B even when stir-fried).  Not sure yet whether to thaw out chicken or beef to go with the meal.  A B stir-fried prawns last time, and only the other day had chicken escalopes for his 'mains', probably beef would be best (he is not too fond of pork). 
Once I've got that sorted can put a load of washing into the machine, then take myself off outdoors to do some more gardening.   More clouds have appeared but still some blue sky and no rain.  Even the wind seems to have weakened.  Could be a lot worse.

Monday being my favourite day I feel quite cheery, let us hope you enjoy your start to the week as much as I always seem to do.  Even finding time to 'join hands' with me when reading today's blog, and (hopefully) sending a comment in response.  Then joining me again tomorrow, when I'll be back (if the comp allows!).  See you then.