Monday, November 25, 2013

Sweet Treats

Heavy frost last night, I also went to bed early (well, 10.00pm - early for me) and although got up at 6.00am decided my warm bed called me back so spent another couple of hours snuggled up and warm - of course having lovely dreams.  One good thing about retiring and getting older and older is that we can stay in bed if we want to.  Nothing really to get up for.

I've asked B to put Norris on charge for me as this week - with high pressure over the country - the weather will be settled and dry, although it will remain very cold.  Don't mind the chill as long as I wrap up warm before I go out. 
Yesterday mentioned to B that the reason why I didn't want to come to live in Morecambe (wanted to stay in Leeds) is that I'd lose my hobby (bridge), my friends (too old now to visit), and my independence (having given up my car).  Said I hadn't been out of the house (apart from visits to the surgery and maybe a couple of trips to Morrison's, once to Barton Grange,  and once or twice on Norris down to the local shopping parade) this whole year.  Maybe I did go elsewhere, but nothing memorable. 
B said I'd only to ask if I wanted him to take me out, but I said that still meant I was dependent on him, I wanted my own space, maybe having a holiday (on my own - and haven't had a holiday for at least 15 years!!).   But that was yesterday, today is a new day, start of a new week, and I should be glad of what I have, not what I don't have.

Reading the paper yesterday (we have the Daily Mail six weekdays, and Sunday Express on Sunday) was disturbed to read about several families with 'fuel poverty'.  Yet, the first lady (four children and only one open fire to keep the house warm) and having to wear coats and jumpers etc indoors. She was unhappy that she would have to spend her money on blankets to keep the children warm, and not on Christmas presents. 
This reminded me that this was exactly like it was when we moved to our first house - in the depths of winter (and there was a lot more snow and ice in those days).  Our third child was born six weeks after we had moved in, and our first child was still not yet three!!
Each morning we woke to find fantastic fern-shaped ice patterns on the bedroom windows.  Yet this was something everyone seemed to have to cope with - there being no central heating in those days.  Having (old and shabby) blankets tucked in over sheets (with a quilt on top) seemed far more cosier than the duvets we all seem to have today (my feet always keep getting tangled in the cover).

Nowadays feel we have man-made fibres to blame.  In the cold weather we wore hand-knitted jumpers made from pure wool, and very warm these were.  Babies also wore woollen garments over their Chilprufe vests, how often do we see lovely knitted mittens and bootees worn these days?  Usually they are bought and not made of wool.

There is little point in comparing life then as it is now.  What we should all do (especially the younger generation) is to ask ourselves "how did people cope when they didn't have all the new technology,. central heating, kitchen appliances etc?".  Cope they undoubtedly did or we wouldn't be here now.

One thing I discovered (when the children were a bit older), was that during the long, cold winters (snow sometimes deep on the ground for six weeks or more), a good long walk in the afternoons really got the blood stirring in our veins and this quickly warmed us up.  Warming coats, gloves, scarves etc, before venturing outside (or nightwear when going to bed) really makes a difference.  However warm we then feel when we return, the house never seems as cold as it did when we left, as the inside temperature then was always higher than that outside, especially in the one room where there was a fire (banked down to smoulder rather than burn).  Those were the days, and I consider them often more enjoyable than today, however bleak things could appear, we never thought we were badly off.   Just normal, most people (in our income bracket) in the same boat.

Thanks for your comments.  Cannot believe jane that a store would charge £6.95p per child to meet Santa in his grotto.   Presumably that includes being given a gift.  Surely it is meeting Santa that is the thrill, gifts should not be expected (unless something very small like a painting book...).  Am pretty sure when our children were small, there was not charge for this.  Now, of course, everything is geared up to getting us to part with our money.

As you say Margie, it does seem that people today don't seem to eat as much as they used to.  Unless of course in America where it seems they eat even larger portions (watching a 101 'Chowdown countdown' prog. yesterday on the Food Network supported this, and I gave up watching before I saw the last 25 so goodness knows who was the best.).

I've managed to freeze away most of the 'returns', and have to say the Sticky Toffee Pudding was gorgeous (I ate the trimmings).  It is so rich that a little goes a long way, and probably works out at around 25p a portion (incl the sauce) which is not bad for what you get.  Far better than any we could buy ready-made - and how much would THEY cost?

Am trying to think of ideas for a filling for the large Swiss Roll you've made Barbara.  You didn't say if it was a plain sponge (vanilla), or a chocolate sponge.  If the latter I would suggest unrolling, then spreading it with the contents of a can of Black Cherry Pie Filling, covering this with thickly whipped double cream, then carefully re-rolling.   You could spread a thin layer of cream over the visible surface and then cover this with grated chocolate (sort of a rolled up version of Black Forest Gateau).
If a vanilla sponge, then perhaps first drizzling with a little lemon syrup, then spreading with a thick layer of lemon curd, followed by thick cream, then re-rolling.  Drizzle more syrup over, dust with icing sugar and a little grated lemon zest sprinkled on top.  Sort of a rolled up version of Lemon Drizzle Cake.

Chestnut puree blended into whipped cream is another suggestion for a 'roulade' filling.  Am hoping that readers will come up with other suggestions (my mind has - for the moment - gone blank).

Loved your idea of recycling Christmas cards Alison.  I usually save our old cards and either cut some up to use for grocery lists, or bring them out and stand them up on the Delft rail (each year) to make everyone think we've received them 'as new'.  Many people now send cards via email which is nice, but can't be displayed.  In any case, the cost of a card AND the postage (60p for a first class stamp), is now more than most of us can afford.

We used to have a chest freezer Lizzie, and you are right, it is easy to lose things in one of those.  However, they are much cheaper to run as cold air drops back down into the chest, rather than into the room as happens with a chest freezer.  But if a chest freezer has separate drawers, and you have kept a record of what is in each, then it should be a matter of rapidly opening the door, opening the correct drawer, getting out what you want, then shutting it all up again. 
The one thing I find with our chest freezer is that if the drawers are not pushed tightly back, this can prevent the door closing tightly.  One day opened the freezer and all the drawers were covered with a fairly thick layer of clear ice.  None could be opened, and I had to get B to sort it out for me (switch it off, leave the door open and allow the ice to melt.  Quite a wet mess to clear up, but the contents stayed frozen at least.  All sue to one drawer being pushed in slightly at an angle (by B, not by me).

In my attempt to think up some sweet treats for the festive season, decide to refer to my personal idex that my son had set up for me.  It only covers the first few years of my blog, but then I always feel my best recipes were given then.  Luckily, despite me having to 'prune' many of the postings, was able to keep plenty of useful and cost-cutting recipes, and so instead of giving the recipes again, am just giving the date they were published.  Why?  Well, I discovered that scrolling down through various months, there were many recipes for sweets, nibbles, and a lot of other good recipes as well - I'd hate to think you'd missed seeing those.

So - go to the suggested months via Archives, and you will find the following:
Sweets: Coffee creams, Chocolate dipped Apricots etc (May 10 'O7).  Figgy Rolls (May 7th '07).  Good recipes for Meat Loaf that month, also Coffee Cream Dessert.
During September '07 there are recipes for Nutty Nibbles,  Indian Spicy Snacks, Grasmere Gingerbread, Westmoreland Parkin, Kendal Mint Cake,  Moist Gingerbread, Treacle Parkin, Savoury Flapjack, Biscotti.
Towards the end of one of the above months you will find useful info on 'egg substitutes' (useful when short of eggs).

Easy ways of making home-made sweets are to (say) take a small square of fudge, then cut this into four smaller squares, dip each of these into melted chocolate to make your own 'fudge-centred' chocs. The same can be done using a square of Turkish Delight.  We can also dip glace cherries, or whole (shelled) Brazil nuts.  If you have a block of marzipan, then cut small squares from this and dip these too. 
If you have no chocolate but you do have marzipan, then take three equal amounts of the marzipan and colour one red, another green, leaving the third natural.  Roll each out to an oblong, then stack up, the natural between the two colours.  Cut into small slabs and leave at room temperature to dry out.  Any scraps can be rolled up to make small multi-coloured balls.

Dates, after stoning, can be filled with a 'stone' of marzipan, and marzipan itself adds that little extra when grated and added to an apple crumble (but freeze the marzipan to make it easier to grate).

One of the delights of Christmas is the different bowls of nibbles that we can place around the house. But in small bowls, not huge ones.  A little of a lot of different tastes is much nicer than one huge box of Quality Street.   Make everything small scale, inch cubes of Parkin instead of large fingers sort of thing.  One of the cheapest treats is to make caramel (or salted/savoury) popcorn - this could be put into small bags and tied to the Christmas tree (in America, unflavoured popcorn is threaded into strings - often with a cranberry here and there - and used to decorate Christmas trees).

For evening nibbles, serve small bowls of savoury nibbles, and maybe make some tiny savoury 'drop scones' - each made with about a teaspoon of batter (then topping each with a little sour cream/cream fraiche, and a smidgen of smoked salmon). Sort of 'cheat's blinis'.

Three recipes to add to those already posted (as shown above), they will probably be in the blog somewhere, but haven't yet checked.
First is a cross between fudge and Rocky Road (the latter another good suggestion to make and cut into small cubes).  Take note of the metrics as they are slightly different to those I would normally use.  Also when a 'cup' is mentioned, this is a measure that holds 8 fl.oz.
Fruit and Nut Fudge:
4 oz (125g) butter
4 oz (125g) sugar
1 dessertspoon golden syrup
1 egg
1 cup chopped walnuts, raisins, dates, ginger
a good 7 oz (235g) sweet biscuit crumbs
1 dessertspoon cocoa
vanilla extract (opt)
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 level teaspoon butter
hot water, as needed
Place the butter, sugar, syrup and egg into a saucepan and beat well. Add the fruits and nuts and bring to the boil.  Fold in the biscuit crumbs and mix well.  Press into a buttered dish and cover with the chocolate icing.
To make the icing, mix the icing sugar and butter together, adding the vanilla and as much hot water as necessary to make the required consistency.  Add cocoa to colour.   Cut into squares when set.

Next recipe is for Turkish Delight and I'd flavour the pink with rose essence (or rose water).  If I was making two separate lots (flavours) I'd use lemon juice as part of the water.
Turkish Delight:
1 large cup boiling water
2 generous cups sugar
1 oz (30g) powdered gelatine
1 teaspoon citric acid
pink or red food colouring
vanilla extract
lemon flavouring
icing sugar
Put the water, gelatine, sugar, and citric acid into a pan, leave to stand until the gelatine has dissolved, then heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.  Don't hurry this bit.   Divide the mixture into two, and colour one half pink, flavouring it with the vanilla (or rose essence).  Keep the other half white, flavouring it with the lemon essence.  Pour each into two greased flat dishes.
When cold and set, tip out onto parchment paper dusted with icing sugar, and cut into squares - using a knife dipped into boiling hot water.  Toss (or dust) the squares with plenty more icing sugar and leave to dry out for a few hours before storing in a container.

We mustn't forget Cinder Toffee (aka 'honeycomb' toffee), this is easy to make and although best kept in a box (it might get sticky if left at room temperature for too long), this can also be packed in small bags piled high for everyone to have a bag each.
Cinder Toffee:
3 tblsp granulated sugar
3 tblsp golden syrup
1 rounded teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Put the sugar and syrup into a deep and heavy saucepan.  Heat gently, stirring with a wooden spoon, for some three minutes - watch carefully as the bubbling mixture must not suddenly darken too much (or it will taste burnt).   When it has been boiling for about 3 minutes, then tip in the bicarb and stir it in vigorously - you will see the mixture froth and rise up in the pan.
While it is still rising, tip the 'froth' into a foil-lined tin and leave it to spread and then set in a cool place (in summer put it in the fridge), as then it will harden without becoming sticky.  When fully set, break it into pieces and store in an airtight jar.  Save any small crumbs (in a jar) and use these to scatter over the top of ice-cream etc.

Hope the above suggestions (and any other recipes you will discover on your scrolling through May and September '07) will prove to be what you are all hoping for.  Any other requests?  All you need to do is ask.

Two queries from me.  Why is it that - in America - it seems that people are supposed to say 'Happy Holiday' but not supposed to say 'Happy Christmas'? Hardly seems fair when they are allowed to say 'Happy Thanksgiving'.  We hear about 'the Bible Belt' and it does seem that the Christian religion (in all its forms) in the US a lot more people go to church than it seems here, so why not celebrate the occasion by giving it its true name?
Watching 'The Barefoot Contessa' yesterday - she was making a Christmas meal for her family, her beloved husband was not able to join them.  Why?  Because he was working.  Seems that the family Thanksgiving meal has far more importance than Christmas in the US, perhaps it is because the latter is too soon after the former (there is only so much turkey we can stomach).
When visiting my cousin in the US some 20 years ago, she (being English) made us a proper Christmas meal, but told me that many other families normally serve up 'cold cuts' (cold ham, other meats etc).  Yet they spend a great deal of money on decorating their property with Father Christmas on his sleigh, complete with reindeers and umpteen million lights all over the roof, down the windows, on the front lawns, not to mention the large Christmas trees indoors, heavily decorated - and the rest of the trimmings.   Something a bit odd about all that if the 'traditional meal', and the 'true greetings' are not expected to be part of it.  Do they even send Christmas cards to each other?

Second query is the final words spoken by Nadia G when she waves goodbye at the end of each of her cookery episodes.  She is Italian origin so am assuming it is an Italian expression - sounds like 'alla prostina'.  Could mean 'good health, good eating....or what?   Someone please tell me.

Goodness me, is that the time.  Should have got up earlier instead of having my lie-in.  Intend going out for a scoot with Norris tomorrow, but if I get up early enough will be in here blogging.  If I get up late then Norris will be my first priority (or I'll end up never going out), and will be back here on Wednesday.  Watch this space, I could be back sooner than you expect.  TTFN.