Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve 2013

The plumber arrived eventually, about a couple of hours late, but as I said to B - he was probably delayed by an earlier job.  The fact he turned up at all was a miracle, AND on the same day we phoned. 
Took him quite a time to sort out the cistern, in fact it ended up with us having to have a complete new loo that - for some reason - is not quite in the same position (middle) as it was before, it is now closer to one wall, but not that it matters.  At least the new one is a ceramic one that matches the shape (Edwardian) of the basin in the bathroom, not the cheap and nasty one that B had bought to put in its place. 
We were not charged too much (B asked me to pay half as I own half the house - that I suppose is fair, and as I had it in cash, gave it to him saying "you can have it as a Christmas present as 'd already promised to buy the cistern for you instead of the wine I promised - which he had agreed to). As B was happy with that, in a way I got the better deal. We still have the plastic cistern in its wrapping that I'm hoping Wickes will give a refund to. 
As the plumber was a close friend of the builder (who I recently supplied lunch to every day for a week), he was instantly on first name terms with B, who gave him the first bit of repair kit he had bought (not used), and as he did 'pensioners rates' as well, certainly it didn't work out more than twice what B had already paid out.

I checked that cheese/potato recipe Taaleedee, and you are quite right - no potatoes.  I copied down the recipe as given, and noticed that it did include potatoes in the method - adding them with all the other ingredients.  So am supposing it should include mashed potato.  So sorry about that.  Best to ignore the recipe and I'll delete it from yesterday's blog.

Had a think about cranberries Granny G. and am pretty sure that the idea of mixing them with a table jelly would work just as well if you used either a strawberry or raspberry one, as well as orange.  Myself tend to keep a supply of as many flavours as I can (orange, lemon, lime, and strawberry, raspberry, blackcurrant - I do have a tangerine and some years back was able to buy pineapple flavoured as well, but the first six seem to be the only ones on sale now).

Oh Anna (in France), how annoying it must be to know someone who weighs only 6 stone and can eat like a horse.  To be able to do that would be my idea of heaven.   Have to say I'd be pretty annoyed if I cooked for them and they then said they were eating out.   The only thing to do is ask them to let you know if they wanted a meal cooking for them that day, if they were uncertain, then tell them you'd make a meal for them that could be reheated and they could eat the following day.  If they do decide to go out, next day make an even better meal for yourself and while they eat their reheated meal, they can watch you enjoy yours and wish they had been a bit more considerate - as then they could have had it too.  A few meals like that and am sure the penny will drop.

As to what name to give your (close) friend.  Maybe the answer to that came to me in a dream I had last night. Suffice to say - in the dream - I had found a new admirer, and of course in the dream I was thinner, able to move around easily etc, but still the age I am now (but didn't look it).  To cut a long story short and he was getting to want to be a bit more than a friend I had eventually to tell him my age as he was obviously much younger than (he said he was 40), and instead of blurting out I was 80 said "If I was your age and had a new-born baby, then you would be my age when it is as old as you".  Took him a while to sort that out, but he didn't seem at all bothered. As we hadn't got much further than having a loving kiss or too, perhaps just as well it was then I woke up (in a way sorry that I had thought).  I have never liked the term 'toy boy', so would always consider him to be my 'joy boy' because he had brought joy into my life.

Am like you Margie (Toronto), just love shopping (esp for food), and think most cooks also are the same.  It is our hunter/gatherer instinct working that hasn't yet realised we've moved on from living in caves. I have several jars of new-to-me products that I've either bought or been given and many have not yet been tried. 
The good thing about on-line shopping and home delivery is that I can scroll down through as many pages of products as I wish, loading my virtual shopping trolley with a lot of new things, and the next day - once the temptation has left me - can delete them from my list.  It really is as though I'd had the fun of buying them without having to end up paying for goods I didn't really want.

However, there is a way we can go into a supermarket and not get carried away.  This is by taking up another challenge, and a fun one to do.  Take just £5 in cash to spend (dollars in your instance) and see just how much you can buy of fresh vegetables, probably also fruit (do this when you need them). It's surprising how much you can get. 
OR - take £10 and see again how much you can buy for this amount - of any foods.  I remember doing this once (my friend Gill was with me at the time and she was the one who discovered the 10p packets of Chinese noodles - I was THRILLED).  Even managed to include a pack of chicken joints (reduced) for £2.  There is often very-much-reduced-in-price bargains at supermarkets (special shelves for these), and again it is really good fun hunting them all out.
At least these 'challenges' keep the spending within bounds.  In a couple or so months from now I'll probably do this again because it is far more enjoyable than just 'shopping'.

The mention of kitchen paper has reminded me that B is a great user of this.  He mops up every spill on the counter with one or two sheets (then leaves them screwed up and lying around).  Myself mop up wet spills with either the sponge I use for washing up, or a tea-towel destined for the washing machine.  I do use kitchen paper when wishing to drain/soak the fat from fried foods, but one sheet of kitchen paper on top of a fold of newspaper does a better job of soaking, than several sheets of the more expensive paper.   Instead of buying paper hankies, I buy the boxes of much cheaper tissues (probably meant for wiping off make-up), and these are soft enough for blowing noses. 

How lovely to be holidaying in Florida Barbara.  Stay as long as you can for our weather forecast is bad for the whole of January I believe.  Maybe ending with snow.  We will just have to wait and see and grin and bear what nature throws at us.
Have to say when we went to America, I found the cheeses on sale in the supermarket were dreadful (compared to the English). Only tried a few of course, but my cousin (who lived there) said they were not what we call 'cheese'.  Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) always recommends using 'English cheese' (usually Cheddar or Stilton), and of course the real Italian Parmesan (all presumably imported so must end up more expensive than here).

It amuses me how often the American cooks prepare an 'English dish' and it's nothing like the real thing. Anna Olsen (Canada) - who I love to watch - often demonstrates how to bake an 'English' cake or bun, and she also gets it wrong.   But then I suppose all the ethnic dishes we make - believing them to be as authentic as possible - are nothing like the real thing.  Does it really matter?  Just as long as we enjoy what we eat, that's what counts.

More cheese recipes coming up.  Hope I'm not giving too many, but cheese is one of those things that - when we have a surplus - can be grated and frozen, and is a useful substitute for meat in many dishes.
Many of the ingredients in this first recipe are ones that we might wish to use up.  Odds and ends of chutney, salad leaves, bell peppers....  However, it is a recipe where we could use alternatives, and am pretty sure cranberry sauce could be used instead of the chutney (well, why not?), especially if wishing to include some scraps of cooked chicken/turkey as well as (or instead of) the cheese. Of course any hard cheese (or mixture) instead of Cheddar.  Plan to make these when cooking potatoes and carrots for another dish (just cook more) then it will save time having to cook them (as given in the recipe).
Even if you don't wish to make to eat these now, they can still be made and frozen (uncooked) to bake later, so a good way to use up what we can while it is still fit to use.  Unfortunately we can't freeze salad leaves, but we could start sowing mixed salad leaves in boxes (I use the cartons mushrooms are sold in) and in about six weeks on a windowsill (pref. double glazed and sunny when the sun comes out) we should be able to eat these freshly baked pasties with freshly grown salad.

Potato, Onion and Cheese Pasties: makes 8
I large potato cut into small dice (1cm)
2 carrots, cut into same size dice
300g jar onion chutney (or similar)
1 good pinch dried thyme leaves
1 tblsp Dijon mustard
5 oz (150g) grated Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
1 x 500g block shortcrust pastry
beaten egg
poppy or sesame seeds
Boil the potatoes and carrots for 5 minutes or until tender.  Drain and tip into a bowl.  Add the chutney, thyme, mustard, cheese and seasoning to taste, then gently fold together to combine.
Roll out the pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin, and cut into 8 equal squares (13cm each, is that about 6" square?).  Divide the filling between each, placing in the centre.  Brush the edges with beaten egg, then lift up each corner to meet in the middle, pressing the sides/edges together to seal.  If you find it easier, then just place the filling over to one side, and fold the pastry over to meet the other side and you end up with an oblong.
Brush the top with more egg and sprinkle over a few black poppy seeds or sesame seeds (both opt). Place on a baking tray and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for half an hour or until the pastry is golden. Serve alone or with a salad.  Whichever you prefer.

Nest recipe is for a savoury biscuit.  Not the crispy type, more like a 'cookie'.  Again we could use a variety of cheeses as long as they are the same type/texture to those given in the list of ingredients.
Cheese Biscuits: makes about 30
4 oz (100g) olive oil spread (or soft marg)
2 oz (50g) Emmenthal or Cheddar cheese
3 oz (75g) Mozzarella cheese, grated
8 oz (225g) malted grain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp English mustard powder (opt)
pinch of salt
1 tblsp  mixed seeds
Put the spread bowl.  Grate the cheeses (incl the Mozz), add to the spread and mix together.  Stir in t the flour, baking powder, and mustard (if using). Then add the salt and mixed seeds.  Mix to combine then gather in the hands and squeeze together to make a dough.  Break off pieces about the size of cherry tomatoes and roll into balls.  Place on two parchment-lined baking sheets, allowing plenty of space between, then flatten each ball with the palm of your hand. or with a fork. Or roll out the dough on a lightly floured board and use a scone or cookie cutter to shape biscuits.
Prick top all over with a fork, and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 15 minutes until golden. Leave to cool on baking tins, then store in airtight containers where they will keep for up to a week.

This next is almost a breakfast in itself (especially if you eat two), and can be eaten whilst still warm, or leave to get cold (best eaten day of making or the next day).  The secret to American muffins is to stop mixing before you think you should.  Just make sure there is no dry flour visible, and then bake.
Cheese and Bacon Buns: makes 6 large ones
1 tsp sunflower oil
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped small
2 oz (50g) cheddar cheese (or other hard cheese)
6 oz (175g) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
half tsp each salt and pepper
1 tsp English mustard
2 eggs
3 oz (75g) butter, melted
7 fl oz (200ml) milk
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley (opt)
Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and fry until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and leave to cool. Chop two-thirds of the cheese into tiny pieces and grate the rest.
Put the flour in a bowl with the baking powder, salt and pepper.  Put the mustard, eggs, butter and milk in a jug and whisk together, then pour this into the dry mix and fold together a very few times until just combined, then stir in the cheese pieces and the parsley (if using) - taking care not to overwork the mixture.
Spoon into six greased/oiled muffin tins (they should be quite full), and sprinkle the grated cheese on top.   Bake at 180C, 350F. gas 4 for 25 minutes or until golden, risen, and firm to the touch.

Yesterday's meal (B) was Chinese Stir-fry (used odd and ends of veggies with a few frozen prawns), myself had hard-boiled eggs with salad.  Between us we are demolishing the heavily fruited Christmas cake with cheese.  Found a piece of frozen Blackberry and Apple crumble, so thawed that out for B to heat 'n eat - with cream.  No problems so far about making meals, still a lot of 'need-to-use up' fresh foods.  However, am planning to make up puddings that will freeze, home-cooked 'ready-meals' that will freeze, and also anything else that will freeze.  This will help to use up many 'fresh' foods that will happily freeze once cooked (like in a casserole), and also able me to use up the eggs (still have 2 dozen). Think I mentioned making pancakes, and probably will make another batch today as they freeze so well.

Tomorrow is New Year's Day, although not planning anything special, so you may well find I am back blogging again.  Or I might take the day off.  I won't know and you won't know until it happens.
Might even go to bed before midnight tonight, but no doubt woken by all the fireworks (if the rain has stopped by then).  Can't believe tomorrow is the 14th year into the 21st century.  It seems only like yesterday when B and I were hoping we'd live long enough to see in the millennium (and when it happened B was stuck in Ireland with (he said) the flu, and I was stuck in Leeds with the same bug.  B 'managed' to feel better enough to crawl to a neighbour's party where he felt a lot better (all that Irish whiskey no doubt!) and said he had enjoyed himself immensely.  I just lay on the sofa in Leeds, feeling utterly miserable.  But at least 14 years later we are both still alive, and that must count for something.

A very Happy New Year to you all, and let us hope this next will be a good one.  It doesn't matter if we are still in a recession, as long as we know how to cook, and become canny shoppers, we are the lucky ones.  There is nothing like a good meal to make us feel a lot better.   Seems it is the wealthy ones that seem to end up with the worst problems.  Whatever Nigella has done, I really feel sorry for her.  I wouldn't swap my B for a millionaire's life any day.

Will continue searching for more ideas/recipes to use up when we have, so keep watching this space. TTFN.