Sunday, June 30, 2013

Catching Up!

As the weather cleared up late afternoon yesterday, and I'd seen our 19 year old English girl win her tennis match, decided to go into the garden and see how my plants were doing.  Very well in fact, even managed to find some 'spares' so that I could fill a large pot that stands by our back door. 
It's amazing how a few containers of flowering plants can 'lift' a garden from boring to extremely good looking. 

Still haven't sorted my freezer/s.  What is wrong with me?  I know what needs to be done, but then don't seem to be able to buckle down and do things.  It always works best if I write down what needs to be done, then work through it.  Must do that again.  Today!

The no-carb, high protein diet is working (as it always does) lost 3 lbs since yesterday, that's 5 lbs in two days, but of course the loss is mainly 'water' (water retention is something I've had since pregnant with my first child).  Even so, I feel loads thinner, and my new clothes are not as tight fitting as expected (although could be a bit looser for comfort, but as I said - this gives me a good reason to lose more weight). 

We give a warm welcome and group hugs to Ivy who lives on her own, and enjoys reading my blog. Thanks for saying that Ivy as I am now continually feeling I don't write anything of interest any more as after six or so years of almost daily blogs, am sure I've said everything that has to be said, and find it very difficult to come up with something new.  Perhaps fortunately, many of my 'rambles' have been deleted from the earlier blogs to give room for the recipes, so at least for newer readers, repeating myself is not a nuisance.  
In fact think there is only one reader - Cheesepare - who has stayed with me since the start (so grateful for that CP), but hope there are still a few others who read but don't comment.

Although my blog was originally intended to be only about cost-cutting cookery, with a bit of the Goode life thrown in, nowadays it seems to be more about me, me, me, plus the regular moans about my Beloved, and the state of the nation, the world and the universe (if I knew more about that), am surprised that I still have readers.   Especially since there seems to be a dearth of recipes given recently, again because many have already been given space before.  There seems to be nothing much new happening in our kitchen at the moment although yesterday was wondering that if I made a fairly firm jelly, poured it into a Swiss roll tin (lined with cling-film) to set, then covered this with a pre-cooked Swiss roll sponge cake, turned it over (jelly side up), covered this with a layer of custard, then of cream, THEN rolled it up (like a Swiss roll) it could then be sliced an served as a 'deconstructed' trifle.  Well, it's a thought!

Thanks CTMOM for telling me about the frosting on the US cupcakes.  Also to Margie for giving me a recipe.  I've made something similar using soft, low-fat cream cheese beaten with icing sugar and a little butter.  This doesn't taste as rich as when made with all butter/cream, so might go down that road when 'frosting' my own cupcakes.  Why, in the US, the frosting has to be almost twice the depth of the cake itself I don't know, and have also seen in DC Cupcakes (and also Cupcake Wars) the girls shoving their (gloved) finger into the centre of each cake when it comes out of the oven so that there is a gap that is also filled with the frosting.  More frosting than cake seems to the order of the day.

The mention of using 'stablilisers' in the frosting has reminded me that I have a jar of Xantham (?) gum in the larder (a gift).  Have not yet used any, and it looks more like glucose syrup than the powder that normally seems to be used.  Do know that this X...gum is needed to replace the gluten when baking gluten-free bread/cakes/biscuits, but has it any other use?

There are times when a recipe does everything I want it to.  Such as the following 'breakfast loaf' as this makes use of over-ripe bananas, contains walnuts (the new super-food for lowering cholesterol), and above all - all ingredients (except the walnut) are thrown into a bowl (or food processor) and beaten together, then the nuts folded in.  An inexpensive and very easy way of making a healthy 'bake'.

After watching Anna Olsen (and The Barefoot Contessa) testing cakes to see whether they are done, have noticed they always use a cocktail stick as the 'skewer'.  And there was silly me thinking that I should use a metal skewer.  I've even bought myself a 'cake tester' (this changes colour when the cake is fully baked), and although that is really good, think the cocktail stick idea is one of best for testing cakes.

If you have no brown flour, use all white plain flour.
Banana Breakfast Loaf: serves 8
3 oz (75g) butter, softened
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
5 oz (150g) plain flour
3 oz (75g) wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2 oz (50g) walnuts, chopped
Beat together all the ingredients except the nuts. When combined, fold in the walnuts and spoon the mixture into a lined and greased 1lb (450g) loaf tin.  Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (see above).
When baked and cooled, wrap tightly in clingfilm.  It can then be frozen for up to a month. Defrost and best warmed through slightly before serving.

With the Great British Bake-off inspiring people to start baking their own cakes, pastries and what you will, it's not surprising that manufacturers have got onto the band-waggon to provide a lot of the 'essentials' to 'save us time'.  But always at a cost.

Here are a few of 'the necessary' that we could buy, and the cost of same.  For interest I'm giving approximate costs if we made the same thing ourselves.  I say 'approximate' as much depends on how much we paid for the basic ingredients in the first place.  For instance an egg white could come from a free-range organic egg that cost 38p, or from a 'Value' egg that cost 10p.  Myself would deliberately SAVE an egg white (or two/three) to make meringues when using eggs to make lemon curd, or quiches, or scrambled eggs etc.  The way I see it, this then means the whites are 'free'.

Packs of 'Home-Bake' Vanilla Frosting: £2.50 for 300g.  As this is 'almost as good as home-made' (using butter, icing sugar and milk), pretty sure we could make it far cheaper.

'Home Bake Pizza Dough': 500g for £2.50.  Virtually the same as bread dough we can make when using a bread mix, plus added oil.  Yet this is already made (so has added liquid, meaning that probably only slightly more than half the weight was flour.  Compare the price to a 500g pack of bread mix (around 70p) where all we have to do is add water (and oil) and we end up with twice as much 'pizza' dough, making a saving of nearly £2. 

'Pavlova Base': £1.69.  Using 'free' egg whites and about 6 oz caster sugar (and nothing else, or adding a little cornflour and vinegar depending upon recipe used), this needn't cost us much more than 20p to make!!

Of course there are lots more 'time-savers' on the supermarket shelves.  Some may even be worth buying.  It would be good to hear from readers as to their experience of 'best buys' and also what is 'cheaper to make at home'.

Traditionally, our 'Full English' breakfast should be left as it is.  A lovely plate (which should be hot), full of grilled (or fried) bacon (streaky or back, crisp or soft as requested), sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, black pudding, fried (or scrambled) egg, baked beans and triangles of fried bread.  What's not to like about that?  If I left out the fried bread, it would fit very nicely into my protein diet.

Today - of course (why do they have to spoil things?) - this breakfast is considered 'unhealthy', so for those who feel it is, they can still get a taste of the good without swallowing too much of the bad.  Here's an example.
Not all the 'Full English' goes into this one-pan variation, but we could include as much (or all) if we wish.  Main thing is not to add extra fat, and drain away any that flows from the sausages/bacon once the cooking is completed (myself would save this fat to use when frying something else later - does that defeat the purpose?).

English Breakfast 'Tortilla-style': serves 4
4 pork sausages (pref chipolatas)
4 rashers smoked back bacon
4 oz (100g) button mushrooms, sliced
6 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
Put the sausages and bacon into a non-stick frying pan and heat gently until the bacon fat begins to flow, then raise heat to medium and fry for 8 minutes, removing bacon as it begins to crisp up slightly (it will crisp up more when resting).
Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for a further 4 minutes.  Drain away any excess fat (see above), then spread the mixture evenly over the base of the pan.  Chop the bacon adding that to the pan, then pour over the beaten eggs with seasoning to taste,, giving the pan a shake so the egg settles into any gaps.  Cook over low-medium heat for a couple or so minutes until starting to set, then scatter the tomatoes on top and pop under a pre-heated grill for a couple more minutes to complete the cooking of 'the top' and turn it slightly golden.

Many people refuse to eat offal, and myself have tended to veer away from cooking sheep's hearts, brains, sweetbreads, tripe....  but do cook liver, preferring lamb's liver as it is very inexpensive, has no waste, and very tender.  Beloved also likes kidney's, and although do cook them in steak and kidny pie, or 'creamed' on toast, myself find their flavour too strong for me.

Normally I cook lamb's liver 'gougon-style', cutting the liver into short thin strips, tossing them in seasoned flour, then frying them it a little oil (preferably bacon fat).  This recipe is similar but with the liver left in larger slices.  With the onion gravy and mashed spuds this could make an alternative to B's 'fried liver, bacon, cabbage and new potatoes' that he normally has.

Liver and Bacon in a Pan: serves 2
4 rashers smoked streaky bacon
2 tblsp plain flour
pinch dried sage (opt)
salt and pepper
6 slices (approx 12oz/400g) lamb's liver
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
half pint (300ml) beef stock
2 tblsp tomato ketchup
mashed potatoes (for serving)
Fry the bacon until just beginning to crisp, then set aside.  Mix together the flour, sage and seasoning to taste, put into a plastic bag (or dish), adding the liver and tossing to coat. Tap away any surplus flour.
Add the oil to the pan, and when hot add the liver and fry for 1 - 2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and fry the onion until softened.  Stir in the stock and ketchup, bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes until the liquid has reduced slightly.  Put the liver back into the pan, spooning over the 'onion gravy' and continue to cook for a further 3 minutes (or until the liver is cooked through - but don't overcook or it will get tough).  Serve with the (chopped) bacon and mashed potatoes.

Final bit of culinary chat today is again the problem of cost.  Cookery mags now - obviously - encourage us to cook from 'scratch', but also aim to make it easier for us by suggesting ways we can put a 'home-cooked' meal on the table using a lot of supermarket products.
Having just noticed one such suggestion where all we seem to end up with is 8 halves of stuffed jacket potatoes (to feed four) at a cost of £2.10p a portion, I am wondering if it is me that has lost the plot, or the editors?

What they suggest is "when all you have is five minutes to shop for supper, pop into (named supermarket) and rustle up this easy meal".   Believe me, it would take me a lot longer than five minutes to find the necessary ingredients on shelves, let alone the time taken to queue at the checkout.
Just for interest I give the shopping list, followed by the cooking instructions. If you feel that I've still lost the plot, then do let me know, for what with the shopping and the fiddling about putting it all together, am sure I could make exactly the same thing AND MORE, for far less the cost using ingredients I already have and overall taking far less time. 

Supermarket shopping list:
4 x microwavable steam bags: carrots, broccoli and sweetcorn, £1.50p.
Scottish Smoked Trout fillets: 125g £.3.79p
300ml tub Creme Fraiche: £1.05p
160ml jar Dill Mustard £1.29p (25p portion)
4 baking potatoes, 25p each

Recipe for Baked Potatoes with a fish filling:
Prick potatoes all over and rub with a little oil, salt and pepper and bake at 220C, gas 7 for 1 hour. Steam the vegetables, then open the packs and leave to cool slightly.  Halve the potatoes, scoop out the filling and mash with the creme fraiche, 4 - 5 tblsp of the mustard and a little seasoning.
Flake the trout fillets and fold into the mash with the vegetables.  Fill with the mixture and heat in the oven for 20 minutes until piping hot.  Serves 4.

Personally cannot see anything speedy about the above.  For one thing it would be far quicker to cook the spuds in the microwave while the veggies are cooking (from raw) in a pan on the hob, and I'd probably use smoked mackerel instead of the trout as this would be less expensive.
What the 'message' seems to suggest is that we have nothing in the house worth eating, so we have to go to the supermarket to buy what we need for that evening's meal.   Well, maybe in my early married life we did go shopping each day to by fresh food to cook, but that's because we didn't all have fridges, and hardly anyone had a freezer, and there were no supermarkets.  We bought food that was fresh, and probably all 'organically' grown and reared in those days.  Also cheap to buy. 
How things have changed, and certainly not for the better when it comes to (some) foods and the 'making of meals'. 

It does seem that we have now lost the art of reading between the lines, and oblivious to the fact that all that is happening is the supermarkets (and seemingly some cookery mags) are brain-washing into 'buy not make' because they want to make life 'easier' for us.  Nothing to do with their profits of course!  Why pay top whack for something we could and SHOULD be able to do/make ourselves for a fifth of the price (or even a tenth)?

See that time has caught up with me (Gill phoned earlier hence the late start).  Better sign off now or you'll think the comp has gremlins again.  Do hope you will all be able to join me tomorrow.  TTFN.


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.    


Friday, June 28, 2013

Thinking About It...

Am feeling slightly confused this morning. Thought it was Tuesday then  discovered it was Friday.  B thought it was Thursday, realised it was Friday, saying "this week's gone quickly".  And so it seems to have done.

Didn't go into the garden yesterday as it was drizzling all day (didn't want to get my newly set hair wet and if I wear a scarf it flattens it, never to rise again....). It is still drizzling but the new plants are loving it.  Think rain must have a miracle ingredient for one small shower does far more good that three watering cans full of rain water saved in a butt.

Reading Betty MacD's books have also thrown me into rethinking my lifestyle.  At least it is good to know that people who live around the Puget Sound area of Washington State (think that's where it is) have a LOT of rain and wind, and not very hot summers.  Just like us.  I gain satisfaction in knowing we are not alone, others suffer too but seemingly not really moaning about it as much as we in the UK do.   Certainly in the 'Egg and I'  they seem to have extreme conditions, but somehow manage to grow marvellous crops (despite all the rain and cool summers), and lucky in that they manage to have virtually 'free' food what with the venison, salmon, oysters, numerous other fish, and all the game birds there just for the taking, shooting, and fishing.

Not sure I could cope with living 50 miles away from the nearest big town, or coping with no central heating and an outside loo, but am very glad to know that keeping chickens (hens) is not such a good idea, all that cleaning out, diseases, and very little profit (cost of keeping hens v price of eggs). Think now I'll shelve that idea (won't B be pleased, he'll think it was because HE said I couldn't).

It also seems that the older 'pioneer' type of American women are able to keep going to a remarkable age (almost as old as me), so yesterday, reading the book, feel that if they can keep a house spick and span, cook their own bread, cakes, cookies, make preserves and pickles, cook hams, feed chickens, goats, milk cows, make their own cream, cheese, and also chop logs, grow vegetables in huge kitchen gardens, knit, sew, crochet, and do just about anything a man can do, like EVERY  DAY, then I'm sadly lacking in such skills.   I mean could do most of them, just not trying hard enough.  What's the point?  Think the point could be that carrying on working hard actually makes for a longer life.  So from today I'll become more active.  I like to reach my 100th birthday.

Possibly next week I'll have changed my mind, but who knows, a new Shirley might have arisen from the ashes of the old.  We'll have to wait and see.

Have to agree with something you said Kathryn.  I too have discovered that eating toast does not seem to pile on the pounds like untoasted bread does.  Perhaps some fat-forming chemical is killed in the process.
I've had a go at making macrame (using parcel string or garden twine because these are/were much cheaper than 'proper' macrame cord). Like every craft I've tried (and I've had a go at most of them)once mastered I didn't do any more, moving on to try another craft.  However did make a couple of light pulls from macrame (for the bathroom/loo), and a holder for a hanging basket (both made from parcel string).  They looked good and they worked.

Myself have several cook books that use few ingredients.  One uses three, another five, another seven.  It seems - like many things (flower arrangements etc), odd numbers work better, or at least look more attractive when one a plate (in a vase).  The problem with using a very few ingredients is that these are usually some of the most expensive.  The more ingredients in a recipe the cheaper the dish can often be.
Usually most meals have two and sometimes three main ingredients, the remainder adding either colour, or extra flavour, and these are not usually costly. Just annoying because they can take a lot of time to find them, decant out the amount needed, then put them all back again.

Myself dislike seeing a recipe that has a lot of ingredients (for the above reason) so I quickly turn to a recipe that uses only a few, but in many cases - such as a curry - with many of the ingredients being an assortment of different spices, have learned to still use the recipe but blindfold myself to the spice selection and instead open a jar of ready-made curry sauce and then all I have to do is concentrate on the 'main' foods (meat/veg).

Presumably the cats using your plant containers Ciao are neighbours cats?  We have several of these cats using our garden as 'poo corner'.  They have been deterred by me sprinkling old spices such as curry powder, chilli, pepper etc., over the soil they favour, but it only works when the weather is dry.

A welcome and group hugs to Barbara from Connecticut USA.  Do hope you continue to keep in touch as we love to hear from our 'virtual' friends across the pond.  The US way of life seems so different to ours.  Our temperatures at the moment vary a bit, from around 18C (cooler on the coast) up to 20C inland.  Apparently it could read a massive 23C in London in a day or two, but then London has it's own micro climate being such a huge city (although in truth the 'City of London' is only a mile in all directions).

Losing weight slowly HAS to be the best way when we want to avoid ending up looking like a deflated balloon.  Unfortunately I tend to go for the quick fix, losing as much as possible over a short time.  However, these past few years I have done it more slowly and feel all the better for it, although being now 'elderly' stretched skin has lost the ability to shrink back.  So any overweight ladies who are reaching middle-age, start losing weight now or you'll end up with gravity pulling the slack down and the more you pull in your tummy muscles, the worse the sag.  Be warned!

It's good to hear about your stamping ground Kerry.  When you next go to Oadby, on the London Road you will see the pub 'The White Horse'.  I used to work as barmaid there for a few years.  But not the building that is there now.  After we left Oadby the old coaching inn was pulled down and a new pub built, although - I believe - keeping the same name. 
Quite a lot of 'old Oadby' has been lost.  There used to be a 'highwayman's cottage', pulled down of course and the Co-op store built there.  Close to the church was the blacksmith's where we used to take the riding school horses to be shod, and lower down on a bend there were several thatched cottages.  Again razed to the ground and 'new build' in its place. The cinema has gone and I believe also the swimming pool.  Nowadays the older properties would be 'listed buildings' and not allowed to be removed, as I'm sure The White Horse would have been, as it was a true coaching inn with traditional features (beamed, low ceilings et ).

At the end of the London Road - this being the original A1, for travelling from close to where we live now right through to London (but a bypass built at Oadby so the village then didn't then have a lot of traffic) - as I was saying, at the end of that road there used to be a village green with a huge chestnut tree growing in the middle.  Believe that has now gone.
Both my parents are buried (in the same grave) in the churchyard in Oadby, but sadly we haven't been to 'visit' them for a long time now.  I may have my ashes interred there so we 'stay together'.
Either that or my ashes will be scatted in a bluebell wood.  I haven't yet made up my mind, and had better do so soon or it might be too late (says she pessimistically - well, it's the rain, it always makes me feel a bit gloomy).

The other day I was having another of my 'thinks' as I was watching a programme about wildlife in the Himalayas (apparently the correct pronunciation of this is 'Him-ar-lee-ers' but, flippin 'eck, do we really CARE?).
Anyway, watching various animals was struck by the way they went through life without much need to be concerned about anything other than where the next meal was coming from.  I thought how wise we would be to live such a simple life, which - I suppose we did - in Neanderthal times.

But don't you agree that today that the more 'civilised' we get, the more problems we seem to have? Perhaps 'civilised' is not the right word as many people today seem to be quite uncivilised in their behaviour.  What we have lost is the knack, skills, art (whatever you care to call it) of being self-sufficient.  Of course it made sense to move out of caves and build a home and grow things. Crops could then be exchanged for maybe milk, eggs or meat (not everyone had green fingers). 

Nature kindly has given us all different skills so that if we concentrate on these we can 'barter' our wares and each end up with much the same things.  Sadly we have gone past that 'level', and now we prefer to take 'tokens' (aka money) for our work (work that has nothing to do with our domestic life), and these exchanged for just about everything.  Because we now don't NEED to do/make anything ourselves any more, there is always someone out there willing to do/make these for us, but at a price!!!

How much more pleasant life would be if we could go back to at least SOME of the old ways and stop relying on others to do/make things we could or should be able to cope with ourselves.  Myself feel that schools should give a lot more tuition in 'managing a home', from DIY for the lads (and girls too), teaching knitting, crochet, sewing, and of course, COOKING.   Plus learning how to budget and 'shop wisely and cannily'.

It's even crossed my mind that the Government would be wise to introduce something similar to National Service, but instead of war-games, the lads and lasses would learn various skills such as carpentry, electricity, plumbing, car maintenance, gardening, decorating, keeping chickens... and cooking, knitting, sewing, baby-care, general nursing, budgeting and any domestic skills that would help to save money during their life-time).  Am sure the more that can be learnt when young the easier it will be to manage on a lower than average income when married with children.
It may seem that National Service of this type would be too expensive for the Government to run, but once people have gained skills, they should need less money to managed their domestic affairs, and so far fewer people would be claiming benefits.  In an ideal world anyway.

We do have 'summer camps' where youngsters can go for (say) six weeks to help them lose weight. So am sure the above suggestion re 'domestic skills' would work out even better.  All that activity would both help to lose weight while they put their new skills into action.

This morning watched another couple of episodes of 'Unwrapped' (Food Network). The first dealing with just about everything fried: potato chips (US 'French fried), and potato crisps (US 'potato chips'), and lots of other things too.  Even ready-fried bacon can be bought - vacuum packed - in the US to be 'crisped up' in the microwave.
Always something new to learn.  Apparently 'Doritos' (tortilla chips) are so named because they are golden in colour, this name being a version of 'dorado' (Spanish name for gold).

Second prog was about all things creamy.  Several minutes on the making of ice-cream by Haagen Daz.  Apparently they make/sell many different flavours, I thought they said 60, B thought it was 20.  Not that it matters, here in the UK usually only around 4 different flavours of that brand ever seem to be on sale, same with Tom and Jerry's. 
Only a few miles outside Lancaster is Wallin's Farm where they have an ice-cream parlour/restaurant They make their own ice-cream in at least 20 different flavours, and very yummy it is too.  So far I've stuck with eating my favourites:  strawberry or blackcurrant, but think it would be a good idea to sample every flavour during this summer in case I'm missing something good. Purely for research purposes you understand.

With the huge cloud of guilt still hanging over me (not working hard enough), am now going into the kitchen to make a big pan of chicken soup, grate up the end of the white cabbage with some red onions and carrots to make a coleslaw, and see what other bits and bobs need using up.  Might even do some baking.
The sailing club are having a 'Tea by the Sea' weekend after this, so I've been asked to make quiches, scones and chocolate (beetroot) brownies.  Pleased about that as I've been missing cooking for others.  Some of the club members will be making cakes and biscuits.  I've also been asked to make marmalade to sell.  So perhaps this will send my guilt feelings packing and allow some sense of achievement to ease itself back. 

Can't believe it is midsummer, it's so dark in the kitchen I'm going to have to put on the main lights. We have under-cupboard unit lights on all day, but with no window in the kitchen have to rely on the light filtering through from the conservatory at the long and narrow end of our 'L' shaped kitchen.
Fine when the sun shines, and not so bad even when the sky is slightly overcast, but for some reason it seems particularly dark today. 
Yesterday Norma said "there's a touch of autumn in the air", which horrified me as I've yet to sow some seeds.  What with the squirrel furiously burying peanuts in all my containers am wondering if winter is closer than we think. 

Myself, being a 'Mother Earth' sort of person (or so I've been told) and usually sensitive to nature's call to action (the urge to spring-clean is amazing, the fact I don't do any is another matter) have to say that I don't feel that autumn is anywhere near YET.  I could be wrong.  But then am I ever?

No recipe today because I'm not in that sort of mood.  All I want to do is go and 'do something' to prove I still can and while - in my mind - I feel as though I am still 35.  As long as I can sit down while I do it, then am able to believe it.  Once I get up I feel 100!  That's life. Mine anyway.

Hope you will be able to join me again tomorrow and grateful thanks to those 'new commenteers' for letting me know you are 'with me' in spirit.   Tomorrow, being Saturday will be 'baking day'. 
This afternoon hope to be able to sit and watch our two British tennis players in action.  First match played by the girl, then later in the afternoon, Andy Murray.  Both on Centre Court but as it now has a roof, play will happen even if it is raining.
Apparently in all the years of the annual Wimbledon fortnight (decades of them) there have been only seven that have been rain-free.  Says a lot for the British weather.  TTFN.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Fitting it In

Only time for a quick chat today as Norma text me to request a later hair appointment, so will now be here at 10.30am instead of 9.00.   At least now have time to write my blog before she comes, as no time after she has left.

Yesterday did LOADS of work - due entirely to B being absent.  He even stayed at our daughter's for supper!!  That means the bulk amount of Spag Bol meat sauce made yesterday is now in the freezer with one portion left for B's supper tonight. 

Did a lot more potting up in the garden during the afternoon, mainly moving plants I already had in smaller pots into larger ones.  Having quite a number of hanging baskets (without anything in them), decided next year I would place these upside down over large pots and let the plants grow through them and this would keep the squirrels from burying their peanuts in the soil.   As I still have a couple of large pots to plants will see if it works this year.  
Another idea of mine was to first pack the hanging baskets with soil, then upturn them onto a soil-filled pot and push little flowering plants through the holes, African Marigolds, lobelia etc, so that it looks like a mound of blossom.   There are times I think I have some quite good ideas.  Putting them into practice is another matter!

Finished reading 'Onions in the Stew' then began reading 'The Egg and I'.  Didn't realise that was the first book written by B.MacD, so should have read it first, not that it mattered much.  I believe she wrote another after that came before 'Onions...'.   Even now I can't recall reading either book before so am wondering if 'The Egg and I' was made into a film, and I'd just heard of 'Onions...'.  Can anyone tell me if there was such a film?

How sad those lavender fields have gone Taaleedee, they must have smelt wonderful when in flower (about this time of year if my own lavender is anything to go by).  When we used to holiday in Norfolk I used to visit a big lavender firm there who had fields and fields of lavender, plus a shop and garden centre.  Think that is still there.

Congratulations on your husband's massive weight loss (how many years did it take him to get down to what he is now?).  Not sure if he was a beer drinker, but apparently that is what is the main cause of weight increase in men, and when they stop drinking that their weight drops off VERY rapidly.   Wish I drank beer, then I could stop and my weight would reduce.  Only I don't drink beer, and am now gaining weight again because I've got addicted to eating bread (even though it is Weight Watcher's).  I really MUST stop as I've just ordered some new clothes (well, I haven't had any new for about 10 years), and a size smaller in the hope this will force me to get back on track and lose enough weight for them to fit.

Can imagine the smell given off by the Shipham's Paste factory was not one of the nicest Granny G. Have very early memories of eating their fish paste (I liked salmon and shrimp best), and my mother keeping the jars to hold water for me to wash my paint brushes in.  I used to do the same - keeping the jars - for my children to use in the same way.
As usual, more memories now awakened.  The first paint books I had were pages of pictures formed from little differently coloured dots, and all I had to do was wipe a wet brush over the page, this would then dampen the dots and they would give off their colour.  As I got older I moved onto books with pictures that were just outlined in black and I would colour these in with either watercolours or poster colours.  I got very good at keep neatly within the lines, and - when 13 - suddenly decided to start painting 'for real', and got very good at it, although it was in my genes as my dad was a good painter.

Am sure that the Shipham's (or is it Shippams?) pastes are still on sale Pam as very occasionally I have an urge to buy one to spread on my toast.  But not recently.  Think the jars are slightly different and smaller (but then isn't everything foodie now reduced in size but twice as expensive?). I'm also partial to Heinz Sandwich Spread but try not to buy the pastes or the spread just because they are too costly for the small amount we get, mainly because I can eat a whole jar in one go.  The same way I eat a whole bar of chocolate.  

How is it some people can just eat one chocolate from a box, then put it away and eat another  chocolate another day, and make the box last at least a month?  It takes me a great deal of self-control to make me stick to eating just one layer at a time, then the second layer the next day (like EARLY the next day).

A welcome to Kerry, with group hugs from us all.  Certainly I remember Wigston,this being next to Oadby where we used to live (before we lived in Leeds that is).  Mind you, Wigston is a big place, so is it Wigston Magna you live, or Wigston Parva, or has it spread in all directions over the past 40 years since we lived there?
When we moved to Oadby it was a quite small village, our estate being one of the first new ones built (next to the race-course).  Now Oadby has become almost a town in its own right losing a lot of its charm in the process.
Thanks for the tip about adding demerara sugar to the oil before popping corn Kerry, I will try that, it will save me finishing it off in the oven.

We used to have a big honeysuckle bush growing over the fence along the drive outside our back door in Leeds Pam, and it certainly gave off a lovely smell, especially in the evenings.  I used to keep the kitchen door open so that the scent would waft into the room.  It spread quite a bit and I was able to dig up another small 'offshoot' to give to my friend Gill, who planted it, and now tells me it has grown and grown and also gives off a lovely smell.  It is close to her house and she can sit outside her patio doors next to the honeysuckle to have her meals outdoors (when the weather is fine) and enjoy the moment.

Most of the Texas food names I recognise, but not Sopapillar (sounds like a wet caterpillar). Enlighten me.
Don't envy you your 100F temperature.  Here it is much lower (18C if lucky - and what's that in F?). Even so I find it quite hot sitting in the sun and am getting lovely golden tanned fore-arms (the only bit of me - apart from face and neck - that gets the sun full on). 

Slightly more overcast this morning, although the sun is trying to break through so it will probably end up another good day (a few short showers possibly in some parts of the country but know not where).  We could do with a shower of rain, and whatever the weather will still be working in the garden (if wet in the greenhouse) again this afternoon, hoping to be able to begin pruning down a lot of the 'unnecessary' foliage, but still keeping the rest looking good.  
Now that a goodly number of containers have been planted with geraniums, lobelia, petunias, African Marigolds, chrysanthemums, lavender....(and not all in the same pots of course), the garden is beginning to look really pretty.  Last year the weather was so bad that most of the bedding plants didn't get a chance, but the lobelia and geraniums managed to stay the course, but silly me didn't take in the geraniums early enough and the frost killed them off.  This year I will repot them and put them into the conservatory where they will continue to flower through the winter, and I can take cuttings and also repot them into containers again next year.   With the money saved I can buy more bedding plants next year. 

Of course it would make sense to grow bedding plants from seed - this I could do first in the conservatory, moving them on into the greenhouse, but of course I never remember to do this until too late.   But then, as I seem to be able to save ££££s on food, it is good to be able to afford to buy already growing 'plantlets' to put out and get an almost instant garden in flower.

Not a lot in the conservatory at the moment.  The lemon 'tree' (grown from a pip) is about four foot high, just one long stem with leaves growing from it, and a great thorn where every leaf meets the stem.  One short 'branch' grew early on low down, but no more of these so wonder if I was supposed to 'prune' away the top so it would grow more shoots.  Anyone know the right way to grow a lemon tree?

The avocado 'tree' (grown from an avocado stone) is about 2 foot high, but badly needs repotting, with huge roots growing through the holes at the bottom of its pot.  I'll probably have to cut the pot away from the soil (plastic pot) to get it out without damaging the roots, then replant in a much larger pot.

In one corner of the conservatory is a big orchid plant, this flowers only around mid-winter (but the flowers last for weeks), in the opposite corner is a big bay 'tree', this being very bushy at soil level, but has thrown up two long and bare stems that have bunches of leaves on top.  Looks a bit odd and I may cut these stems down as there are plenty of leaves at the base and I don't use THAT many for cooking.

Remaining plants are a couple of Jade Plants ('money trees'), one grown from a falling 'twig' of the other.  The 'other' grown in the same way from a plant I had for many years and gave away.  And this originally grown from a 'twig' that fell from a plant we were looking after for the school during the holidays. 
Add to the above some boxes of mixed salad leaves in various stages of growth, and several pots of herbs (dill, coriander, flat and curly leaf parsley, chives, mint....).   Shortly I'll be starting off some runner bean seeds and mangetout, either in the conservatory or greenhouse, probably a bit late in the year, but am sure they will catch up, these can then be planted outdoors.  I've saved the cardboard centres from loo rolls as their 'pots', these can then be planted directly into the soil once the peas/beans have grown large enough.

Forgot to mention I've also got some tomato plants, flowering, one already starting to fruit, these now in the greenhouse.  So despite my good intentions early on that never really saw the light of day, I seem to have managed to catch up quite well.  Certainly 'growing things' is giving me something of interest to do other than cooking, watching TV or nodding off.   Let's hope I can keep it up.

Forgive me now as I have to leave you earlier than usual.  Have to sort out the conservatory ready for Norma and her salon-sized hair dryer,  also want to do the washing up of dishes, and put the laundry into the machine before she comes.  Can't switch the machine on until she leaves as when the bathroom (or kitchen) taps are turned on, the machine won't be able to fill with water.  Same with our shower, if a cold tap is turned on elsewhere in the house, the shower won't get cold water and we get scalding hot water over our body.
Not that there is much of a problem as there is only B and myself normally using the taps, and we never do at the same time.  It was worse in Leeds with six in the family, and when taking showers we had to tell each other not to turn on the taps at the kitchen sink (or in one of the bedrooms that was lucky enough to have a wash-basin).

One thing I'm noticing is that however pleasant the weather at the moment we still seem to be getting unseasonably strong winds.   I can see the Acer blowing wildly in the breeze as I look through the window in front of me, and that's in a sheltered spot in the garden.  And I'm not fond of wind AT ALL!  (because it makes a mess of my hair, and how vain is that?).

Must stop rambling (it's just I love chatting to you I don't want to stop), and will/should be back with you again tomorrow when it will be Friday again (hasn't this week gone quickly).  Hope you'll find time to sit with a coffee and read today's nonsense, and also find time to send me a message (or three), I do so love hearing from you, and as many of you as possible.  There must be hundreds out there who read this that I don't even know exist.  I would just be nice to know, then you needn't comment again unless you wish to (but hope you will). 
One way or the other, tomorrow we'll meet up again...please.   See you then.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What are We Missing?

Nothing very interesting in the US 'Unwrapped' progs this morning apart from two things.  One was showing how the sweet 'Seafoam' was made (called 'Sponge Candy' in other parts of the US).  Exactly the same as we make 'Cinder Toffee', but they added a 'secret ingredient' to make it foam (huh, secret! We all know that is only bicarb don't we?).  Once tipped out onto a marble slab, the foam was pressed down to flatten a bit, then cut into oblongs.  Once set it was 'bottomed' with chocolate and when that was set it was coated in melted chocolate.  Something we could easily make ourselves.

The other food made was called 'Polish Kiebasa Sausage'.  This a bit spicy (like chorizo) and not formed into individual sausages, just one long 'rope' that was then looped round rods and cooked in ovens.  Good for reheating on the barbecue.  
It was the fact it as a traditional Polish sausage that interested me the most as it does seem we don't have much info here in the UK about Polish or Hungarian foods.  Or Russian, or Romanian.... There are quite a few Polish foods sold in the supermarkets because many Poles are now living here, but they have never enticed me to try them.  Perhaps I should.

It wasn't until after World War II that we realised that people ate different foods than we did, and over the last 50 years more and more delicious ingredients appear on the shelves.  The problem is we tend to believe that a country lives only on the foods we have become used to.  In India they cook only curries (even though these have different flavours).  In China and the Far East it is mainly 'stir-fry' (again with slightly different ingredients).  In Mexico it is chilli con carne (although believe that originated in Texas).   Italy it is the pizza and pasta dishes,  France - snails and frogs legs come to mind, but generally everything is coated in a sauce of some kind.  With Spain we think of Tapas and Paella, and Morocco is the Tagine.
In the US the first foods that come to mind are giant steaks and beefburgers, Clam Chowder, Mac 'n Cheese, and cupcakes.   

Does this mean all countries tend to think the same way, believing with the English we eat mainlyit will be Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, and Fish and chips (and not a lot else)? Scotland has it'se porridge and now deep fried Mars bars (yes they do sell these). Ireland it's Soda Bread, Wales it's Wesh Cakes and Laver Bread. 
We all know we cook a lot more 'traditional' (and gorgeous) foods than the above in the UK, and so it must be the same in all the other countries.  So let's hear readers from around the world (who kindly read this blog) telling us of other traditional and favourite foods that are lesser known to us.

Time now for me to reply to comments that have been received during the last 24 hours. 
Am sure Mandy, if you move to Warwickshire, you will love the country.  I was born in Coventry, but know the country quite well, my favourite memories are of Leamington Spa (where we also lived for 2 years), Warwick, Kenilworth, and Stratford on Avon, plus Anne Hathaways' cottage at Shottery.  Much of the beauty of the countryside for me came from the many weeping willows that lined the many rivers and streams, also in gardens.

It sounds as though you live fairly close to Morecambe druidsgarden.  You sound very much a part of our English/Scottish, Irish heritage, with almost all your genes coming from various parts of the UK (certainly adding the Welsh side via your OH your children will definitely be 'true Brits'.
How lovely to be able to (almost) trace your ancestors to Robert the Bruce.  Wasn't he the one hiding in a cave watching a spider keep repairing it's web, and came up with 'if you can't succeed, try and try again'?  Which he did.   If so, then hope you have - through his genes - this same approach to life.  It does pay off.

Your mention of the smell of liquorice as you approach Pontefract jane, reminds me of how - when a child and we always went to Hemsby (Norfolk) for our holidays, as we drove into Great Yarmouth we would be met by the smell from the Smith's Crisps factory.  Made my mouth water.  So another request to readers.  What smells take your back to your youth (it doesn't have to be food)?

Hope you enjoy retirement Granny G. (or at least your husband's retirement, you may already be retired).  Have to say that life hasn't really changed at all since I retired, I still have to cook, clean, do the laundry... it's B's life that really has changed, he is now free to get out of bed as late as he wishes, jump into his car and drive to where he wants, and take up hobbies that he now has time for.  I suppose I could do some of that too but nearly 60 years of being 'nobbut a skivvy' has become a habit hard to break, and it doesn't feel right if I do.

The library phone yesterday to say the two books requested by me were ready to collect, so B fetched them later that afternoon.  Still haven't got 'The Clan of the Cave Bear', but the two he brought were Betty Macdonald's 'Onions in the Stew' and 'The Egg and I'.  I have begun reading the latter and her husband sounds very much like mine and Granny G's when it comes to gardening (the 'crash and burn technique').  I was sure I'd read 'Onions...') before, but it all seems new to me, so perhaps I'd been meaning to but never got around to it.  Am pretty sure I read 'The Egg and I', but will find out late once I start reading. 

How lovely that you kept your egg cups Pam, but am wondering why it took you so long to put them to use.  Bet you also kept a teapot. 
When visiting our daughter in America she asked me to bring her a teapot as they didn't seem to sell any there (unless in the 'English' shops where they were very, very expensive).  So I took her a small shiny, fat brown one (the classic farmhouse style).  I also took her a fancy one that looked like The Queen Vic (in EastEnders).

It does seem that Americans have no idea at all how to make tea.  More than once I was given a mug of not-quite-hot water, and a tea-bag so I could dangle it inside.  It was disgusting, although perhaps the brand of tea and the water made with it might have made a bit of a difference (the water in that area was very chlorinated, tasted like swimming bath water).
Mind you, the same thing happened when we were in the Netherlands, the tea served in a top restaurant was just hot water served with a tea-bag (of my choice).   On the other hand, the Dutch coffee was out of this world (I asked the B & B landlady how she made it.  It was Due Egberts coffee with evaporated milk.  GORGEOUS.   Don't know why I stayed with Nescafe Original Instant on our return.  Probably because it worked out cheaper.

Lucky you to live in Kent Taaleedee being 'the Garden of England'.  I always associate the series 'The Darling Buds of May' with that area, so tend to believe in spring the fields are full of fruit trees in flower, there are rows of hops growing, strawberry fields in the summer, and the sun always shining so people eat outdoors in the garden (like 'the Larkins'). 

Like the sound of your 'extreme Grandma duties' Janet.  Am sure you will enjoy all the times you spend with your grandson.  The first 13 years are very precious, after then they tend to forget they have a grandma sometimes, later they forget altogether.
How is the Rossendale Foodbank getting along.  I've heard nothing from the Morecambe Bay Foodbank since the ladies took my recipe book to print, and am too embarrassed to ask in case they say it wasn't any good.

B is out all day helping to put up a fence between our daughter's house and next door (which has just been sold). So far it looks like being another sunny day, although the sky is slightly hazy, with a few clouds.  However will spend most of the day in the garden to get the rest of the plants potted up (not many left to do), check none need more water, maybe sit in the sun for a bit, then back indoors to prepare B's supper (he has chosen Spag. Bol, so I can prepare the meat sauce to be reheated, and cook the quick-cook pasta a few minutes before he wants to eat)

Just one recipe today as I want to get on while B is out of the house (don't know why, but it is far easier when he isn't here, even if he does leave me alone to get on with things).
The recipe is for a savoury souffle omelette and although this one uses three eggs (for one portion) it reminded me of how I used to make a souffle omelette for B's 'pudding' in our early days of marriage (it was about the only thing I could cook then).  Am sure this used only one egg, the white being stiffly whipped, folded into the beaten egg yolk then tipped into a frying pan and cooked until almost set on top, a dollop of jam was put on half the omelette which was then folded over and served.
We don't all grow the herbs given in the recipe so suggest we use any fresh herbs we have (that will go together).  The recipe doesn't suggest chopping them, but I would do so.

Herby Souffle Omelette: serves 1
3 eggs, separated
1 tblsp water
handful grated Cheddar cheese
1 tblsp each parsley, dill, chives, tarragon...
half oz (15g) butter
salad leaves
Put the egg yolks and water into a bowl and whisk together, beat in the cheese and herbs. In another bowl (with clean beaters) whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then quickly fold these into the yolk mixture.  Do this gently to retain as much air as possible.
Heat the butter in a non-stick frying pan until it begins foaming, then pour in the egg mixture and give a shake to level it out.  When it has set, fold over in half and serve with salad leaves.

Sorry the blog is shorter today (although I am sure I hear sighs of relief from readers), but really do want to make the most of my 'B-free' time.  A reminder that the blog will probably be later tomorrow being a Norma (hair) day.  Working outdoors will leaves enough of my mind free to keep you in my thoughts and hope you too will have an enjoyable day.  TTFN.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Continuing Cooking...

Slight delay in blogging today as I stayed to watch some chat about a new TV series 'Eat Well For Less' on BBC TV starting next month.  Greg Wallace (?) Masterchef Judge was talking about it, and in his opinion home-cooked food is never as good as that served in (top?) restaurants.  I beg to differ.  But as Greg (who says he his a good cook) admits 'eating-out' five or six days a week, how would he know?  Does he ever eat home-cooked food other than his own?  Me I'm going to continue cooking,  and 'eating in' not 'out'.

Previous to the above, I sat and watched an episode of DC cupcakes, and although this was not one I had seen before (they do a lot of repeats), somehow it still seems so 'staged'.  Almost as though they are working to a script and disasters made to happen rather than accidentally.

Then watched two of the 'Unwrapped' (new series on Food Network), the first being on the US popular sweets (many originating in the 19th century). There were jelly-based Fruit Slices, Adams Black Jack chewing gum, also Beemans Pepsim Gum, and Clove gum.  All these gums stopped making in 1970 but have begun occasionally retailing them again now as 'retro gum', keeping them in short supply so that people will buy them because of that not because they particularly like them.

What is interesting is that in many cases we see the actual making of the sweets, and the Sweet Candy Co's Caramel and Nougat rolls am sure we have something similar sold here although our pronunciation of Nougat is different (US = Noo-gatt.  UK either 'nugget' or 'New-gar').

It did seem as though the US puts the 'invention' of liquorice sweets as their own.  But all they seem to make are the Liquorice 'Crows' and 'Dobs'.  The 'Crows' are tiny rolls, and the 'Dobs' are like 'buttons'.  Here in the UK we have been selling Liquorice 'buttons' for (is it?) centuries, but these we call Pontefract (aka 'Pomfret') Cakes, circles of liquorice stamped with a pattern.  The same 'crows' we find in our boxes of Bassett's Liquorice Allsorts.  Both seem to have been on sale for well over 100 years (maybe much longer - liquorice grows in the Pontefract area of England, hence the name).

Apparently if you pull a little US 'Crow' apart, stretching it, then look through it at the light the colour is not black but dark green. Must try that with our Bassett's version and see if the same thing happens.

After the sweets came the Potato Chips (called potato crisps in the UK).  These were first 'invented' in 1853, put on the market by Lay's in 1932, the name changed to Frito-Lay in 1952.  This company (there are now others) demonstrated how they were made, sliced then fried in cotton-seed oil which has to have been previously used.  New oil would make the 'chips' too oily.  This company makes 3 BILLION lbs of chips (crisps) a year.   They travel along a chute that separates the small chips/crisps from the large, the large going into big bags, the small into small bags (presumably that way the big bags look to have more chips (by number) than the smaller.  Here in the UK our potato crisps come in varying sizes, many of them broken.
Add the amount of chips make by the company above to all the rest made by other companies and no wonder the US has an obesity problem.

The origins of Coca-Cola (originated 1886) I found also interesting as from from just a few drinks sold many decades ago -always in glasses, usually at 'soda fountains', this company now sells 10 BILLION cases a year over 200 countries with surprisingly Mexico and Iceland having the highest consumption (presumably per head as Iceland isn't that hugely populated).

Following episode not so interesting for me, although it did show 'Chudders' as sweet store that in 1999 had the longest display of candy jars.  We saw a three deep displayof jars along shelving that measured 112ft (in the Guiness Book of Records as 111ft 11inches to allow for shrinkage of the wooden shelves).  Overall there were 3.5 tons of sweets, and no two jars alike.  Children (and adults) were allowed to help themselves by taking a bag, but having to don a plastic glove so that no germs got into each jar, the sweets were not then weighed for sale but counted separately - as this is the shop's tradition.
The rest of the show was not very interesting for me even thought there was a mentioned of the oldest restaurant in the US,  this being Ye Olde Union Oyster House (if I can read my scribble correctly), in the 1820's under a slightly different name, think it was Attwood Oyster (or was it Lobster?) Bacon House.  In Boston if anyone is interested. 
As here in the UK we have Inns and eating houses many centuries old (several in original condition) we don't seem to be so interested in the age of these, just whether the food they serve is good enough to eat (and much better than it would be when the inns were first built).  What IS 'old' in the UK?  Probably a building over 1,000 years old, like the Tower of London?  We have even older ones, although not all in pristine condition. Plenty of Roman villas with their mosaic floors intact.

Why are we (or is it just me) obsessed with the age of anything.  Surely a new-build (especially if an 'eatery') can be as good or even better than what came before?  Are all countries so tied to their past 'lives' that they don't wish to part with anything that keeps them in mind?  Perhaps living in a fairly 'new' country such as Australia gives more of a sense of freedom re this.  A new start, a new life-style sort of thing.  

Certainly yesterday was busier than normal for me.  I did get a load of laundry done (now dry), baked a ginger cake (the cake batter spread over a layer of apricot jam this in turn spread over the base of a pastry case I'd baked previously).   B enjoyed eating some - reheated in the microwave - with cream poured liberally over.   He said the stir-fry he'd cooked himself was one of the best (perhaps was as I'd had to part-cook most of it before he even started, even made the stir-fry sauce for it as the ones he had bought in little sachets were not the right flavour to go with beef).

During the afternoon I did quite a bit more gardening.  B wandered down the path and said he was going to remove certain bushes (revealing a very boring fence), and take out all the plants round our apple tree.  I said he couldn't, and I'd be the one to wield the pruning shears as then I wouldn't just chop at things leaving stumps sticking up, but I'd prune carefully so that the bushes still looked good.  He seemed satisfied with that. 

Around the apple tree seems to have sprung up all sorts of different flowers this year that I'd not seen before (we've now been here 4 years on the 1st July).  Yesterday noticed some lovely tall yellow iris in bloom, slightly behind the tree, unseen from the house, but visible from the garden bench, also other flowers (name now forgotten or can't spell them) and several other leafy plants,   so there they must stay.  B would rather uproot everything and have bare soil than have to bother to look after plants, so now I am a bit more mobile (at least in the garden as I can have a sit down every 15 minutes to rest my aches and pains then start again - I've even got a chair in the greenhouse) I'll be able to do more in the garden, especially when the weather is good - as it is at the moment.  It takes me quite a time to water all the containers, but still have plenty of rain water stored in various large butts and buckets, and other containers. 

Last night part of the country had some frost, but I don't think the chill did any of my plants harm as the garden had heated up a lot during the day.  Today it will be cooler, about 12C in Morecambe up to 18C further inland, and possibly even 20C over London (always a degree or two hotter there because it's such a large built-up area).
Thank goodness we don't have the extreme temperatures that Margie (Toronto, Canad) is having at the moment.  At least not often and if it ever has reached 90F (probably over London) it would not have been humid, just sheer dry heat.   We don't often get much humidity, but do suffer a lot from pollen, today being a 'high pollen day' over much of the country.  This doesn't affect me, but many people do suffer with hay-fever (caused by high pollen).

By the way, thanks Margie for giving details of the Turbinado sugar.  At the bottom of your comment it said 'ads by Google', what does that mean - as there were no ads.

I can't believe that soft-boiled eggs are not eaten in the US Pam, at least not served in shell the British way.  The only way the American seem to eat eggs with soft yolks are either fried or poached and maybe not even the latter. You mentioned serving them in 'cups', so did you manage to buy the proper egg cups, or use a small pot or jar that would hold an egg? 

Glad you liked the idea of making your own cheese straws from left-over shortcrust pastry Mandy. They are even better if made using left-over puff pastry as it doesn't matter if the pastry is gathered up roughly before being rolled out, after thinly rolling several times (with grated cheese between each layer) when cut into the final strips they puff up in all directions and are lovely and crispy when baked.
Sometimes, when getting a pack of puff-pastry from the freezer, when it has begun to thaw I will then cut a narrow strip from one end (so the layers run top to bottom of the strip).  I then roll it out into a very long, thin strip, sprinkle it with celery salt, and/or pepper (or any other seasoning you like), then cut this into strips and - being so thinly rolled - it stays flat when cooked but also flaky and crispy after baking.  These cost a lot to buy but very, VERY cheap to make.

As you say Taaleedee, 'a bit of dirt won't harm you'.  Most children who play outdoors get filthy hands and still suck the dirt off them.  It's the type of dirt that gets 'eaten' that is the problem, but it has always been said that the less clean we keep things the more likely our children will grow up more healthy because their bodies learn to become immune to germs that might cause others - who live in almost hospital clean conditions - to fall prey to.  As I've mentioned before, I have a long-term friend who is fanatical about cleaning, emptying her kitchen cupboards EVERY week and giving them all a good scrub out. Her house is spotless, yet she and her children (now grown up, sadly one had died), have never been really healthy, she herself is ALWAYS ill with something or other. Nothing really serious, but she is never well.  I put that down mainly to living in a very clean and bacteria free house.

The 'MR T' you mentioned (that has panko). Do you mean Tesco's?  Or is there a store called 'Mr T'? 
Thanks for giving the recipe for the 'Holy Toad' (as I call it).  You mention using skimmed milk (to cut down cholesterol).  If you added a tablespoon (or two) of low-fat skimmed milk powder to the milk (or add dry to the flour) you would increase the density of the milk/batter which would make for a richer 'Yorkshire'. 

There has been a lot mentioned in the press recently about eating walnuts (or drinking walnut oil) as a way to reduce cholesterol.  Apparently this works miracles.  I mentioned it to the diabetic nurse when I saw her recently and she agreed that this nut really does seem to lower cholesterol.   We don't need to eat a lot, just a few nuts each day, or a spoonful of oil (use this with lemon juice to make a salad dressing), and the results - if not immediate - will be in a very few days.  There is no point in eating a lot of nuts, just a little and often works best.

So there you go - a very good reason to make a coffee and walnut cake, or how about a carrot cake with low-fat cream cheese frosting on top studded with obligatory walnuts?

With walnuts at the forefront of my mind think it would be a good idea to give a savoury recipe that uses these nuts.  The red cabbage too (being red) makes healthy eating.  In fact all red (and purple) foods are very good for us.  Beetroot being one of the tops as it lowers blood pressure.

Although intended to serve as a 'side dish' with meat, potatoes etc, this does eat well on its own.  Worth making the full amount (it serves 8) as it freezes well, but let it thaw completely before reheating.
Please don't be one of those cooks who dismiss this recipe because they haven't a bay leaf or any cloves.  Just leave them out.  Apples are pretty essential to this dish, but any green apple (or even an eating apple) could be substituted for the Bramleys.   Use any soft brown sugar, or even demerara.  White sugar if nothing else.   However it is best to use the correct ingredients if you can as substitutes can change the flavour, not always for the better.  Sitting on the other side of the fence I would say it doesn't really matter too much as an apple is an apple, sugar is sugar, and vinegar is vinegar, and changing the recipe in this way makes no nutritional difference to the 'food value' of the dish.  After all, that's why we eat food in the first place - as fuel for our bodies.  Think nutrition first, and play around with adding 'additions' (flavours etc) later.

So we could use white wine vinegar (or plain clear malt vinegar) if we haven't the cider vinegar (for some reason this is spelled 'cyder' sometimes, so if ordering online check both, Tesco 'don't recognise' or 'have no' cider vinegar, but they do have 'cyder vinegar' (same with their cous-cous.  They don't have cous cous/cous-cous, but they do have couscous).
Red Cabbage, Apple, and Walnuts: serves 8
1 red cabbage, finely sliced
1 oz (25g) butter
1 Bramley apple, peeled and grated
1 bay leaf
3 cloves
4 fl oz (100ml) cider vinegar
1 oz (25g) light soft brown (muscovado) sugar
good handful toasted walnuts, chopped
Put the cabbage in a wide shallow pan, add the butter, apple, bay leaf and cloves, then cook over gentle heat, continually stirring, until the cabbage is beginning to wilt.  Pour in the vinegar (but hold your breath until the steam subsides or you'll find yourself choking), then continue to cook-stir for about 20 minutes until the vinegar has all but disappeared.
Add the sugar and walnuts, and when the sugar has dissolved (take care it doesn't burn), fold in the walnuts and serve.

Now and again I like to make a large panful of popcorn, normally tossing it in melted butter and sugar then crisping it up in the oven.  Recently though I have got a taste for all things chilli (I'm hooked on chipotle sauce), so today am making another panful of popcorn, this time 'spiced'.

Popping corn is extremely cheap compared to the cost (when popped) of the same amount (by volume) of popcorn bought over the counter.  
The recipe below uses more corn than I would normally 'pop' in one go, but if you have a saucepan large enough, and people to eat the corn, then go for it (it will keep in an airtight container for 1 week), and - as it makes such a lot - you might be interested that - at least with this recipe - there are only 75 calories per portion and only 1g of fat.

As most cooks keep a fairly wide variety of dry spices in their cupboard, it is always worth experimenting.  Try using ground cumin and coriander instead of the chilli flakes (or as well as).  Or melt a very little butter with some Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce and toss the corn in that, finishing off in the oven.  
There must be many different ways to flavour popping corn, both sweet and savoury, so if any reader have suggestions, please send them in.

Spiced Chilli Popcorn: serves 5
4 oz (100g) popping corn
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp mixed spice
Pot the corn kernels as per packet instructions.  Mix together the chilli flakes, pepper and spice then sprinkle this over the popped corn and toss well.   Tip onto a large baking sheet (or two) and put in the oven (200C, 400F, gas 6) for 5 minutes until the corn is crisp and fragrant.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with a little salt and eat warm or cooled.  Store any surplus in an airtight container for up to a week.

Wimbledon has started and I even managed to fit in watching at least some of Andy Murray's match (which of course he won).  Shock news that Nadal was beaten by an unknown player.
Despite that the Centre Court now has a movable roof (we need it to keep off the rain), have to say that Wimbledon hasn't changed much over decades, it's all so very traditional and 'English'. Strawberries and cream and champagne always on sale there during the two weeks of tennis.  Even I have been known to sit and watch Wimbledon on TV eating strawberries and cream, with a small bottle of BabyCham ready to pour into the glass on the table by my side.  Now that's being truly English (or even British).

Suppose everyone abroad thinks of us in the UK as 'British', probably lumping Wales and Scotland, possibly also Northern Island into 'us Brits'.  Do they ever consider we want to be 'separate' countries (which we do), English, or Welsh, Scots or Irish?  I nearly came to blows with an American official when we were about to fly to America.  I'd written 'English' on 'country of origin' on the paper they gave me, and he crossed it out and wrote 'GB'.  I said "I'm not just British I'm ENGLISH!!"  He didn't seem to understand.

To me, saying 'British' is like saying 'European'.  Britain is an area, not a country. Or maybe it is and I'm just a bit too parochial (if that's the word).  Does Hawaii think of itself as truly 'America'? For that matter is 'New Mexico' part of America or belong to Mexico?
Here in the UK (well England at least) we are very proud of the county we are born (Warwickshire in my case, then moving to, Leicestershire, Yorkshire and now Lancashire..) , and some US states have also many counties it seems ('Bridges of Madison County', and 'Dukes of Hazzard (county)') come to mind.  And there is Orange County in California I believe).   Are there counties in Canada? Or just regions?

I'm babbling on again, and see time is fast moving towards noon, so time for me to have an early lunch (or late brunch) so that I can give myself time to spend in the garden again this afternoon.  Liver, bacon, cabbage and potatoes for B's supper, so first must get the liver from the freezer to begin thawing. 

Please, my lovely readers, keep in touch as I do love to hear from you - even if you really have nothing much to say, better a little than never at all.  Make the most of the good weather we are having at the moment, even though we could do with it a bit warmer (and here a little less breezy). Thursday is Norma the Hair day this week, so hope to start blogging just after 8.00am tomorrow. Please join me for our daily chat.  See you then.

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.