Saturday, November 30, 2013

thank Goodness for my Blog!!

Having had an almost sleepless night last night due entirely to B muttering to himself, having coughing fits, thrashing around in bed, singing in his sleep, shouting in his sleep.... I was not able to get to sleep until 5.00am this morning (and didn't sleep during that time as I kept checking the bedside clock). I prodded B, shouted at him to wake him up, and nothing I did got through, he just carried on making a racket, fast asleep.  And on and on....
Just began to fall asleep when the central heating burst into life (the boiler is in our bedroom) but did manage to snooze for an hour, at least until I needed to go to the bathroom at 6.00 decided then I might as well stay up, and spent a couple or so hours watching the Food Network (all about the different cookies made in the US and gingerbread decorated for Christmas). 

When B woke up a few minutes ago, bringing me in a cup of coffee, he said he'd lost his false teeth during the night - somewhere tangled in the bed clothes no doubt.  I really rocketed him for his 'behaviour' (he's usually like that after a Friday evening at the social, but yesterday was the worst ever) and told him every 'social Friday' from now on he'd have to sleep on the futon in the living room so that I could have a good night's sleep.

I felt in a very black mood when I sat down at the comp this morning, but as soon as I saw there were several comments in my 'inbox', I immediately felt better.  If nothing else, my blog seems to bring me back to feeling a lot better about life in general, maybe because by 'having a moan' it gets it out of my system rather than brooding over something.

Because I couldn't sleep last night, decided to use the time to 'have a think' about the difference between life here and that in the US.  Earlier that evening had caught a snippet of news about a store in the north of England (and possibly other branches had the same thing happen) that had decided to copy the US and have its own Black Friday sale.  Apparently lots of people went, almost a stampede, think one or two people were hurt (I've not yet read the paper so don't know all the facts). 

Why is it that we always seem to have to copy what America does? Seemingly choosing to do all the wrong things that can do us more harm than good, and that's on top of what has already been foisted upon us.   Granted, I'm not complaining about the introduction of Heinz Beans, Heinz Salad Cream, Kellog's Corn Flakes, and even Spam (although it is probably only me who enjoys the latter).  But all the other stuff:  Wimpy Bars, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza take-aways....not to mention all the sweets, fizzy drinks and junk foods that are now so popular, and the cause of much of the obesity in both adults and children.

As Chef Duff says about his cakes - they have to be 'bigger, better, and awesome' (and how I dislike that word, seems to be used for just about everything 'liked'.  Am finding Ina Garten's continual use of 'amAzing' almost as infuriating).
It seems that everything in the US has to be bigger than it really need be. Just after the war, when we still had rationing - how we used to envy the Americans with their big cars (almost every family seemed to have one), and their big fridges, central heating and air-conditioning.
Myself was always puzzled as to why most houses seemed to have no inner doors, rooms just led one into another.  In Britain every room had a door.  American life seemed so much better than any other. At least THEN.

Perhaps the American way of life was not always as good as it seemed, after all, the only way we knew much about it was watching films.  Even the poorer folk seemed to have a better life that we did (The Waltons, the Ingalls etc...).  The sun always shone, teenagers seemed to just 'enjoy life' with their school proms, holiday camps, even owning their own cars (or at least driving them). There were sit-coms that showed other sides, such as 'Roseanne', but even then life seemed far more laid back than in Britain.

Thankfully we haven't (yet) taken up the incessant 'eating giant portions' that seems to be happening all over the States (based on watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, and Man v Food). To us Brits the amount that people eat in one sitting seems obscene.  Granted, some of the meals do look delicious and certainly a lot of trouble goes into making cuts of meat taste wonderful (hours and hours of slow cooking and basting with chefs own choice of spices etc).  The one thing I can guarantee is that we will never see a British version of Man v Food.  We would be ashamed to be seen eating so much.

The minute we take up an American 'tradition' - such as Trick or Treating, and now Black Friday, this means more pressure from manufacturers and stores to get us to spend, spend, spend.  Where will it all end? 
The question should be asked:  What has Britain to offer America? Is there something we have that they want for a change?  At one time I'd say - for a certainty - our chocolate, particularly Cadbury's (the US Hershey choc is awful), but now that Cadbury's has been sold to an American company, no doubt this chocolate will be considered 'theirs'. 

Thankfully we do have our Royal Family and our National Health/Welfare State that still keeps Britain Great, although the latter abused by many people who decide they will be better off if they come to live in our country rather than stay in theirs.  But on the whole I always get the feeling that we are the 'poor relation' when it comes to the USA, and they feel more sorry for us than anything.  We are pathetic compared to them.  Allowing us to have McDonalds and all their other 'stuff' may be their 'aid' to give us a better standard of living (although I'm far more inclined to believe they are in it only for the profits).  I don't know, I just feel that now that Black Friday has arrived here, that is one step too far and we should now ban every new idea that comes to us from over the pond.

Do hope I haven't upset our American readers, and they are able to see it from our viewpoint for our way of life is very different from theirs.  Someone once said we are like two different cultures, the only thing we have in common is speaking the same language (and I'm not so sure we do that any more when they seem to need subtitles when anyone speaks English on the TV).  Personally, I would like to remain British, and enjoy the difference, not try and be the same.

Well, that's my moan for today.  I'd probably not have gone on about it so much had I had a better night, but there you go.
Time for me now to reply to comments....

The other week we had our dual fuel statements Les, telling me that the Fixed Price Tariff I'd set up a couple or so years back was due to expire.  I was given several options but decided to stay with a new Fixed Price Tariff that will hold the (new - and not much higher) prices until 2016.  If - as expected - the prices rise again and again, at least ours will remain as they are now - at least for 3 years (and by then I could be dead).  Because we pay by D.D. we also get a substantial discount.

Now we have two readers of the same name,  I'm calling one Ali (from Shropshire), the other Alison (from Essex) so hope both remember to give the short form (or full name) with future comments then I won't need to add the county.

Do hope your sore throat doesn't develop into something unpleasant Ali,  myself find that eating raw onions (the stronger the better) really does help to get rid of a bad throat - although it does then loosen any mucus and you will need a box (or two) of paper hankies.  Lemon and honey is also soothing for a bad throat.

Your mention of dolls Alison - and Teddy Bobby - reminded me I'd forgotten to mention my own Teddy Alice.  How I loved that bear, took it to bed with me every night.  Believe it is still in the family, now owned by my cousin's daughter (does that make her a 'second cousin' or 'cousin once removed'?  I never know the difference).  My Teddy ended up also threadbare, but always loved.

A welcome to Judy and David.  It was good to hear that you enjoyed making/eating some of the recipes from 'Have a Goode Year'.
You also mentioned the large portions cooked in Ina Garten's kitchen (often just for her and her husband). and perhaps the only cookery prog on the Food Network that does seem to show smaller portions is Nadia G's 'Bitchin Kitchen'.  Although Nadia is very OTT (as is her kitchen), once you get past her attitude, she really does cook some very simple, easy to make, and what seem to be very tasty dishes.  Certainly a programme that would get the younger folk wanting to cook.  She doesn't make it look at all 'domestic' (which can help especially in these 'modern' times).  And of course there is always Hans popping up to bring a little pleasure to us older women.  Sometimes I watch purely to see him, but still taking note of what is being cooked.  It's a programme worth watching (usually on very late at night - from 11.00 onwards I think).

So Canada now has Black Friday Margie. Can understand the reason you gave, but again isn't it just using psychology (again) to get us to part with our money.  The stores seem to know that we cannot resist a bargain, even if we don't really want it.   We see TV programmes of people living in houses where their rooms are stuffed so full of things bought (that they didn't really need), that they can hardly open a door, and sometimes have to end up sleeping in a chair as that is the only 'free' space they have. 

Many clothes bought in such sales end up in the charity shops, Never been worn, labels still attached, but bought because 'it was a real bargain'.   A memory of seeing (American films/TV) wallets taken from pockets, opened out to show long strips of credit cards (over twenty different ones at least) makes me wonder if the US were first with these cards and we (again) followed the trend to  'pay with plastic'.

The query from Margie as to whether the yog/curd mixture should be churned.  No, it normally freezes well - once mixed - put directly in the freezer.  The high proportion of sugar in the lemon curd helps to prevent it freezing rock solid, but if it is firm, then just put it in the fridge for half an hour or at room temperature for 10 or so minutes before scooping out.
Adding alcohol when making ice-cream also prevents it freezing solid, so if wishing to add a little limoncello to the above ice-cream don't add more than a teaspoonful or it may not freeze firmly enough.

It always surprises me how some people really don't enjoy doing jigsaws.  We love them, so was pleased to hear from Taaleedee that she too enjoys these.  We have about twenty at the moment, and prefer those that have lots of pieces as the jigsaw can be laid out on our dining room table and left there to 'play with' when we have nothing much to do. B can spend many happy hours putting them together. 
After we've done them once or twice we take them to the charity shop and buy others from the same place (only about 50p each and considering how much fun they are to do, well worth the money). Then we take those back for resale and come back with others we haven't yet done.   Sometimes I even buy a new one.

The comment from Lynne - regarding stuffed potato skins - has reminded me that I should have added that it is easier to make perfect mashed potato if the spuds are first cooked, in their skins, in the microwave (as we cook them for 'jackets').  Once cooked, scoop out most of the flesh (or all the flesh if not using the skins) and mash it us with a little pepper and salt and butter.  Microwaved potatoes end up with no lumps (unlike when first peeled and boiled in a pan) as they are so very easily mashed down with just a fork. 
Myself prefer to leave a bit of potato flesh clinging to the skin as I just love eating the skins, sometimes as-is, still hot spread with a little butter, or piling them high with a mixture of mashed potato and grated (or cream) cheese.  The other day I filled them with the little bit of leftover minced beef, mashed potato and grated cheese (deliberately left-over after making the Cottage Pie).  Although not a lot - if served on a plate - it did fill 8 half-skins that really made a meal in itself.

The good thing about potato skins is that they are very 'filling', and a good way to make a small amount of everything else served is to add a jacket potato then you still feel as though you've eaten a good meal.

Yes Lynne, syllabub is very moreish, but if we have only a small amount of double cream and a little white wine left-over, then we can only make one portion (or maybe two), so we can avoid temptation but still enjoy the dessert.  So go on, treat yourself!

Although cold, the sun is shining in a cloudless blue sky, this alone has cheered me up.  One almost amusing thing happened about an hour ago - our upstairs neighbour came down to speak to us as their new baby had - apparently - had a very bad night, crying loudly.  They had heard me shouting at B - about being kept awake all night - and they thought this was due to the baby.   Had to explain it was B that kept me awake and the neighbour (father) couldn't believe we hadn't yet heard it.  I suggested that next time it was crying, he came down and had a listen.  It's quite true, we cannot hear it at all.  Perhaps sound goes up rather than down.  

That's enough for today.  I won't be blogging tomorrow as Gill will be phoning, and - if the weather is good - we may be going out for a drive.  All being well will be back with you again on Monday.  Have a lovely weekend. TTFN.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Tastes from the Past - and Future?

After slow-cooking some mince beef earlier this week and then freezing most of it away as 'cooked mince', kept back one small bowlful to use to make either spag bol meat sauce or chilli con carne.  In the end, decided yesterday to use it up making Cottage Pie - one of those meals from the good old days that I haven't made for ages.

Firstly I cooked for goodsized potatoes in the microwave as 'jackets', then when cooked scooped out the flesh and mashed it up with some butter, pepper and salt - this was for the 'topping'.  Meanwhile the minced beef was reheating in a saucepan.  Knowing that on its own this beef really didn't have much flavour I'd added a couple of squirts of HP sauce and a teaspoonful of Bisto Best Beef gravy granules.  To help thicken the granules I then added a bit of hot water.  Was very pleased with the flavour, lovely and 'beefy', but unfortunately the mixture was a bit too sloppy. 

I'd already heated the grill, the spuds were still hot, so I used an old trick and threw a handful of porridge oats into the 'sloppy meat' and these absorbed all the excess liquid and also the flavour.  After cooking for 3 minutes you wouldn't even have known oats had been added.

The meat piled into one of B's 'individual dishes' (large enough to make two small helpings), topped with the mashed potato, and for a final flourish, sprinkled cottage cheese over the top.  Popped it under the grill and then made my own 'supper.  As there was some minced meat mixture left, I added this to some mashed potatoes also left over, THEN added a handful of grated cheese.  Mixed the lot together and piled it into the now almost empty potato shells.  A sprinkle more cheese on top, placed on a baking tray and also popped under the grill just to heat up a bit.

Frozen peas (for B) were microwaved (4 mins max) and by then the Cottage Pie was ready to serve.  For once, B and I both ate supper at the same time, although not quite in the same form.  Have to say the flavour of the meat filling did taste really good.

Sometimes I feel we don't add enough flavourings to the meals we make.  Certainly I feel that just a tiny pinch of salt makes a world of difference, yet we are advised not to add salt to our foods any more.  But how often now do we see recipes for 'salted caramel', 'salted chocolate'....? 

Although not going to the lengths of many American cooks- Ina Garden will add a TABLESPOON of salt to some of her dishes, yet would add only a teaspoon of pepper - we can add much to the flavour of any savoury dish by reversing this and adding just a pinch of salt and a 'good grind' of black pepper.

Pasta should always be cooked in heavily salted, rapidly boiling water as this really does improve the flavour, with most of the salt staying in the water anyway, so individually we barely eat a couple of salt crystals if that. Myself prefer to use coarse crystals of salt, either sea salt or rock salt.  The fine table salt I leave for B to pour over the several slugs he finds crawling across our carpets at this time of year (and goodness knows where they come from).

The flavour of a dish can be improved very simply by just 'adding something' (obviously). If you normally just boil rice to serve with curries, next time either add some grated lemon rind (and juice as well if you wish) to the rice (and water), another time add desiccated coconut, or add a few crushed cardamom pods and a couple of bay leaves (don't eat the pods or leaves after cooking but the c.seeds are edible).  Each choice will give a lovely but still subtle flavour to the rice which is way about the 'plain boiled', using the one that suits the flavour of the chosen dish.

Adding flavour works well also when making sweets.  If we make a 'ganache' (equal amounts of double cream and chocolate), we can add a dash of rum then turn the mixture (when cold) into 'rum truffles'.  If the ganache is left plain, it can be rolled into small balls then dropped into saucers of finely chopped nuts, or cocoa, or desiccated coconut, rolling the truffles round until coated.  If you wish to make them a bit more elaborate, freeze a few uncoated truffles, then dip these into melted chocolate (which will then set almost immediately), Keep chilled (if made to give at Christmas the undipped ones can be made now and frozen), then eat up within a week.

We can make our own 'after dinner mints' by spreading a thin layer of melted chocolate on a sheet of baking parchment, then kneading in a few drops of peppermint essence into some icing fondant, rolling this out very thinly and placing it over the layer of chocolate, then pouring a thin layer of melted chocolate over the top to cover.  Leave to set then mark into squares with a knife.  When firmly set cut through and 'presto' you have made your a.d.mints.  Store between sheets of parchment in an airtight container in a cool place (pref fridge) then plate up when ready to serve.

In a current issue of one of the major food magazines I see they are now giving recipes for 'fusion desserts'.  These seem (at least to me) to be not even worth attempting.  Why bother to make something that is half a croissant and half a doughnut?  What's wrong with making and enjoying each separately?  Have a feeling this is a sign of the times.  In the same mags I again see some of the same recipes and photos that have already appeared in them before - and this is happening more and more often.  Seems now that the cooks have run out of ideas and now having to invent new ones. 

Those of us who watch the Food Network will already have seen some of these 'fusions', and of course a lot of the US cakes and biscuits - although eaten for years in America - have now reached our shores and fairly 'new' to us, which is why we have been working our way through cupcakes (just a larger version of our Fairy Cakes (every year the cupcakes seem to be givne more and more frosting and decorations on top - they've even been stacked up as wedding cakes!!!).  We then had Cake Pops, and something called Whoopie Cakes (?) whatever they are supposed to be.  Think S'mores are just about reaching our shores (and how I wish they wouldn't).

Strangely, two of my favourite 'cakes' have been around a long time, not in America but in France.  These are the Croquembouche' (a pyramid of profiteroles), and Macarons (aka macaroons).  Both are supposed to be difficult to make, but in fact are dead easy.  Remembering Ina Garten's version of how to make a proper French omelette (as demonstrated side by side with a 'proper chef') possibly French cooking is as difficult to understand as the French when they speak perfect English (where they always use subtitles).

A belated 'Happy Thanksgiving' to our American readers, and watching the late night US news heard that severe weather conditions were preventing many people from reaching their destinations in time.
Yesterday the main topic was what they call 'Black Friday' (day after Thanksgiving) where apparently everyone makes a mad dash to the stores to pick up as many bargains as possible (from the crowd scenes - possibly from last year - it looks as though people buy 'just because it is there', not because they really want it.  Sadly, the same seems to happen here.  We just can't resist a bargain.

Pam's mention of 'turkey being cheap at this time of year, 50c a lb.  Not sure how that works out in our £££s but turkey would never be at it lowest prices around Christmas time as this is when people 'need' to buy it.  With so many Christmas office parties and dinners, the turkey dinner always on the menu, many have eaten the traditional Dinner even before the 25th, so now we are turning to roasting a large joint of beef or pork instead.  Goose was the traditional meal until turkey was introduced to this country after the colonisation of America.  Some people still cook goose, but nowadays turkey is probably the least expensive of the 'traditional meats' we can serve on Christmas Day, but this doesn't meat it doesn't' cost a lot (more than we can afford). 
In the past, when there has been just B and myself, I have tried a 'three bird roast' but found it unsatisfactory as there is a lot more stuffing than there is meat.  Maybe there are better varieties, but now usually buy a 'turkey crown'  or 'turkey breast', just a huge chunk of turkey meat that can be roasted to slice and serve in the normal way, leaving a good amount of meat left to later slice and eat cold with salads or in sarnies etc (or to cook with other ingredients in other dishes).

Tomorrow is the last day in November, and then December begins and the countdown to Christmas really begins.  Suppose it is time I made a start, but can't seem to get my head around anything these days.  I'd put off having a scoot this week due to my allergy (which has now died down, thanks for asking), and now there is a high wind and it is raining off and on, so that's a no-scoot day today.  Maybe next week - if the weather stays fair.

Yes, I remember those terry babygro's Mandy, though think they didn't appear until after my own children were grown up, but my grandchildren wore them. I still have some 'stretchy' terry sheets that I used to put on our teenagers bunk-beds.  They were warm to sleep on and suppose they absorbed some of the perspiration during the night.

The mention of dolls has brought back to mind mine.  I didn't have that many - perhaps because of the war - but my two favourites had china heads and soft fabric bodies.  One I called 'Pinky' (as she had a pale pink face, the other was named 'Olive', as her face was slightly browner.  I also had a little black doll that I loved, and a Golliwog (also much loved).  
When I was about six my parents bought me a huge doll (made of various fabrics and stuffed with sawdust) she being at least as tall as me.  I called her Jean and she wore a yellow jumper and a tartan skirt and carried a little terrier in her arms.  She also had wool plaits.

Other toys that I remember - and played with the most - was a big doll's house my dad built for me, it even had little lights that could be lit with a switch on the wall (by the door, as in a real house), and also fireplaces that lit up (all worked from batteries fitted in the roof).
My most favourite toy was a 'farm set', in those days all the animals and people were made from lead (painted over) so legs broke off easily. My dad used to make plaster moulds of some of the animals (esp. baby chickens) and melt down the broken bits of lead and pour it into the moulds to make new ones.  When set he would paint them.  Think I was able to set up a chicken farm in its own right with the hundred (or so) tiny yellow chicks that my dad had made for me.

When I was a teenager, a school friend and I became very interested in clothes, not that we could afford many, but we liked designing them.  What we did was find a drawing or photo in a magazine of a model who - at that time - was wearing a swimsuit.  We would cut out the picture4 and stick it onto card, then carefully cut round, leaving a large piece at the base that we could fold back so the model could then stand up.

To design clothes for our 'model', we would place her on a sheet of paper, carefully sketch round where here shoulders, waist etc would be, marking where her feet would appear, then use this as a guide to sketching out a dress, costume (matching skirt and jacket), dance dress, sports clothes, winter coat, fur coats... anything that came to mind.  We would colour them in, add any (drawn) trimmings and ruffles we desired, draw in little taps to fold around the waist, over the wrists, over the shoulders etc, then carefully cut them out.   Over the weeks we could make a whole wardrobe of different clothes for our 'models' to wear, and we had great fun competing to see who could design the best wedding dress etc.

In our Sunday supplement this week saw several pages of clothes (all the same size that would fit the  'paper model' that I thought would be worth cutting out to begin a new hobby - that is if I was 13 again).  Just shows that with a bit of imagination (or past experience) we can always come up with 'new' ideas that cost virtually nothing at all but can give a lot of pleasure to some youngsters.

My B regularly goes to the library and this week brought back a book he thought would interest me.  And how right he was.  It is Agatha Christie's autobiography, and my goodness, what a good writer she is.  I've never read any of her books, but of course thoroughly enjoyed all her Miss Marple's and Hercule Poirot's that have been dramatized on TV (especially when acted by Joan Hickson and David Suchet - I'm not so interested when played by other actors).

Agatha's childhood life has taken up nearly half the book, and quite enthralling even though she seems to feel she wasn't really any good at anything.  Her words really bring to life how it was in those days (and how different to what it is now). It's the sort of book you cannot skip through, every word has to be read, and how I am loving it.   If my neighbour hasn't read it already, then will lend it to her before it needs to be returned (we can always renew it).   There are several mentions of Greenways (I've checked in the index), but looking at those pages not a lot is written about those times, and I doubt that my neighbour's mother is given a mention.  But will have to wait and see when I reach those chapters.  A lot has to happen before then - a divorce from Christie then a meeting with Max (new husband), World War II as well (Greenways taken over by the military).  Lots to read and enjoy.

Still think festive, and also 'making the most of', am hoping this next recipe is worth planning for.  Certainly it is more than your average dessert - one perhaps best kept when entertaining - but we could still put by some of the ingredients in readiness.  Although whipping cream is used in this dessert we could use double cream (and as double cream can be frozen a good ide to free some away when you get the chance).  Wine can also be frozen, so pour a little away once the bottle is opened (if you leave it until the end someone will grab the bottle and empty it into his glass (by 'his' I mean B) before you manage to save any.  'Fresh' berries (opt) can be frozen (raspberries thaw out as though just picked), and although we usually have fresh lemons, we can also freeze the zest and juice, so all we need to provide from the larder is the sugar, the rest - just thaw out.
A good way to keep lemons from drying out is to wrap each in cling-film, then store them in the fridge where they will keep for several weeks.  Keep checking and remove any that are beginning to feel soft, then use them up (you could cut the flesh into small chunks, put each in an ice-cube tray with some lemon juice/water, freeze and then add one of these ice-cubes to a drink (gin etc).

Lemon Syllabub: serves 4
half pint (300ml) whipping or double cream
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
2 fl oz (50ml) white wine
zest and juice of 1 lemon
fresh berries, to serve (opt)
Put the cream and sugar into a large bowl and whip together until soft peaks form.  Gently fold in the wine, lemon juice and most of the zest, until well combined.
Spoon the mixture into four wine glasses or bowls, sprinkle the remaining zest on top, and serve - with or without fresh berries.

Am not even sure I should be encouraging anyone to make this because nothing is made from scratch, but if you have students in the family, then a packet of scone mix, a can of fruit cocktail, and a can/carton of ready-made custard could be included in the food parcel they take back to college. Plus of course this recipe.  They will be very glad you did.
On the other hand you may prefer to keep 'the makings' in your own larder, using frozen berries instead of canned so that you can quickly knock up a hot dessert when the unexpecteds come to visit.

Storecupboard Shortcake: serves 4
1 x 320g pk scone mix
1 x 250g pk frozen mixed berries (or canned)
2 tblsp Demerara (or gran) sugar
1 x 500g can/carton ready-made custard
Make the scone mix as per packet instructions, the press the dough into a circle approx. 8"/23cm in diameter, making sure the edges are slightly thicker than the middle. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes at 220C, gas 7 or until risen and light gold in colour.
Meanwhile, put the fruit (drained if canned) and sugar into a shallow baking dish and microwave on High for 5 minutes until hot, but the fruit is still holding its shape.  Heat the custard as per can/packet instructions.
Spoon a layer of custard onto the scone base, then top with the drained fruit.  Serve with the remaining custard.

Final recipe today uses lemon curd and Greek yogurt (plus a couple of other ingredients).  Both these are useful foods to keep in the fridge.  I always make my own lemon curd - at speed, in the microwave, the recipe has been given several times - and also make EasiYo Greek yogurt.  If equal quantities of lemon curd and the G.yogurt are blended together and then frozen they make a very good 'ice-cream'.  However this goes one step further (and without the freezing).  Just another dessert that is worth serving to guests without any hassle.  I see I've made a note this recipe has been given before, but as I've mentioned frozen fruits in the above recipes, and you may have some left over, it's worth giving this recipe again to use up the remaining fruits.  Use either one type of fruit (as shown) or a mixture of berries.

Lemon and Yogurt Fool: serves 4
11oz (300g) lemon curd
1 x 500g carton Greek yogurt (pref 0% fat)
1 x 200g punnet raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1 tblsp icing sugar
Put the lemon curd and yogurt into a bowl and fold gently together to give a rippled effect.  Divide between four serving glasses and place in the fridge to chill.
In another bowl mix the raspberries and icing sugar together, gently crushing the fruit so that it begins to release some of the juices but still holds some of its shape.  Spoon this over the top of the chilled  lemon/yogurt and serve immediately. 
This is good served with sponge fingers (that can be bought - I keep these in store to use when making Tiramisu), or shortbread fingers (which should be home-made - so why not make shortbread nearer to Christmas to give away as presents, and also for eating over the Twelve Days).

Am getting very naughty these days, staying in bed because it is still dark instead of getting up at 6.00am which is my normal (summer) time. But these colder days, bed is so cosy, and although I have plenty I should be doing, am now finding it more fun to stay in bed an extra hour - or three - as I then have lovely dreams, and dreams now being far more interesting than real life, it's a wonder I don't stay in bed all day.  Maybe - if I live long enough - I'll be too old to do much more than stay in bed and dream all day.  Is that a good or bad thing?  Let you know when I reach that point, although by then I'll probably have forgotten how to use the comp. forgotten who B is, forgotten even who I am.  Perhaps best not dwell on my future,  just enjoy the moment - adding a bit of something spicy to add more flavour to my life (if I can find out what to use to achieve that effect - a new man in my life would be nice).

Too late for me to do much with the rest of my morning so think I'll have an early lunch (or late brunch), the usual mug of home-made tomato soup that is very chunky and warming.  I always enjoy it. 
No reason for me not to be back again with you tomorrow, so hope you can find time to drop in for a chat.  Would like to hear from more of you but expect this - being a busy time of year - many readers only find time for a quick read once a week, if that.  Just as long as you are still with me (and as I can check the numbers it does seem these are rising rather than falling so that's good to know), I can still keep thinking of you 'out there', for each one who bothers to send in a comment then becomes a real person in my eyes, and always remains so.  My thoughts are with only the one I reply to at that time, even though all comments and replies are able to be read by all.  

Whether a personal reply (from me to you) makes any difference I don't know, but it is something I wished to do once I'd begun my blog after I'd sent queries into several 'cheffy' websites (including Delia Smith's) and never got any response.  They don't mind getting comments from readers and replies to these from other readers, but are not at all interested in giving any personal replies - which I think is a pity.  On the other hand (and only from what I've read) is seems that people who 'Tweet' to celebs (chefs and others) can often get a reply via 'Twitter'.  I'd like to feel that queries on my blog have a bit more about them than just a 'tweet'.  Or is this just the 'old-lady' having a moan again?

Must say my farewells for today or it will be too late for me to do anything today (I like to take some of each afternoon off to watch TV before starting B's supper). Until tomorrow... TTFN.  



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

'A Bit of This, a Bit of That...!'

Woke this morning to find I'd had another allergic attack from (presumably) something I ate.  At least I rarely get them these days now the doctor removed Ramipril from my prescription.  However, the other two B.P. pills I take also have the same side effects, so maybe these still build up in my body. If I'd taken three anti-hists before I went to bed, probably there would only be a slight swelling.
At the moment my bottom lip is protruding like a grouper's  and both cheeks are swollen.  Have to wear a bib when I took a drink to take my pills this morning as the swelling makes me dribble.
It'll be back to normal by mid-afternoon, but will not go out for a scoot as planned as I don't like people staring at me - even in sympathy.   Plenty of kitchen work to do as I'll be making lots of tray-bakes in a week or two for the local Foodbank (they have several open evenings planned and I'm also making lots of gingerbread men (or is that now not PC and it should be gingerbread 'persons'?) to hand out to the children.  Need to clear at least one drawer of the chest freezer to store some of the cakes, so that means another clear and sort out of said freezer (also Boris).

Was not so familiar with the Loughborough side of Leicester Barbara, my 'stamping ground' was mainly Bradgate Park and the Market Harborough side (Foxton Locks etc).  B was born in Leicester so knows it well, and my mother was also born in Leicester, as was most of her immediate ancestors. It was fun to check the census records and then drive past the homes that they all lived in (mainly in the outlying villages).  Many were framework knitters and worked from their own homes.

Of my early years living in Coventry, my most vivid memories were of the war - especially the Coventry blitz, but worse for my parents who really knew what could/might happen.  Remember my mother every day giving her home a thorough clean and polish a she 'wasn't going to let anyone know her home was a mess when it was bombed'.  Myself never felt too unsafe as my dad had built an Anderson shelter in the garden where we went to every night for weeks and weeks, and as he said we'd be safe in there, I knew we would be.  It was when daylight raids began unexpectedly and my mother pushed me under the stairs for shelter that I got really terrified (we lived under the flight path and the planes would start dropping their bombs as soon as they reached the houses - we were one road away from the countryside).

Everyone seems to love Sticky Lemon Cake Alison, in fact anything lemony makes good eating (whether a sweet or savoury dish). 
Was very pleased to read your memories of your childhood, and the same thing seem to be happening with all the readers who write in about similar things (the old, cold days when there was no central heating).  Just EVERYONE remembers how much fun life was then, and cold weather was not so much of a problem (because everyone sensibly wrapped up warm?).  Am pretty sure that the next generation will hear about how dreadful life was for their parents and grandparents because they couldn't keep warm, fuel poverty, how people had to rely on foodbanks etc.  Perhaps youngsters today have become to rely on others far too much.  In the 'old days' everyone had to learn how to cope, and cope well they did on what today is considered real poverty.

How strange it is that we have become a nation of having to always rely on others.  Have you noticed that most new-builds now have no open fire-places.  They may have such luxuries as under-floor heating and power-showers et al, but it all costs money to use these.  With an open fire you can burn almost anything that will burn (safely).
Today elf and safety would never allow a young person get a fire started by covering up the opening (to a just-lit fire) with a sheet of newspaper.  I was usually given this job as it would then cause the fire so suck up more air from underneath and very soon flames would appear - and not just in the fire, the paper also caught fire and can you imagine children holding that?  We just used to throw it back onto the fire where it rapidly burnt to ash.   I never did get burnt even though (by today's standards) this was dangerous.  In even older days they would have used bellows to puff air under the grate.  Sometimes I would lie on the floor with my face close to the coals and blow and blow, puff and puff until I was worn out, this too worked, but not as well as the newspaper.

Those of us (like Alison) who have learned 'necessary' skills such as knitting, sewing, cooking, growing food etc, always have these to fall back on in times of need, although most of us continue to use them even when there is no financial need.  They are just fun to do and give a great sense of achievement (which is lacking these days). This feeling of pleasure comes across so often in your comments and gives me a real glow when I read them.
Yet, how often do we hear about parents who are fretting because they now don't have enough money to buy their children the presents they think they deserve (like computer games etc).  One of the most-liked presents I gave my first grandson was a very cheap stamp album and a packet of used stamps.  He absolutely LOVED it, saved stamps for years and earned a badge from Cubs because of it.  Yet I remember his mother (my daughter) certainly made me feel I'd been mean not spending enough money on his gift.  Maybe she was right, or was it that I just had a bit more experience of what truly a child will enjoy?

Readers of this blog who use skills (or re-learn them) will all have far more contentment in their lives than any who have plenty of money to splash around.  We don't need money to be truly happy. It's in our genes to carry on creating thing and be independent of others.  My B says, "the one thing about having money is that we can be unhappy in comfort".  By 'we' he means 'he'.  I am far happier when having to cope. B doesn't like 'coping', he prefers a good life, but has never reached the heights he has always wished for (but could never be bothered to work hard for).  His way is to sit back and wait to win the Lottery.  Then keep moaning until he does.  |He is almost a clone of Victor Meldrew at times.

Yesterday I very nearly felt like moaning myself.  I went into the kitchen to find a brand new frying pan on the dish rack (B had obviously bought one and washed it).  I asked what had happened to our old one, and he said it was scratched at the base and couldn't be used any more (think he had cooked himself his favourite 'Bananas flambe' and burnt sugar in the pan).  Trouble was - as I knew the moment I picked up the new pan - it was useless.  Larger than the one he threw out, shallower, and very light-weight.   I can't now fit two frying pans, one large and one (that was) smaller on the hob at the same time as the new one is a couple of inches larger than the old one.  Also it can't be left on a low light to simmer as almost certainly anything in it will burn due to it being very shallow and thin.

Said to B that a good pan is always expensive - at least £30 or more - and I bet the one he bought was cheaper, like £12.  He said it cost him £6.  I was determined not to get really, really cross, and suggested he kept the new pan for his own use (along with his own wok), and I would use the other pans I have and he was not to touch these ever again!!!  B rapidly turned into Mr. Grumpy.  Just wish he'd told me about the ruined pan and allowed me to choose the new one.  This is the problem when someone thinks they know a bit about cooking.  They usually don't, especially when it comes to choosing the right pans/knives/other appliances.

This reminds me (have I already told you this?), the other day was watching Masterchef where proper chefs were completing against each other.  One of the tests was for them to make rolls, a baguette, and a four-plait loaf from a batch of dough.  Think all the chefs seemed unable to make an even-looking plait, but when I had a go I made it perfectly.  It looked wonderful when cooked and B said it was the best ever bread he'd tasted.  This might be because I brushed the surface gently with melted butter before baking which helped to keep the crust a bit softer than normal. 
It's really good to know I can do something that even a top chef can't.  After watching Masterchef, it does seem that there is more than one thing I'm capable of doing (to their standard), so it's not all bad being 'just' a domestic cook.  Maybe after years of practice I've raised my bar to a slightly higher standard without realising it.

We should always remember that it isn't just a matter of 'us and them' when it comes to cooks/chefs. True, many of them do have skills we don't really need to learn, but often this just leads to 'icing on the cake' (the presentation etc).  If we can afford to buy the best quality foods, then don't ruin these by cooking them incorrectly, we can all be chefs in our own kitchen.  Just think about it - nowadays many of the top restaurants serve what we would call 'farmhouse fare' or 'meals like grandma used to make', the only difference being they serve small amounts attractively displayed on a plate (where we would pour gravy, they just drizzle it round as 'jus').  Just try making Sticky Toffee Pudding and you'll think you've died and gone to heaven.

If you want the recipe for this pudding you'll find it on this blog (Dec. '06) where it was given the (new) name of 'Ticket Office Pudding' (B called it this because it sounds the same when you say it) and have checked the recipe hasn't been deleted.  Same recipe that I used when I made the S.T.P's for the sailing club do last weekend.  Just not giving the actual date of the month as I hope very much you will scroll down from the top as again there is much content throughout that I hope would be useful for newer readers.  Or is it that I just enjoy reading back what I've already written (so long ago it seems as though it was written by someone else)?

Today am giving a few suggestions for 'treats' that you may wish to serve over the Twelve Days. As ever, these could be served at any time I suppose.  However, this is more to show how we can make the most of what we buy.  Rather than using it all up, make it travel in several directions.

What we need to remember is that when we buy a pack of something (sausages, chicken breasts, smoked mackerel....) and we don't wish to use it immediately, or at least not all of the pack, then on the day of purchase we should open the pack and wrap each piece individually to store in the freezer (we could open-freeze sausages for about an hour until fairly solid, then put them in a bag as 'free-flow').  Far better to thaw out only what we need (even if it is two individuals), than have to thaw out a much bigger pack and then find a use for the surplus.

B and I love smoked mackerel, so we usually eat up a pack between us.  But we can make one pack go further.  If the s.mackerel is vacuum packed, any surplus fillets can be wrapped and frozen.

Smoked mackerel pate is something I really love eating. Once made (using 'fresh' smoked fish, not thawed) the pate can then be frozen in small pots for up to a month.  Make this pate slacker by using more crème fraiche and it can then be served as a dip (pref. not frozen).
Smoked Mackerel Pate:
2 fillets smoked mackerel, skin removed
1 heaped tablespoon creme fraiche (or soured cream)
2 spring onions, finely chopped (opt)
1 - 2 tsp horseradish sauce/cream, to taste
squeeze lemon juice
ground black pepper, to taste
Flake the fish and mix in the rest of the ingredients.  Pot up into one large or several small containers. Cover and keep chilled for up to 3 days (or freeze the surplus).  Serve with toasted thinly sliced bread or crostini.

Next dish uses one or two of those smoked mackerel fillets which is pretty good seeing it serves 4
This is the good thing about smoked fish, the stronger flavour carries further so we can get away with using less. Fusilli (spiral) pasta is suggested, but any pasta shape that holds a sauce well could be used.
Smoked Mackerel and Pea Pasta: serves 4
6 oz (175g) fusilli pasta (see above_
4 oz (100g) frozen peas
1 - 2 fillets smoked mackerel, skin removed
3 rounded tblsp Greek yogurt
2 teaspoon horseradish sauce
salt and pepper
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, adding the peas for the last 3 minutes of the cooking time.
Meanwhile, flake the mackerel and place into a bowl.  In a smaller bowl blend together the yogurt and the horseradish sauce with seasoning to taste (you could omit the salt and just use pepper).
Drain the pasta and return it to the pan (over a low heat), folding in the yogurt mixture, and finally the trout and peas.  When warmed through serve with a crisp green salad.

Canned salmon is always handy to have on the shelves. Many people remove the bones, but - like sardines - these are full of calcium and will crush up easily, so work including in the recipe. 
Being 'fishcakes' we could use almost any cooked fish (including smoked mackerel). The idea behind this recipe is to make a can of salmon go further (stir any surplus salmoninto some whipped cream and tartare sauce and use to fill vol-au-vents, or add to a fish risotto).
Incidentally canned new potatoes - when heated and drained - mash up well and could be used to make these fishcakes (they can be 'crushed' rather than mashed right down), although my preference (especially when intending to freeze) would be to use a thick reconstituted 'instant' potato.
Crispy fish 'n beetroot cakes: makes 4
9 oz (250g) mashed potato (see above)
2 spring onions (or one shallot) finely chopped
4 oz (100g) cooked beetroot, finely chopped
salt and pepper
3 - 4 oz (75-100g) canned salmon, drained
1 tblsp sunflower oil
Put the potato, onions, and beetroot in a bowl, adding seasoning to taste and mash them all together. Flake the fish and gently fold it into the mix, then form this into four fishcakes.
Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and fry the fishcakes over a fairly high heat until the underside is brown and crusty.  Turn and cook the other side.  Serve with salad.

Having made the above cakes, and if using the vacuum packed cooked beetroot (but not in vinegar), you will then have beetroot left over to use up.   Although not giving the recipes for these (they have been given before), cubed beetroot (and left-over corned beef) can be added to a pan of fried cubed potatoes, onions etc, to make a 'Red Flannel Hash'.
Or you may wish to add the beetroot to the following salad - and this in itself means you will have some of the other ingredients left over to use for other dishes/meals such as roasted red peppers, radishes, olives, Feta cheese.....  This is what I call 'jigsaw cookery' where we use only some of one ingredient, the rest fits neatly into one or more other dishes.   There was a time when I was so frugal I'd use half a whole egg in one dish, half in another.  Now I rarely do that although often now use an egg yolk to make something, and then use the white elsewhere.

Although the recipe below serves just two, it is worth making a larger amount as it is a perfect dish to serve at a buffet party. 
Lentil and Roasted Pepper Salad: serves 2
1 x 400g can lentils, drained and rinsed
5 roasted red peppers (from a jar), chopped
6 radishes, sliced
handful of olives (black or green or both)
2 tblsp balsamic vinegar
4 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 Little Gem lettuce
6 oz (175g) Feta cheese, crumbled
Put the lentils and peppers into bowl, adding the radishes, olives, b.vinegar and oil.  Mix well together then add seasoning to taste.  Cut the root end from the lettuce and separate the leaves, laying these over a large plate.  Spoon the lentil salad on top, finishing off by scattering over the Feta cheese.  

When we think about it, most of the above ingredients would sit happily on the top of a home-made pizza (other than the lettuce and radishes that could still be served with it as a salad).  In fact most  ingredients that go together to make a meal - when we think about it - should be able to be cooked together (then maybe pureed) to make a soup (well it all goes down the same way once in our mouth). So any unused part of a can or packet could possibly be used in this way.  The more experienced cooks might find this worth thinking about.

Anyway, that's it for today.  Already my face is feeling less swollen, so that's cheered me up.  Time now for me to go into the kitchen and find work to do there.  I won't be blogging tomorrow as it is 'hair' day (coffee with neighbour after).  But will return on Friday.  Hope you'll be able to join me then. TTFN.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dress For The Occasion

Thanks for comments.  Regarding the surplus food Les, it appears that the social club collects names of those who 'intend' coming to any meals that have been arranged, but normally the money is collected only when they arrive.  This means that if anyone decides not to turn up, then they don't pay any money.   It would be a better idea if each person - who said they would go - would pay a small (non-returnable) deposit, and this would cover most of the food that was made and then left-over.
B is manfully working his way through great wedges of Blackberry and Apple Crumble for his suppers.  He will soon get fed up of eating them, but anyway the rest have now been portioned up (large size) and frozen.  Should last him until next summer!

Thanks to buttercup for sending us her winter memories.  Really took me back, and has made me realise how different things are today.  For one thing we all seem to have gone a bit 'soft'. A drop in temperature or an inch of snow on the road and the nation seems almost unable to cope.  At least cope as well as we used to.

Crossed my mind that in 'those days', we always had sets of summer and winter clothing.  Today it seems as though most people wear the same clothes almost all the year round.  No need for heavy overcoats when we can leave the house, jump into a heated car, then back out again into a heated supermarket (or other store) or work-place.
Even in the '60's it was unusual for a family to own a car.  We rode bicycles or used public transport.  In late autumn we brought down all the suitcases and removed all our winter 'clobber', and do remember how often we would pass someone in the street whose clothes still smelt of mothballs. 

To keep warm we would wear vests (the ladies vests were then and a bit lacy, some with arms called 'camisoles') over this we would wear a thin jumper, and when a bit cooler a matching cardigan (we called these 'twin-sets'?).  The colder the weather the thicker the jumpers, and these always made from pure wool.
Girls didn't wear trousers much in those days (we called them 'slacks'), so kept our legs warm by wearing thicker stockings.  Outdoors our feet tucked into fleecy-lined short boots.  Our coats were always made from heavy material and mainly long (none of the short 'jacket' types seen today).  Do remember one of our daughters wearing an RAF 'greatcoat' (warm as toast) that she'd been able to buy from the Army and Navy Stores.  And that must have been in the late '70's.

Possibly the most useful coat that I wore in those times was a duffle coat.  Good to see they are still on sale, although possibly not made now from material as warm as those in the past.  The more modern 'fleece' seems to keep us warm, and being light-weight useful for all-year round use.  When B begins to feel the cold (even when the central heating is on), he just puts on his 'fleece', over his long-sleeved fairly thick sport 'jersey' (he never wears a proper suit and shirt unless for weddings, funerals, and special occasions).

To keep out the cold, the trick is to always make sure our feet, hands, and neck are kept warm as it is here the blood vessels are closest to the skin, and if the blood gets cold, it cools down the rest of us (remember how we used to hold our wrists under cold running water to cool us down when the weather was too hot? It works the other way round as well).  If possible always warm socks, gloves, scarves before wearing them.   It's surprising how much heat we lose from the top of our heads.  If you don't believe me, wait until a hot day next year, then sit against a plainly painted wall with the sun shining on your head, and take a mirror and you will see the heat-shimmer rising from the top of your scalp.  So wear a hat or some sort of head covering as well as everything else.

It's not only clothes that have seasonal changes.  During the colder months I used to put winceyette sheets and pillowcases on the beds, extra blankets, and myself wore winceyette nightclothes.  I'd even turn the large cushions round (on the living room couch) so the warm red/orange velvet side faced outwards (plain or floral cotton in cool colours on the reverse side for summer 'viewing').  Warm colours give a feeling of warmth.  I even used to change the loo roll, pale (daffodil) yellow in the spring, and a warmer pink for the winter months.  White paper would seem obvious (snow etc), but far too cool in appearance for my liking, I'd keep the 'whites' for the hottest summer days.

Thanks jane for giving me the translation of 'alla prossima'.  Nadia doesn't add 'goodbye', but now realise what she is saying I can return her farewell (I'm a bit like that - talk to the TV as there is no-one else to talk to, B prefers me to be seen and not heard - and not necessarily that.  More and more he is now living in a world of his own - so what's different?).

Not sure if a welcome is due to Kath M (have heard from a Kath before but may not be the same one), but a welcome anyway.  Do understand why 'Happy Holiday' is the now accustomed greeting in the US, but still feel it is a pity. Why is it that we seem so frightened of upsetting all other faiths? We used to live in an area of Leeds that had many Jewish people living there (five synagogues within walking distance of our house), yet they would say 'Happy Christmas' to us, and I've known many people who have Muslin neighbours who send them Christmas cards..  I used to say 'Happy Hannuka' to our Jewish friends, who appreciated that I'm sure.  If we all start saying 'Happy Holiday' then we lose all our traditions. .Let us hope this is one saying from over the pond that we refuse to enter our shores.  I'm still annoyed that our 'Mothering Sunday' has now to be called 'Mother's Day', even though this is a completely different date than the Mother's Day in the US.
A thanks also to Margie for sending us her views on this.

A welcome is given to Kristen who I'm pleased to hear lives in Morecambe. It is true that Morecambe Bay has one of the best seaside views in the country.  Problem is I'm not often around to appreciate it, as usually out only when the visibility across the Bay is nil due to mist.  On the clear days, seeing range after range of the Lakeland hills the other side of the water - then it truly is a magnificent sight.

An interesting point Mandy.  It does seem that babies - when properly wrapped up - don't feel the cold.  Perhaps because their little hands and feet are snugly tucked inside blankets, and bonnets keep their heads warm (hopefully knitted from real wool).   I dare say if someone wrapped up adults (Egyptian mummy fashion) we too wouldn't feel the cold.  We just wouldn't be able to walk anywhere either.   Imagine having all that unwrapping if we needed the bathroom!

Am pleased you found the filling suggestions for Swiss Roll were useful Barbara.  On Paul Hollywood's prog yesterday he was making an Arctic Roll using a slab of sponge wrapped round a roll of ice-cream (kulfi in this instance).  So this is another idea that might be able to be used - perhaps making a roll of cheesecake 'filling' with the sponge wrapped round it.  This will freeze and then be thawed before slicing.
Where about in Leicestershire do you live?  I was born in Coventry, but we moved to Leicester when I was nine (to get away from the raids - having spent a short time living in Leamington Spa before that).  Lived with my parents until marriage, and for a couple of years after marriage until we could afford our first house. B and I then moved to Oadby where we lived for 12 years before moving to Leeds. 

I'm always starting to chat about something else when I should be concentrating on what I began writing about, so had better return to the Swiss Roll et al before I forget to remind readers that although most frozen foods should never be refrozen after thawing (unless raw and then cooked), this doesn't apply to plain cake which can be frozen, then thawed, and refrozen again. Filled with jam and butter cream is OK for re-freezing, but never re-freeze if fresh cream has been used. Bread also can be frozen, thawed, re-frozen.  Don't overdo it though, just once out then back in again and maybe just one more repeat (if you have to).

A few recipes today that - if you already have the ingredients - will save a fair amount of money.  In other words - why buy if you can make instead?
The first is a recipe from The Goode Kitchen, and a marzipan that is less expensive than any on sale. Worth mentioning that anyone who has a liquidiser blender has the right equipment to make their own caster and icing sugar.  All you do is grind down some granulated sugar until fine enough for caster, then grind a little of this caster sugar down until as fine as icing sugar (do this a little at a time), sift to collect the really fine sugar and store in air-tight containers. 
The 5kg bags of granulated sugar usually work out cheaper (per 100g) than buying the normal (smaller) sizes.  Sugar will keep indefinitely so worth buying when the price is right. Just make sure it is stored in a place that is not damp.

economical marzipan:
8 oz (225g) icing sugar (see above)
2 oz (50g) caster sugar (see above)
2 oz (50g) ground almonds
1 teaspoon golden syrup
2 drops almond essence
1 egg white
Put everything into a bowl and mix well together (if the egg white is on the large size you may need to add a little more icing sugar).  Knead until smooth.  Keep wrapped in a polybag if you're not going to use it immediately.

For many years I used to ice special occasion cakes for anyone who wanted one.  Always then the cakes were heavy fruit, iced first with marzipan and then topped with many very thin layers of royal icing.  Nowadays it seems cakes are fruitless and covered with fondant (and how I hate fondant - far too sweet for me, although easy to handle and model, I grant you that).
The recipe below explains how to make fondant, very similar to that on sale but not pure white because of the syrup (as I write I am thinking that we could dissolve a little sugar in water and boil down to make a 'white' syrup but is that a step too far?).  Who needs white icing anyway?  The icing we can make will accept a drop of food colouring perfectly. 

fondant icing:
1 lb (450g) icing sugar
1 egg white
2 tsp golden syrup (see above)
Put 12 oz (350g) of the icing sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and add the egg white and syrup.  Mix well together then turn out onto a work surface (or large plate) with the remaining icing sugar.  Knead until all the sugar has been worked in and the fondant is smooth.  You may need to add a little more (or less) sugar depending on the size of the egg white.

Final recipe today (again from The Goode Kitchen) is a real winner, but unfortunately only useful for people who grow their own parsley, and you do need quite an amount.  A good recipe to use up 'old' (overgrown) parsley.  The traditional way of making this did not include honey - that is my way of making it taste even more like the real thing.  And tasting like honey it really does. 

Parsley Honey:
4 oz (100g) parsley (leaves and stalks)
1.5 pints (900ml) water
1 lb (450g) granulated sugar
1 heaped tablespoon thick honey
Wash the parsley then put it into a large saucepan with the water.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain through a sieve into a measuring jug.   You should now have 1 pint (570ml) of liquid - if not make up the shortfall by adding more water.  Return the liquid to the pan, add the sugar and stir until dissolved then bring to the boil, and cook at a rolling boil for 20 minutes.  Stir in the honey until dissolved, then remove from heat and put up into small, warm and sterilised jars.  Seal and store in a cool place.  Use as honey.

Have decided not to scoot out today as it is flippin' cold.  Supposed to warm up a bit tomorrow, so may well go out then as the colder weather is set to return by the weekend.  One good thing about the cold and frosty weather.  We only get the frost when the skies are clear, and this means we get more sunshine, and who can feel miserable when the sun shines?

A reader thought that I was small (short).  Funny how we visualise people in different ways.  I was just about touching 6 ft when I was younger, but age has apparently made me sag and I'm now only 5'6".  Probably why my hips keep expanding, it's got to go somewhere.  I'll probably end up square.

It occurred to me that the economical way to make the best foodie treats for the festive season is to use what we already have.  Well, possibly not yet have, but if we know what can be made, this might give an idea of what would be the best purchases, it's up to us then to make the most of them.
So tomorrow I'll be giving some suggestions.  Not to everyone's taste perhaps but hopefully some ideas will be useful and just might get your own little grey cells working to invent your own versions.
Do hope you will find time to take a look as I'm already looking forward to getting those recipes onto this blog.  Enjoy your day.  TTFN.



Monday, November 25, 2013

Sweet Treats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Blues

Am feeling distinctly fed up this morning.  Yesterday spent a lot of time making four huge fruit crumbles, baked them, made loads of fruit coulis to go with them, plus a lot of toffee sauce for the Sticky Toffee Puddings, re-heated, cooked and packed the lot - being asked to make enough for 70 people there WAS a lot - then when B came home he said about only 50 people turned up so he brought back some S.T.Pud, and one uneaten tray of crumble, there is another tray that might be crumble (haven't yet checked).  Why do I bother???  

This is always the problem with the club,  they tell the members there will be a 'do', collect numbers of people who say they will come (but not all pay), then those that don't pay usually don't turn up.  Although I get paid for the ingredients used, I usually knock of money for the 'returns' as it saves me making them again (B will work his way through them, and what's left over has been chilled and will freeze - if I can find the room!  It's just all the extra work that goes into making sure there is enough when I know darn well there won't be as many people turn up as expected (there never is).  

Anyway, that's my moan.  I was intending to take the day off and have a bit of a sulk, and also have a pile of washing up left over from yesterday.  B is going out in about an hour, once he has read the paper, so it'll be me with my hands in the sink (again!).  Not that I mind as I quite enjoy having my hands in hot water on a cold day (keeps my skin soft).   I will be able to listen to the Archer's omnibus as I write. 
At one time I always listened to the Archer's, but when we moved here stopped listening (because I had no radio), but am now able to catch up with the 'family' news.  Not quite sure who everyone is now, but am getting there.

Two comments sent in, so thanks to both Joy and Lizzie.  Regarding the latter's query,  am glad that early posting are proving interesting.  The American-style fridge freezer does hold enough for the two of us, but have had to buy a second chest freezer (four drawers) to hold my bulk purchases of meat/fish etc.  mainly because am still doing my 'catering' for other people (mainly B's sailing club) and need a lot of space to store things-that-can-be-made-in-advance-and frozen.   Or is it just that I'm a bit of a 'hoarder'?

With the gluts of fresh fruit this year, one drawer in the chest freezer (and the drawers are large) is full of boxes of berries (strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, rhubarb, prepared apples,  blueberries....).   Every time B sees a gap he goes out and buys himself a tub of ice-cream even though I plead with him "if I've left space in the freezer, please don't fill it".  There is a tub of ice-cream in there now which is taking needed space.  Think I'll have to thaw out some packs of frozen meat to give me room to put the returned party desserts, thaw out the meat in the fridge (this can take 2 - 3 days as they are deeply frozen) then cook the meat overnight in the slow-cooker, maybe in several batches.  By then will have been able to get B to eat some earlier 'ready-mades' (thawed and reheated) to make room for the cooked meat.  It's all go.

Was hoping to give some ideas for sweets today (by this I mean confectionary not desserts), and if any shopping is to be done over the next few days, suggest buying some bars of chocolate (for melting/covering), some marzipan (or icing sugar and ground almonds),  no-soak dried apricots, peppermint essence if possible.  Maybe a small bag of ready-made fudge.   Then tomorrow will give suggestions of how some of it can be turned into sweets but at the same time leaving most of what has been bought to be eaten as-is or used in another form. 

Forgive me for writing what is a short blog (compared to my usual length), really need to go and tidy up the kitchen and sort out supper etc, then sit down and relax for a bit.  Just chatting to you has cheered me up (thanks for being there and listening).  Back again tomorrow, usual time.  TTFN.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Quick Chat...

As my blogs are always written first thing in a morning, this is a one-off as it is nearly 10.30pm. It's just that I've been busy both yesterday and today what with all the cooking etc, and tomorrow will be another full day of kitchen activity as the social club are now expecting 60 -70 people for their 'music night' and I've only made enough for 50 (original number given to me) so tomorrow will have to do more baking.
So thought I'd just grab a few moments to catch up with comments, as I feel guilty if readers are waiting for a reply and I've disappeared!!  But after this late blog today, won't be back again until Sunday.  Still, not long to wait, time moves fast the older we get.

The mushrooms are still coming up Granny G, and your comment reminded me of one time when I used to grow some in a boxed kit (as I'm doing now), and once they had cropped (think three lots eventually came up in the one box), threw the 'tired' mushroom compost onto the garden border.  The next year - a good 10 months after - I suddenly saw another lot of mushrooms growing there, think it was late autumn, this being the time that mushroom usually appear all over the place, so perhaps worth letting the old compost dry out again, then next year I'll be covering it with fresh damp soil, and see if I get more crops.

A welcome to ali59.  Am always amazed that people remember The Goode Kitchen series, and am thrilled when people write in to let me know.  As you can see, I've still got tunnel vision when it comes to cost-cutting cookery, and although it is harder now to come up with new ideas and recipes, there are plenty to refer to in the Archives of this blog, even I am surprised at how good some of them were (modesty not being one of my strong points).

I too have bought chicken thighs from Barton Grange Eileen, and think they are very good value.  I will look out for the Romanesco when we next go (which I hope will be next week or the week after), they are so pretty to look at I hate having to eat them.  Cannot believe that anything so exceptionally beautiful in design can be just an accident of nature.

Goodness me Pam, how you have brought it all back to me.  Glitter Wax.  I'd forgotten all about it, but we played with it for hours.  Is Plasticine still sold?  Use to have a lot of fun with that to, and can still remember its smell. 
How sad that Corrie and EastEnders has been removed from your TV circuit.  It's particularly good at the moment (always is around Christmas time).

Loved reading that saying you sent Lizzie..."something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read".   But does that mean they want all four from one person, or one gift from four different people?  Perhaps if they need a new T shirt to wear, and it is in the style they want, and it has something printed on it, it covers all the requests? That's me thinking frugally of course (some might call it being mean).

It's sad really how life today means that many things we used to enjoy doing, now cause us stress. Much of this is to do with the pressure caused by advertising etc, making us believe we should do this that or the other, even worse spend, spend, spend....!!! 
Shopping for food for the festive season can be stressful, and am not sure what I would suggest because Australia (where you live) would not be eating the same foods as we would during the colder months.  Or is Christmas celebrated with turkey, Christmas Pud etc, exactly as we do here?

Anyone wishing to buy a month's food at a time (or even two months....) might find the first few postings of this blog (from Sept 2006 - March 2007) would give some pointers.  Several of the early weeks postings have disappeared due to lack of space (blogger did this, not me), but there is enough left to show the challenge I had set myself - to spend £250 on food and then see how long it would last me without having to shop again.  True, the actual challenge did begin immediately Christmas was over, but the idea would work at any time.  It lasted 10 weeks, and because of the bulk buys, the final total averaged out at £25.00 a week for the two of us.  And not frugally at all, we ate very well indeed.  So plenty of room for improvement if anyone wishes to do the same - but cheaper.  Just use my purchases as a guide (I gave a list - which I hope is still there, and what I made from them).

I will shortly be giving some recipes for very easy to make sweets, but not today as it's just about my bedtime.  Hopefully will find some to give on Sunday.

Thanks Sarina for your lovely comment as it brought back memories of how a real old fashioned Christmas was and still could be.  In today's commercial world, the simple things like board games turn out to be more fun than computer games.  And the smell of home-cooking, not to mention the pleasure of eating such goodies is worth far more than a table laden with food that has be manufactured and processed to within an inch of its life.

There are times I fear for this world, at least the way 'normal' life is going.  Seems that the word 'selfies' has ended up in the dictionary. I'd never even heard of it, but apparently it is what youngsters keep doing these days, taking photos of themselves with their mobile phone, then putting it onto Facebook or other such internet meeting places.   They then wait to see how many 'likes' they get.  Does that smack of vanity? I don't know.  What I do know is that if they get a lot of 'don't likes' this will then lower their self-esteem, and goodness knows what they would do then.  We hear of youngsters now committing suicide when someone sends messages (or tweets or whatever they are called) saying nasty things about them.

My own self-confidence went down the drain completely when I was a teenager, and this because I had grown very tall (nearly 6ft when every other girl didn't seem much more than 5ft 3").  My mother was really good-looking, and so often people would say to me "what a pity you take after your father" (who was the spitting image of Captain Mainwaring in Dad's Army), and even my mum used to say "what a pity you have to wear glasses" (and the common expression then was "a boy never makes passes at girls who wear glasses"). I was told not to stand up straight (because my developing boobs became too apparent for my mother who frowned on things like that and suggested I walk with a bit of a stoop when I was with her).  Believe me, all that was enough to make me feel a freak (and I've never really felt otherwise), so why on earth anyone would want to parade their looks for the world to see, even if they were pretty. 

Surely there must be more to life than the continual clutching of mobile phones in the hand, putting them to ears continually, or tapping away texting to first one and then another.  Maybe in 20 years of so there will be no need for anyone to leave their homes again, and maybe not even leave their own personal bedroom.  Just sit on the bed with a mobile phone and a pizza that someone has shoved through the door, and what more is there in life to want?
But then who am I to criticise?  I seem to be glued to the TV for more hours than I care to think about.  At least it is generally 'educational' (by that I mean mainly cookery progs, or quiz shows such as Eggheads, Pointless, University Challenge...).  I've even begun missing a few Corries and E.Enders and find I can pick it up again without having lost the plot next time I watch. 

You'll have to forgive this rather bitty blog, but am not used to writing this late at night, and when it comes to writing about frugal food, even then I'm not always sure which way to deal with it.  None of us are the same, all dancing to a different tune, but hopefully keeping in step when it matters.
I'm nearly nodding off over the keyboard, so will say good-night, and, if everything goes well, will be back with you again on Sunday.  Enjoy your weekend.  TTFN.