Monday, January 06, 2014

All in the Timing...

Having always prided myself on being able to tell the time of day (give or take 5 minutes) without a time-piece in sight, it came as quite a shock yesterday when I served B's supper at the arranged time of 5.15pm, and - after going into the living room to watch TV and it wasn't what I expected - checked the clock in there and it showed 4.15!   Whether it was the very dark clouds that meant I needed to put the main kitchen lights on, or maybe I had - just once - took the time on the oven clock as correct (B did not put it back an hour in October - and when I try it just sets the oven to 'standby' (switch on when the set time is reached).  This error of timing quite shook me up, I was restless the rest of the evening, couldn't relax and watch TV (that's a first), and ended up coming in here and playing chess on the computer (I'm getting rather good at it). 
Noticed it was the 5th (Twelfth Night), so set about taking down all the Christmas decorations (we didn't have many and most were in here, none in the living room).  B popped his head through the door to say he was going to bed, so I decided to go and watch TV as there was something I wanted to watch at 10.00pm.  I checked the time on our clock-with-hands, and it showed five to ten, but a few minutes later, when I switched on to the correct channel even that wasn't right.  I checked the clock again.  Silly me - the time wasn't five to ten, but ten minutes to eleven (both hands of the clock are much the same length).  So again I'd got the time wrong, this time an hour later than I thought.

By the I was really worried, so after watching the repeat of 'Birds of a Feather' (on ITV plus one - channel 33), thoroughly enjoying it (again), I went to bed.   Got up late this morning - deliberately - in the hope that I'd get my body clock in sinc again.

Yesterday again used bits and bobs to make B's supper.  Discovered a box of cooked turkey in gravy (frozen leftovers from a turkey leg that B had bought during the summer - don't ask me why he did, but he did).  With that he had 8 small chunks of turkey, with gravy, seven roast potatoes, six Brussels sprouts, one carrot - cut into five chunky 'batons', and two sausages. Am tempted to finish by saying 'A Partridge in a Pear Tree!! But I won't.  As you can see I'm now into portion control (makes everything go that little bit further, and very soon will probably start counting out the peas).

Myself made my usual salad (shredded iceberg lettuce, diced mini-peppers, sliced mushroom, and with that I had four cooked sausages).  Earlier in the day I ate three hard-boiled eggs, and then my  usual tomato soup for lunch. Having not had any carbos for several days, my weight has dropped considerably, losing at least 6lbs this first week of 'dieting'.  Gill and I are both wishing to lose 2 stone over six months, and she lost only 2lbs last week.  But as then she's been on a diet for weeks, stopping only for Christmas - so gained a few pounds - she wouldn't lose that much, two pounds a week is exactly right. Because it's my first week (lacking self control for several months), my extra weight loss is mainly water. 

I'll probably eat some carbos today, maybe also on Wednesday, keep a check on my weight (probably may have gained a 1lb, just because), but going back on to no-carbs for the rest of the week should show a further loss.  As long as it IS a loss (even just 1lb), then I'll be happy.  But I'd like it to be two (or more).  As I'm going to report back on this at the start of each week, then I'll really have to try hard or I'll end up feeling a failure (and that's something I'll never admit to being).

So far our weather hasn't been too bad, we've had a few more strong winds, but nothing out of the ordinary.  The rest of the country doesn't seem to have fared so well, we see dreadful pictures on the TV news of villages and towns flooding, and acres of fields under water.
We've even been shows the big arctic surge over the US, sweeping diagonally across country from the north-west almost reaching to Florida, and 'Anonymous' (Houston, Texas) who is experiencing this severe cold, has written to say she/he has seen the bad weather in our area (via an Internet channel?).  Thanks for the concern.  Please give your name if/when you write again, you may well be one of our 'munch-crunch-bunch' of readers, but unless I get a name, an 'anonymous' could be a new reader.

Thanks Carol for giving a link regarding my 'Rule of Four', this has led to a new reader 'The Domestic Goose' - to whom I give a warm welcome.

With the bad weather doing so much harm in the countryside (flooding etc), was wondering Alison (Essex) whether raised beds might work better on your allotment.  Perhaps worth trying one or two.
Good idea to get a couple of half price turkeys ready for Easter and next Christmas.

A welcome (or is it welcome back?) to Awel. Do hope you have all recovered from the W.V. bug that seems to be spreading round the nation.  So far we have avoided it, but as I rarely go out, probably less chance for me to catch it.
My next door neighbour has just returned from staying with her daughter in Aberystwyth, she said she had a horrible journey home (by train), so will no doubt be hearing all about it when we meet up for our weekly coffee morning next Thursday.

Lovely idea, Taaleedee, to put some smoked salmon trimmings into a quiche.  We probably all would use up a whole pack with one dish, but during this challenge if we can make it spread to one or two (or even three) we can still get the luxury taste without breaking the bank. It doesn't have to be smoked salmon, just make everything (expensive) go that little bit further.

Not quite sure what a salsa should be like Pam.  To me this is just a foreign word for 'sauce', but in the UK a sauce is smooth, and a bought salsa is 'chunky'.   My suggestion for your very hot salsa would be to blend it to a puree, then freeze it in ice-cube trays.  A cube can then be thawed and added to (as you said) a chilli.  If not hot enough then add a second cube.
Some of the pureed salsa could be blended into crème fraiche or yogurt to make a dip (yogurt being a 'coolant' to eat with a meal that is too highly spiced - such as a Raita with a curry).  A cube of the salsa could be added to soup.  Like any seasonings (herbs, spices etc), start with a little, taste and add more if you feel you need it, then taste again, adding more if you wish.  Always taste and taste again as you go, you can always add but never take it away.

The other day I mentioned making what we already have, because I still remember the time when I DID run out of almost everything (except basic dry ingredients) and so had to make almost everything from scratch.  It was possible to make quite a lot of things, but doing it every day for a whole month was very time consuming (and tiring - as I was then a novice cook).

If we keep some of our stores back, and make a few things now, then we have less work to do in later weeks (if we have by then used up all the 'ready-prepared' we have).  Also, even if we might never need to make the same in later months, (being able to buy them again), at least we have learned HOW.  The more we learn to make (food or anything else), the more it gives us a feeling of security when times get hard, for we can use these simple skills to see us through.

Here is a recipe for nachos - which to me seem much the same as those crunchy tortilla chips, but the home-made are MUCH cheaper.   Making 12 circles to be cut into triangles (I cut each circle into four and then cut each quarter each through again to make 8 per circle - this makes a total of 96 for less than 25p if you use own-brand flour and butter).  As the nachos are fried in hot oil, they take up very little, so have allowed just a few pence for the frying.
You can leave the nachos plain, or flavour the dough with a pinch of dried herbs, garlic powder, or sprinkle paprika over the cooked nachos as they drain.  You could make cheese flavoured ones by adding finely grated Parmesan to the dough as you make it.

Nachos: makes approx. 96
9 oz (250g) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tblsp melted butter
4 fl oz (100ml) semi-skimmed milk, warmed
your choice of herbs, spices (opt)
oil for frying
paprika pepper (opt)
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together (with a few dried herbs/spices if using). Rub in the butter.  Stir in the warmed (tepid) milk to make a dough, cover and leave to stand for 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 equal portions, rolling each out very thinly.  Cut into triangles (as wide or as narrow as you wish). 
Shallow fry in hot oil for 3 minutes on each side and drain on kitchen paper, sprinkling each with a little paprika (opt).   Store in an air-tight container.

Make no apologies for giving this next recipe even though I've given it before (maybe several times). It is one of our traditional English puddings that - despite it hardly costing anything - seems to be served in many of the top restaurants these days, and charged high prices for it.   This is the perfect pud to use up surplus stale bread and a lemon that has begun to harden (warm it in the microwave or in a bowl of hot water and you'll get more juice from it).
Never sure why but 'treacle' in recipes usually means Golden Syrup, the darker stuff is always called 'black treacle' (similar to but sweeter than the US molasses).
Old English Treacle Tart: serves 4 - 6
3 oz (75g) stale breadcrumbs
8 oz (225g) golden syrup (see above)
rind and juice of 1 small lemon (or half a large)
half tsp ground ginger (opt)
9" (23cm) pastry case, baked blind for 15 mins.
Warm the syrup with the lemon zest and juice until runny, then fold in the breadcrumbs and ginger (if using).  Spoon this into the pastry case and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 minutes.  Can be eaten warm or cold.

Quite often we see a recipe suggesting crispy ginger biscuits (ginger nuts) to be crushed to make the base of (say) a cheesecake.  Crispy biscuits (other than the savoury ones) are not our favourites (probably due to having ancient teeth), but younger teeth love them, and as they do store well when kept in airtight containers, easy and cheap to make, thought you might like the recipe.  Something else to add to your storecupboard. 

Important to remember when baking biscuits not to let them bake until crisp, or they will end up rock hard when cooled.  Remove from oven when still slightly soft and then leave them on the (heated) tin to finish cooking as they cool.   If removed too soon, and they don't crisp up enough, the biscuits can be returned to the oven for a further couple of minutes baking.
Myself have found that biscuits that end up a bit too crisp for us (but possible fine for anyone else), when left, uncovered, at room temperature overnight, by the next morning they have softened very slightly.  This is probably due to our kitchen having a fairly moist atmosphere (from cooking, our climate, and - during the winter - the washing drying on the airer). 
Ginger Nuts: makes 16
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 oz (25g) caster sugar
2 oz (50g) soft margarine
2 tblsp golden syrup
Sift the flour, ginger, and bicarb. together, then stir in the sugar.  Rub in the marg, and finally, stir in the syrup, mixing together to make a dough, dividing this into 16, rolling each into balls.
Place the balls on two greased baking sheets, leaving plenty of room between each, flattening them slightly.  Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 15 - 20 minutes (they should still be slightly soft), then leave them to cool on the tray for 10 minutes before placing on a cake airer.  When cold, store in an airtight tin.

That's it for today that is turning out to be very gloomy, weatherwise.  Lots of clouds, stiff breeze, and turning fairly cold.  Oh, yes (says she turning to look out of the patio doors on her left) it is also raining.  But it is winter and we can't expect much else.   I've noticed some bulb shoots have already appeared in at least one of my tubs in the back garden.   Let us hope any snow we may get won't harm them (but suppose I could bring the container into the conservatory).  Despite me planting hyacinth bulbs to force (did this late September last year), bringing them out into the light mid-December, they are growing but yet no sign of flowers.  Perhaps if I took them into a warmer room and gave them more light?

Must now trot into the kitchen and sort out what I should be using up today.  Maybe taking the easy way out and making a big pot of soup (carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, parsnips cooked in chicken stock, maybe with a handful of pearl barley to give extra sustenance).   B still has some cold sausages if he wants 'meat', and that reminds me I also need to bake more bread and rolls today, possible also a fruit loaf.   Who knows, maybe will make other things too.  Tomorrow you will hear about my today. Hope to see you then...TTFN.