Monday, February 17, 2014

Can it Get Any Worse?

Despite having a lull in the bad weather, it now being almost springlike, sunshine and all that, the flood waters are still rising due to the delay caused by the water collected on the hills over the last weeks, and taking time to drain away, not drain through the soil (this is waterlogged), but pour down over the hills into the already swollen rivers. 

The east coast of  the US is knee deep in snow, moving up to Canada, so almost certainly, in a few weeks we will get the back-lash of that as the prevailing winds sweep it over to our side of the pond, with the warmer-than-usual Atlantic waters melting the snow as it travels, so that could mean a lot more rain to come before the last lot has disappeared.   On the other hand, the weather not really doing what it should be doing, we might well be basking in a heat wave by the end of March.  Over the past few years, around this time we now always seem to have a week of very hot weather.  All we can do is wait and see.

Good to hear you are getting your American citizenship Pam.  Do you gain any advantages by doing this? Or lose your English pension (if applicable).  Presumably you will have a dual passport for both countries.

Seems that this week is half-term, and despite the weather am sure many children/grandchildren will be only too happy to stay indoors (but away from their computers) being taught how to cook like Granny G's.  All children seem to love cooking, and as long as we shut our eyes to the mess, then good for them.

As you were pleased with the coffee liqueur recipe Saffron, you might like to make some orange liqueur (cheat's Cointreau I call it).  Worth making at this time of year as oranges are in season (but always available).  Peel a large orange and removed as much pith as possible, then cut the peel into strips (needn't be too thin).  Place in a jam jar with a tablespoon of sugar, then pour brandy over to cover.  Place on the lid to seal, give a good shake and place in the dark (kitchen cupboard is fine), give a shake every day to dissolve the sugar.  After a couple of weeks, give it a taste and if too strongly flavoured with orange, dilute with more brandy, or if too weak, add more orange strips and sugar.   The idea is then to strain the liqueur and discard the orange, but I leave the oranges in the jar and these are then able to be used to add to things such as fruit cake, crepe suzettes, or anything else you wish to flavour with boozy orange.

Had to smile Cheesepare when I read the first sentence of your comment.  If the 'u' and 'g' keys had been next to each other on the keyboard I would have forgiven you, but as on different lines and when touch-typing a different hand is used to tap each key, can only think it was your subconscious.  Maybe you are thinking 'It's all Greek to me' when you read some of my ramblings, but you are right when you mention 'thick', but am taking that to be thick around the middle (excess inches) not thick in the head.   The times I've hit the 'f' instead of the 'l' (next to each other so an easy mistake to make), and ended up with a word that would normally be shown in asterisks.  Sometimes make mistakes so funny that I feel I should leave them in not edit them out.
Am wondering Cheesepare, if your yogurt/mash mixture still seemed 'grainy' because the instant potato hadn't heated up enough to dissolve it.   Have myself made crème fraiche by mixing equal amounts of Greek yogurt with whipped double cream, folding them both together, putting into a covered container, then leaving this in the fridge for a couple of days for the mixture to thicken.  Then use it as we would crème fraiche.

Very pleased to hear from you Jo (N.Z) that the lavender 'room freshener' worked well.  This gives me a chance to ask all readers who try out hints, tips and recipes given on this blog, to let us know when they try them out and are happy with the results.

Got up even later this morning due to our area having an unexpected electricity cut yesterday.  As it was around noon, not a problem re cooking etc, and as I'd already listened to The Archers, and had settled myself down to read a book (B being out with the sailing club - training session), didn't really notice.  It was my neighbour phoning to check as she feared it was just a problem in her flat, not the whole road. 
About an hour later the back-door bell went and I - stick in hand - staggered out as fast as possible to answer it, no-one there, so thought it must have been the front door, so dashed (!!) back to the front and no-one there either.  A few doors away a burglar alarm had been set off.  Then I checked the lights and they were back on.  Both the door bell/s (new) work with an electric plug connection (not batteries), and when first plugged in and switched on they do 'chime', so presumably this is what happened.  Something similar with the burglar alarm - but this was worse as it carried on for ages. It could be - I thought - being half-term, the owners of the house had gone away for a week, and if the alarm continued, I'd be taking myself off to get right away from it as already it was beginning to drive me to distraction.   Thankfully, the alarm seemed to wear itself out as it began to groan quite a bit and then eventually stopped. 

Of course the cut gave us our own problems.  The clock on the oven is now flashing and I don't know how to set the new time (and B has also forgotten how to).  I'll have to try and see if I can press the right buttons, but the last time I did it I set the oven to switch itself on at the time set, and couldn't use it until it had reached that.
Also our central heating is now running an hour late.  As I've now taken to having a lie-in most mornings, I get up when I hear the heating switch off, and this morning it was an hour later.  There is a clock in our room but this means reaching over to put on my specs, and then turning to look at the clock, and I just couldn't be bothered.  It was so nice and cosy in bed I could have stayed there all day. 

However, suddenly remembered we had a Lidl brochure covering offers up to Wednesday, and as there were many Chinese foods (suitable for B's stir-fry) and also microwave rice, got up and made him a list so he could go and buy them (although probably most of these offers will now have been bought by earlier shoppers).   It makes sense to get these as they what I would normally buy and they are certainly much cheaper.  Nescafe too (200g plus 100g free for £5) worth getting as the price may well rise due to a shortage of coffee due to crop failures.  
Red bell peppers also as MUCH cheaper than normal supermarket price, and to the shopping list have added a bag of seed and potting compost so that I can begin to sow seeds (tomato, chill peppers, mixed salad leaves....).

One other thing of interest.  Now and again I buy packs of Tesco's 'Value' frozen chicken portions. The current price is £3.50 for 2kg. I know have two bags. Each bag contains 'drumsticks, thighs, legs', but have yet to find a leg.  Not that it matters as I buy the drumsticks mainly for making chicken stock (after cooking, the flesh then used to make pies etc), and keep the thighs frozen for later making curries etc.

As I'd run out of chicken stock, decided the other day to open both bags (as yet unused), and how strange - one had 8 drumsticks and 6 good-sized thighs, the other had 13 drumsticks and 3 thighs.
In the freezer I also had a pack of 6 raw winglets (that I'd removed from the chickens before I poached them to then make the Burns Night soup).  These saved me approx. £1.75 (price if bought).

For once made the chicken stock slightly differently, putting the winglets and six drumsticks into a large pan, covering them with 3 pints of water, then simmering them for a couple or so hours.  Left them in the pan overnight and the next morning saw the liquid had set to a firm gel.  Reheated to boiling, removed the chicken, then added chunks of carrot, leek, onion, and celery, plus 4 bay leaves and some seasoning to the stock and let that simmer for a good hour.
Removed the veggies and chopped them finely, placing these in another pan with a little of the stock and turned it into veggie soup (with a dash of Fiery Chilli ketchup).  Tasted really, really good.  B ate a large bowlful for his supper, with a little left that I can heat up for my lunch today.
The cooked chicken has been frozen up in bags to use for other meals - later. 

Anyone wishing to feed a family as economically as possible would find a bag of 'Value' chicken portions (average number 15) would make more meals than one whole chicken.  Preferably simmered on the hob so that we also make 'free' stock, but even if some were to be roasted, the bones/skin alone (plus some veggies) put into a small amount of water will also make a well-flavoured stock, even if not as much.

Although not my favourite chicken portion (thighs have more meat and flavour, breast is tender and more 'luxurious', drumsticks are very good when served at buffets, barbies, or taken on picnics, so here is a recipe that is guaranteed to please both family and friends.
If serving as a family meal (maybe with salad/picnic), then allow two per person.  Otherwise (for buffets etc) just one.

Bacon-wrapped Chicken 'drums':
juice of 1 lemon, plus extra (opt)
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
12 chicken drumsticks
12 rashers of streaky bacon
crusty bread (baguette) to serve
Mix together the lemon juice and garlic with some seasoning.  Stab the fleshy part of the drumsticks several times with the tip of a sharp knife and drizzle with half the lemony dressing.
Wrap each drumstick in a rasher of bacon and place in a single layer in a roasting tin.  Drizzle the rest of the lemony dressing over the tops.
Roast for 45 - 50 minutes at 200C, gas 6 until the chicken is cooked through and the bacon is starting to crisp up.  Turn the drumsticks over so the less crispy parts of bacon then are on top, and if you wish these to be also crisp then give them a few minutes under a hot grill.
Allow to cool, then keep chilled until ready to serve (these can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days). Lovely eaten hot or cold with crusty bread, and an extra squeeze of lemon juice (opt).

Time for me trot off into the kitchen and sort out supper.  If there is any lamb's liver left in the freezer, will thaw a portion out to fry and serve it with bacon, cabbage and small potatoes for B's supper.  Also want to make a batch of lemon curd, having seen a lemon meringue pie in 'Call the Midwife' yesterday, it reminded me I have a cooked pastry case in the freezer, and if I make some Bird's custard and mix this with lemon curd, use it as a filling, then top with meringue (from egg whites saved from the 'curd' eggs), baked until the meringue is crispy, this would make a good pud for B (to last over a couple of days).  But you know me.  Do I ever do what I say I will be doing? 

Will try very hard to get up earlier tomorrow, also try and get back on track re my 'diet'.  The one good thing is that if I eat plenty of protein and NO carbos, I do find I have a lot more energy, so probably will feel so bright-eyed and bushy tailed that I'll WANT to get up earlier. 
At the moment there is an instinctive stirring within me to start spring-cleaning.  Mostly I ignore feelings such as these (the ones that mean I have to work harder than normal), but who knows - maybe this year I'll make a better effort.  Now where did I put the hoover?

Hope you will find time to join me again tomorrow.  Love hearing from you, so keep those comments rolling in.  TTFN.