Monday, February 03, 2014

Monday Blues...

There was a time when Monday was my favourite day.  A whole week to look forward to, and who knows what new things I would discover/learn during the seven days,.   Today I just wanted to stay in bed, and did so until 9.30! 

My problem - I suppose - is that my need to clear top shelves so that I can put everything I use often at a lower level has, sort of, backfired.  My kitchen table and units are completely covered with things I think I need, but now where do I put them.  The lower shelves in cupboards are all full, so is the larder?  I am feeling very depressed.

On the good side, I managed to clear a top shelf of all the booze kept for culinary use.  Each bottle a gift over the past four years, and not often used (a tablespoon of spirit goes a long way towards flavouring), even so, managed to decant many into much smaller bottles (I save Colman's mustard bottles for such purposes), and so the taller bottles that are half full (Madeira, Rum, Vodka...) have now been tucked into the corner cupboard where they can be reached, but I have several mustard bottles holding varying amounts of kirsch, brandy, limoncello, sherry.... and one or two special oils. All needing to be put somewhere within easy reach .   Suppose this will end up being the larder as I now have a few gaps there.

I have too much of everything I suppose.  A huge basket sits under the kitchen table holding rolls of clingfilm (two sizes and perforated), several different sizes of freezer bags, a bag of baking parchment circles for lining tins, two rolls of kitchen foil (different thicknesses), plus rolls of disposable piping bags, larger sheets of baking parchment, not to mention a bag of sticky labels for putting on jam-jars, waxed circles for jam, lids for jam....

As I save every freezer bag that can be reused (maybe for storing bread etc), I now have a pile of these littering the table.  Yes, I do fold these and store them all in another bag, but still have to find a home for these.  Trouble with me is I can't throw things away.

Actually - this weekend I did.  I went into the lower corner cupboard (it has two shelves that turn round) and sorted out about three dozen (probably more) cleaned empty plastic cartons that I been saving.  I already have a box full of these anyway (used for freezing small amounts of home-made stock or individual servings of ice-cream), and really don't need more.   They are waiting to go to the tip to be recycled. 

On Saturday there was another article in the newspaper that made interesting reading.  I'm just stating facts, and do accept this is how things are today - but for the better?
Apparently Facebook has more than one billion members worldwide, half of whom visit the site every day.  In Britain alone 24 million people (!!!) log on to Facebook daily.  Why?

It says that in Britain one if five children between the ages of nine and twelve  are thought to have a Facebook page, despite the rule being they must be over 13.

This is the bit of the article that quite alarmed me:  "several of my daughter's friends - who once read books or even, heaven forbid, got on their bikes or played a game of tennis - no longer show their faces at all, their time at home is spent hunched over computers with blank, elsewhere, expressions. (A quarter of 14 and 15 year olds now spend four to five hours a day on social media sites)."

The article is lengthy and chilling, with facts about how these social sites have taken over, and instead of giving a wider social circle, it is actually causing more isolation.  Not to mention the trolls that infiltrate and have been the cause of several suicides.

Obviously I'm being very old fashioned in my thinking, but to me, contacting friends is a personal thing, not just typing up a sort of 'round robin' so that everyone reads the same words.  What's wrong with sending an email to a friend, and a different one to another.  Or even a proper letter?   Why is it necessary that people we don't know (or maybe not even wish to know) can know what we are doing?

Now of course I am feeling a bit of a hypocrite, for isn't that what I'm doing now?  At least my words are not open to the world of social-site lovers, just to those who probably care more about what I care about and have been kind enough to read my blog.  At least am hoping I write something useful from time to time.

Yesterday, did watch a new series with Hugh F.W called 'Scandimania'.  The first episode being about Sweden where this contented country have a word (sounds like 'largon') that means something like 'just enough'.  Unlike us, they are happy with their lot, never wanting more than 'just enough'.  If we could follow their example am sure this nation would be a lot less miserable.
Next episode will be in Denmark, another country that I'm sure has got it right. Let us hope our government can copy some of their ideas.  Shouldn't be THAT difficult.

Watched '...the Midwife' yesterday, as always a treat, it reminds me so much of my early married years (style of clothes, prams pushed etc).  One of the major characters - a girl in prison who had a baby - was played by a young actress who I've seen in something else, and for the life of me can't remember what play/series she has been in.  Does any reader remember?  If so please let me know. It's really bugging me.

Extremely high tides have again brought more flooding, especially to the south-west, and although a fairly fine and dry day yesterday, we are due for more severe gales and rain.  They say it could be weeks before the water levels drop from the flooded areas. 
We need a lot more barriers built along areas of sea and rivers, and many rivers dredged to help get rid of excess water, but the government seem to be doing little about it.  Yet they are happy to spend billions on a new fast-track rail system that no-one seems to want. 
People's homes are being continually flooded, some can't even now afford insurance, so about time something was done to help stop this happening again (and again).  Stop spending money on things that really are not that important, and spend it on things that ARE.

As you can see, today I'm not happy bunny, both my arms are covered in itchy blotches (hives), not sure why, but have had to take extra anti-histamines to stop it spreading and these make me very sleepy.  The sooner Monday is over the better as far as I'm concerned.

As far as culinary activities are concerned (the real reason why I write the blog, but as you can see once I get my teeth into something I tend to give that priority),  am still using up my stores.  Cooked ham from the freezer has filled some baps for B's snacks, and main meals have been varied again using meat from the freezer and veggies from the fridge/veggie basket.  It's getting a bit less boring as know have to try and come up with ways of using up bits and bobs, and certainly Oriental dishes are perfect for this and once the ingredients are gathered together (some being prepped) can give B the recipe and leave him to make his own supper.  He's not too keen on doing this more than twice a week, so will need to search my recipe books to come up with something new.  By now I ought to be able to invent a recipe myself, but not today - am not in the mood.  Think tonight it will be sausages, eggs, baked beans and the last of the frozen oven chips.  Traditionally boring.  But easy.  If I put the sausages in the oven, followed by the chips 10 minutes later, then B can heat the beans in the microwave, fry an egg all by himself, then plate up the lot.  He doesn't always need me. 

The first recipe given today will be made sometime this week as I have most of the makings (naturally),  or - if not - will use the alternatives (onions instead of leeks, smoked haddock instead of smoked mackerel, capers opt.  At a pinch Greek yogurt or a white sauce could be used instead of crème fraiche, and of course use any pasta shapes).

This is one of those recipes that serve just two (usually they serve four or more) it can of course be doubled, or even half if you live alone.  But two is just right for B and me, so I'll be serving myself some too.
Leek and Smoked Fish Pasta Bake: serves 2
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
knob of butter
6 oz (175g) pasta penne
1 x 200ml pot crème fraiche
1 tblsp capers (opt)
2 small smoked mackerel fillets
salt and pepper
1 oz (25g) breadcrumbs
Fry the leeks in the butter for about 10 or so minutes, until very soft.  Meanwhile cook the pasta as per packet instructions.  Skin and flake the mackerel.
When the leeks are ready, stir in the crème fraiche, capers and flaked fish.  Heat for 1 minute, then drain the pasta and stir this into the pan contents adding seasoning to taste.  Tip it all into a small baking dish and top with the crumbs.  Place under a pre-heated grill and cook until the topping is golden and crisp.

Second recipe is money-saving in many ways.  Firstly it is vegetarian, and secondly uses vegetables that can be varied, so use what we have.  Purple sprouting broccoli would work well instead of the more usual broccoli as in the list.  This being a dish that has Oriental flavours, just use it as a guide and feel free to adapt.
Spicy Coconut Vegetables: serves 4
1 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
1 brown/white onion, cut into wedges
1 red onion, cut into wedges
1 small red chilli, seeded and chopped
1 large carrot, fairly thinly sliced
7 oz (200g) broccoli florets (see above)
half a red and yellow bell pepper, sliced
7 fl oz (200ml) coconut cream
7 fl oz (200ml) vegetable stock
half teaspoon Tabasco sauce
cooked rice for serving
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and stir-fry the onions and chilli for a couple of minutes. Add the carrots, broccoli, and peppers and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes, then add the coconut cream and Tabasco.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 more minutes then serve immediately with cooked rice (Thai fragrant rice would be perfect for this dish).

As ever, feel a lot better for having had my Monday Moan, a problem shared and all that (even though none of what I said has been a personal problem of mine).  Now feel ready to tackle the kitchen and start the clearing up.  Also make some more bread (having run out).

What I did do over the weekend was make my own vanilla 'extract', having seen it made on TV.  I'd found a couple of vanilla pods in an unopened plastic tube at the back of a larder shelf.  They were still OK even though a bit old, so I cut them into small pieces and put them in a mustard jar with some vodka.  After a few days this will then darken and take on a strong flavour of vanilla and I can use it to flavour cakes etc instead of buying the very expensive Madagascan vanilla extract that I often use when baking (and have only one bottle of this left). 

Will take myself off to the kitchen now, and intend to be in there this afternoon as I want to listen to Food Programme (repeat of Sunday's that I missed) believe this will be about 'ready meals'.  It's much more fun now that I have a radio to listen to (always radio 4).  Suppose it gives me the company that I miss now that I am mainly housebound. 

Am today also going to make up some EasiYo yogurt (past its b/b date), and once set will drain it through muslin to turn it into a curd cheese.  Why buy when we can make, is my motto.  Am hoping to continue with this 'making do' over the rest of this week (and beyond).  So watch this space, you never know what magic can happen.   Hope you can join me tomorrow.  TTFN.