Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Say Cheese!

Another fairly busy day today.  Decided not to go to the spiritualist church but will be going on Saturday evening.   B delivered the cakes/mags etc to the foodbank this morning and I then had the rest of the day to myself pottering around.  The sun still shines and the wisteria is now flowering, not as many blooms as I'd hoped for but hopefully more to come.

As ever, thanks to all who write in and we give a welcome to Susan who lives in Austria.  It's lovely to have readers from so many different countries as we get to hear the differences in the meals we eat and also the varying prices of the foods we buy. 

Pleased that you are finding minced lamb is more easily available Margie (Toronto), and as it is cheaper at the moment, this is the time to buy several 1lbs (kgs) and freeze it away in small quantities (or make up burgers/meatballs to freeze).   Liked your idea of using pesto instead of mint with lamb.
Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) was making a Greek version of lasagne on the Food Network the other day, in this she used a mixture of minced beef and minced lamb.  I've heard of mixing minced beef and pork together, but never lamb.  Basically after frying the meats together with some onion (probably added a sauce - I wasn't taking that much notice) she tipped in a load of tiny pastaq shells, mixing them all together, putting them into a dish and covering with a cheese sauce and grated cheese on top, then into the oven (or under the grill) to finish off.
We have not heard about the tornados in the US Midwest, or I missed hearing/reading about those.

How lovely to wander in the bluebell wood AND hear a cuckoo Alison (Essex).  It must be thirty years ago when I last hear a cuckoo - and that was in Scotland.  When a little girl, standing by the front gate with my father, a cuckoo flew right down the drive, low over our heads 'cuckoo-ing' all the time as it flew. An ugly bird but its song brings back happy memories.  As does the sound of a skylark - another sound we never hear now.

The bulb in the light fitting began flickering again as I finished writing last night, and as I left the room I stood under it and told it either to stay properly lit when switched on or to not light at all next time.  It did go back to full light when I said it, but this morning it didn't light up.
Problem is it is so easy to believe that there is some paranormal reason for this when almost certainly the bulb was just ready to go.  A coincidence.  Only the physic group say there is no such thing as a coincidence, and that I feel could lead me to believe 'there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio...' than their truly are.   Although I have truly had many psychic experiences in my lifetime, I can still be sceptical.  I need real proof, not just what might be my vivid imagination.  But I will persevere for a while, just in case there is something out there wishing to communicate with me.  But first I need to know I need have no fear of it (if there is).  I can't do with having to feel there is something looking over my shoulder all the time.

Back to food.  Well, that's what I'm here for really, trouble is my fingers and thoughts have a mind of their own, hence all my rambles (the group might call this 'automatic writing' and sometimes I do wonder when I read past blogs back as I can't remember at all saying some of it....).  Must now concentrate on the recipes for today, these based on cheese - mainly because this is something most of us have in our fridge, and these come into their own when we find we haven't much else with which to make a meal.

First dish is pasta based and the three cheeses don't have to be the ones mentioned, but preferably something similar that has a similar flavour or texture.  Myself leave a strong flavoured cheddar out of its wrapper on the fridge shelf and when it has become really hard, then it will grate down really finely and can be used exactly as we do Parmesan.  It doesn't have to be Cheddar, any hard cheese can be left to go hard and then grated.   Sometimes I mix this with real Parmesan, it makes it go further and still get the flavour.
The Gorgonzola cheese is a blue cheese, so we could use St.Agur (my favourite), or Stilton (or any similar blue cheese).  At a pinch use grated Feta instead of mozzarella, or freeze a block of cream cheese and then grate that as a substitute for the 'mozzie'.
Think by now we all know that we don't HAVE to use the pasta in the recipe.  Pasta penne is very similar to macaroni, but most pasta shapes could be used.
One or two of my onions have begun to sprout, and I'm letting them grow so that I can use the green bits, finely chopped as a substitute for chives. 

Baked Pasta with Three Cheese Sauce: serves 4
12 oz (350g) macaroni
half pint (300ml) whipping cream
4 fl oz (100ml) vegetable stock
5 oz (150g) grated mozzarella cheese
3 oz (75g) crumbled gorgonzola cheese
4 oz (100g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tblsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tblsp chopped chives (see above)
salt and pepper
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, and when al dente, drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, put the cream and stock into a saucepan and bring to the simmer, then remove from heat. Add the all the mozzarella and gorgonzola cheeses, but only half the parmesan, stirring until melted. Fold in the mustard and herbs, adding seasoning to taste, finally adding the cooked pasta.
Pour this mixture into a shallow, ovenproof dish and sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the top. B Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes at 180C, gas 4.

Although I've given this next recipe before (or one very similar) as this particular recipes uses canned new potatoes this makes this dish what we call a 'store-cupboard meal' (the other 'fresh' ingredients we normally always have in our fridges or veggie racks). 
As this dish can be eaten hot or cold, it is perfect for almost any occasion: main meal with salad, or including in a packed lunch/picnic, or - for a buffet' - cooked in an oblong roasting dish and then cut into chunks to spear with cocktail sticks to serve cold.

 Spanish Tortilla: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 x 750g can new potatoes, drained/sliced
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 oz (100g) feta cheese, chopped
1 oz (25g) parmesan  cheese, finely grated
2 oz (50g) cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the onion until softened.  Put the rest of the ingredients into a bowl and mix together.  Pour this over the onions in the pan and cook - over low heat - for about 10 minutes until the egg has set on top. 
Cover the pan with a large plate and invert so the tortilla falls onto the plate, then slide the tortilla back into the pan (the underside will now be the top). Place back over the heat and cook for a further 5 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove from heat and if eating cold, leave to cool in the pan before removing.

Believe, in the US, American muffins are regularly eaten as a breakfast dish, or am I thinking of pancakes - the type we call 'drop scones'.  But whatever, this next recipe would make a good starter to the day, and I like these because quite often I have yogurt that I need to use up, and also the last pesto in the jar. The rest of the ingredients (of course) are in my larder.
Best eaten while still warm and on the day of making.

Cheese Muffins: makes 12
1 lb (450g) self-raising flour
2 oz (50g) butter, chopped coarsely
15 fl oz (430ml) buttermilk or yogurt
2 tblsp basil pesto
4 oz (100g) cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
1 teaspoon sweet paprika pepper
1 tablespoon plain flour
Put the s.r. flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter.  Using a fork, stir in the buttermilk to make a soft, sticky dough.  Swirl in the pest and the cheese. DO NOT OVERMIX!
Divide the mixture between paper lined (or greased and floured) 12-hole muffin tin, then sprinkle with the paprika and plain flour.  Bake at 180C, gas 4 for approx. 20 - 25 minutes.  Leave in the tin before removing to finish off cooling on a wire rack.

As you know I use the EasiYo yogurt (dry) mix to make my own yogurt.  It really is exceptionally good and out of all the different varieties my preference is the Greek yogurt.  I've always got a container of this in my fridge.  After a couple or weeks (or even three) I start another batch and strain the last of the previous batch to use as mayonnaise, or a dip, or even turn into cheese. 

This is how to do it....
Place the yogurt into a sieve lined with several layers of damp muslin/cheesecloth or a clean damp and new J.cloth.  Set over a bowl to catch the whey, then leave to drain for several hours.

To use as a substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream, drain for 2 hours.
To make a dip, drain for 4 - 5 hours.
To make a soft cheese, drain for 8 - 10 hours.

Once drained  to the required consistency, remove from the muslin and place in a covered dish. Kept in the fridge it will keep for up to a week.

I've all the necessary (rennet etc) to make my own cheese, both hard and soft, but not yet got around to it.  Really do want to make my own mozzarella, so must leave myself a note to remind me, and if it works then that will give me something new to write about.  

The good thing about learning how to make things is really something we should all have a go at, for even if we don't need to keep on doing it, when times get hard (or even harder) it really makes money go a lot further when we can turn our hand to making what we normally would buy, we don't then feel so deprived and almost certainly end up eating far better meals than anyone would ever expect. 

Quite simple food like bread, jam, marmalade, biscuits, cakes - and cheeses - always taste wonderful when compared to those bought from a shop/supermarket.  So why don't we cook more often?  Perhaps we feel we have better things to do with our lives than cook.  But the way to a man's heart etc, etc....
Yet, am pretty sure all readers do a lot of home-cooking, otherwise why read this site?

My Beloved had a Pukka Pie tonight (he sometimes buys himself one) and to go with that I cooked some carrots, parsnips and string beans, also make a small amount of gravy.  No potatoes as I considered the puff pastry (under and over) gave enough balance of carbohydrate.  B agrees with this.
He later got himself some toast and jam!!  Must bake another loaf tomorrow,  one loaf lasts him only 3 days (I don't have any), but as I freeze the baps, bringing out a couple a day, these last 4 days.
At a pinch there is enough of the loaf to do for tomorrow, and four more baps in the freezer, so I may wait another day before I bake.  See how I feel.

My own meal (the main one eaten at lunch-time) was my usual mult-veg salad, this time with grated cheese added.  The good thing is that now I've got into the habit of regularly eating salads and not a lot else, I'm now losing 1lb a day. 
Although I had got into the habit of having a snack at night (not a lot, but not necessary) my weight had gained a bit and then stuck.  Now I've stopped eating after 4.00pm, think that has helped, so let's hope I can keep control of my appetite.  As long as I eat nothing sweet (other than fruit), it shouldn't be that difficult.  But then I've said all this before.  The amount of diets I've been on over the last 60 years I must have lost a total weight of at least four adults (and large ones at that).  And my shadow still hasn't shrunk.

Goodness me, nearly 1.00am (Wednesday I think it is).  Hope to be back again late evening to write the next edition of my Goode life, and between now and then (after a good night's sleep) hope to do something interesting worth chatting about.  You'll have to watch this space to find out.  TTFN.