Monday, May 26, 2014

Catching Up

Seems that over the next few days my blogs will be written when I have time to sit down.  So the early morning/late evening blogs could be any time of the day.  This due to my Beloved now working a few days this week, and I have to wait in for the annual gas boiler check, and also the man to come to see about the broken oven (not yet sure when that will be).  Also will be going out on Tuesday to the spiritualist 'circle', also having visitors a couple of days this week.

Another thing that is a problem (and hoping that Steve will soon get it sorted - he is connected up to our computer), is that when I go on to the Internet and Blogger, the task bar at the bottom of the page now disappears, also the little red 'x' at the top corner, so I cannot remove the page from the screen and have to switch off using the hard-drive button.  It's OK for anything else, and although I can cope, this - well - annoys me greatly.  So I'm not in a very good mood.  At least I can publish.  Well, hope so anyway.

Am having to spend some time trying to find space in my freezers.  Having to freeze a whole salmon (as two sides) for our daughter (she was expected home on Friday but appears to have stayed away all the Bank Holiday), this has taken up all the spare room I had (and had to fight to make room for the fish anyway).  I have quite a lot of chicken stock in tubs chilling in the fridge, these have to be frozen today, so looks like I'll have to take out all the soft fruits to make room.  Thaw the fruits out overnight and then turn them into jam.   Well, it had to be done sometime, so this is as good a week as any.  Can fit it in somewhere.

Seeing the sun shining on glistening leaves this morning, seems that we had some rain in the night.  It has been quite cold again and have had to put the heating on for a couple of hours each day.  The sun shone most of yesterday but no sailing as the tide was the wrong time of day, even so B stayed out all day as he is helping to paint the newly extended kitchen and rooms at the sailing club.  The other day he said to me he was fed up of always being the one to do the odd jobs at the sailing club and he was going to be 'not available' for two weeks while he got on with laying slabs in our garden.  Since then he has been at the club nearly every day, he just can't keep away.   Not that I mind - it keeps him out of my hair.  Just as long as he will take me to the church on Tuesday afternoons.  B is very sweet - he is now saying that my needs come first, but forgot about that on Saturday as there was a football match on during the evening.  I think had I asked B he would have taken me (neighbour wasn't going anyway), but decided to let B enjoy the match.  Unlike my friend, I don't go to get messages, I just want to know how it all works.  So missing a Saturday meeting (or even a Tuesday) is not of any great importance.

Thanks for comments.  Do agree with your Lorna, nowadays Mum's push prams/buggies, often with the child facing away from them.  The mums seem to prefer chatting on a mobile rather than to their children.
Some months ago I was on my mobility scooter, just about to pass by a shop door when one young girl ran out at speed with a phone clamped to her ear.  She didn't even look to right or left and it was only good fortune that I didn't knock her down.  My reactions were quick enough to stop the buggy, and I bet it would have been me she blamed if I had it her.

When out in the car, several times B has had to 'emergency brake' due to a young person stepping out into the road, with either a mobile clamped to the ear, or those sets of earphones where they can listen to music.  They just don't seem to bother to do the 'green cross code' anymore.

An excellent comment from Margie who says it as it is.  These new forms of communication are fine when not abused.  Very useful in fact, but now taken to extremes.   Some of the new phones can do all sorts of things, take/send photos, even read the Internet on them.  And lots of 'apps' (whatever they are - and please - I don't want to know). 
A few years ago one of our family proudly showed us their new mobile phone  "it can hold several thousand music tracks".  "How many have you loaded?" we asked.  "about 20". Was the reply.  Does anyone want to store thousands of songs, or even have the time to listen to them?  It's all getting far too silly, and just a gimmick to get people to buy the latest, because if they don't, they will get left behind in the fashion stakes.  It's all to do with fashion,  we have to change just about everything each year, car, mobile, TV, clothe (of course), and redecorate/refurbish/refurnish just to keep up with the Jones'.  All the manufacturers are after is our money, yet how many youngsters seem not to realise that?  Is it their money anyway, or does it come from the Bank of Mum and Dad?

Sorry to have missed that programme you mentioned Granny G.  Do agree with you that texting is very useful.  Far cheaper than using the phone to speak to someone.  Any proper 'chat' I do using our land-line (which we have anyway and the comp. is connected to that).
My friend Gill (who phones me for 1 hour every Sunday - for free), tells me that her friend is constantly using her mobile to speak to people because she says she has to use up all the 100 free calls she is allowed.  This friend pays a monthly fee for using the phone, so her 'free' calls will have been built in to the annual charges, make no bones about it.  When it comes to commerce, nothing is ever free.  There is always a catch.

A pilaf is a spiced rice, served with Indian dishes Mary.  It wouldn't be a 'pilaf (or pilau) when different spices were used.  Ground cumin is the spice usually used in a pilaf, and I find ground coriander slightly more fragrant than spicy.  Occasionally I dust chicken or pork 'escalopes' using Cajun spice mix, so that is another worth trying.
Rice is rice, and we can always flavour this as we choose.  Add lemon or lime zest and juice, or cook the rice in coconut milk (or with desiccated coconut). Perhaps cook rice as we would a risotto, flavoured with white wine, and chicken stock. Myself enjoy the flavour of (root) ginger in many dishes, and this would also work well with rice.
Am hoping readers will come up with suggestions for more fragrant ways of flavouring rice, other than using the hotter spices.

Today's recipes are suggestions how to add flavour without overdoing it.  Like many recipes that use grains, we can usually substitute a different one, so rice, quinoa, pearl barley, couscous, bulgar wheat should work whichever of these recipes we choose to try (make allowances for the different time these take to cook).  We can also play around with the other ingredients (different herbs, different dried fruits, different nuts...). 

Apricot and Herb Quinoa: serves 4
7 oz (200g) quinoa
8 no-soak dried apricots
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
2 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper
handful each fresh parsley and mint
2 oz (50) toasted pine nuts
Cook the quinoa as per packet instructions, then drain away any excess liquid.
Meanwhile put the apricots into a bowl, adding enough boiling water to help plump them up.
Tip the cooked quinoa into a bowl, stir in the lemon zest and juice, the olive oil and seasoning to taste.
Drain the apricots and add the herbs and roughly chop together (or chop separately), then stir these into the quinoa with the pine nuts, and serve.

Next recipe is rice-based.  A paella, but not as traditional as it should be.  To the rice I would add some cooked chicken (or chicken wings - to cook with the rice), and also some cooked prawns (although raw prawns could also be cooked with the rice).  This recipe is included as it gives a different way of flavouring a rice dish.  So what we do after that is up to the cook.

Easy Paella: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika and dried thyme
11oz (300g) paella or risotto rice
3 tblsp sherry or white wine (opt)
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1.5pts (850ml) chicken stock
salt and pepper
1 x 400g bag frozen seafood mix (or your choice)
juice of half a lemon (cut other half into wedges)
handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion over low heat for 5 minutes.  Stir in the paprika, thyme and rice, cook for one minute then add the sherry or wine.  When this has evaporated, add the tomatoes and stock.  Add seasoning to taste, then cook - uncovered - for about 15 - 20 minutes, until the rice is almost tender, but still surrounded by liquid.
Stir in the frozen seafood, then cover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes or until the prawns are cooked through and the rice is tender.  Squeeze over the lemon juice, scatter with parsley, and serve with the lemon wedges.

Final recipe today does use curry paste (but a very mild one), but there are enough other ingredients that add flavour, so - at a pinch - worth trying this without adding the korma.  The recipe uses 'yellow lentils', and myself would use those yellow split peas (almost the same thing), or use red split lentils.
Ignore the fact this is called a curry dish, by leaving out the 'necessary', we can then turn it into a very tasty vegetarian dish in its own right.

Yellow Lentil and Cauliflower Curry: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
small chunk root ginger, peeled and chopped
2 - 3 tblsp curry paste (pref. Korma)
7 oz (200g) yellow lentils, rinsed
2.75pts (1.5lts) vegetable stock
3 tblsp desiccated coconut
1 cauliflower, broken into little florets
cooked basmati rice
mango chutney and naan bread (opt)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion.  Fry for five minutes then add the garlic and ginger and fry for a further minutes, then add the curry paste, giving everything a stir-fry for a minute more before adding the lentils, stock and coconut,  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes or until the lentils are soft.  After the first 30 minutes of cooking, add the cauliflower to the pan to cook during the final 10 minutes.
Spoon the cooked rice into bowls, topping each with the curry.  Serve with mango chutney and naan bread (both optional).

A reminder that if we save the core, stalks, and the pale leaves that wrap around the cauliflower (as bought), then chop these up  (using a food processor does this rapidly), to cook in a pan of milk with - let's hope - the stale rind of a piece of Stilton, pureeing the lot together when tender (either in a processor or using a stick blender in the pan) we then end up with a lovely Cauliflower soup?  Using these leftovers and supermarket milk (£1 for 4 pints) we can make enough soup to feed 3 - 4 for nobbut much more than 25p.  And very healthy too.  That's what I call good(e) value. 

Must give a mention of an article in the newspaper the other day.  All to do with the bits of fruit and veg that ends up in the bin.  Nothing mentioned about the above, but apparently we shouldn't throw away onion skins, melon rind, and orange peel as these are rich in nutrients that can boost our health.
Onion skin has a plant pigment that can help reduce blood pressure, also prevent blood clotting and has anti-inflammatory effects.  Although the skin itself is not edible, just by adding it to stocks, soups, stews we gain the benefit, just remove skins before serving.

Broccoli leave are often discarded but full of vitamins A and C.  The whole of this veg is edible, and the leaves can be boiled like cabbage,  the stems cut into strips to add to a stir-fry.  Or as an alternative, blend the broccoli stems with a handful of walnuts and olive oil to make a different type of pesto.

Celery leaves have five times the magnesium and calcium that is contained in its stalks, so add the leaves to a salad.
Orange peel and melon rind can be blended into smoothies along with the rest of the fruit.

Leftove3s can also be brought to life by planting them in the kitchen garden.
Ginger is an easy root plant to nurture and will happily flourish when put into soil with the new shoots facing upwards (always look for a new bud on ginger root when buying, some have them, some don't).

Vegetables with white roots - such as leeks, fennel, and spring onionis - can also grow if you place the left-over roots in a container with some water on a windowsill.

Old potatoes that have sprouted can be planted outside (pref in containers) to grow a fresh batch of the vegetables.

Don't even know what time it is (as the screen now is not showing the task bar/clock, but expect it is around lunch-time - my tummy is grumbling so wants to be fed, I've had no breakfast).  So time for me to make my move into the kitchen.  Should be back sometime tomorrow, probably late evening, cannot be sure.  This week will probably be 'expect me when you see me'.  Hope you don't mind the disruption to my routine.

Everyone back to work tomorrow, and the forecast is for rain and storms over much of the country.; So what's new?   Me, I'll be hoping for a dry spell to plant out a number of herbs outgrowing their pots, and also sowing more seeds of Mixed Salad Leaves in the now soil-filled plastic mushroom boxes that I always save.  These will grow indoors on the window sill.  As I said, plan is not to shop until I really HAVE to.  And then only for what is absolutely necessary (milk, eggs...).  That's the plan anyway.   More on this over the next few weeks (months if I can stick to it).

Hope you all have a pleasant - and last day of the Bank Holiday - and look forward to reading more of your comments.  TTFN.