Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Thoughts to Ponder Over

Still having problems with the computer, having to switch off at the hard drive every time I've looked up a Google search page, or used this blog page.  Wish I could bring back the task bar that used to remain at the bottom of the page.  Anyone know how I can do this?  I keep asking Steve, but he is probably busy or maybe away.  At least I can publish thia.

Phoned the insurance company re our broken oven this morning.  Sat there for nearly half a hour waiting for one of their assistants to come to the phone, just had to listen to music or info about their company.  Then when I did get it sorted, I was told to phone the repair company, and they would come to sort it out (or replace) and I need not pay anything, they would deal with it through the insurance.  But then the same thing happened, they had a lot of calls waiting, so another half hour wait, and it ended up nothing able to be done until I could give them the model number of the oven, which I have not been able to find.  It's probably at the back, and as it is built into a wooden surround, this means taking it out and I feel that is something the repair people should be doing.

I've a good mind to go and choose a new oven and pay for it myself rather than get a replacement the same as the one we have (or have it repaired) as I'm forever burning myself on it.  There are two ovens, one large, one small.  The large one above the smaller, and it is quite high.  The drop down door just about sits at the top of my ribcage when open, and it is very difficult for me to reach inside and pull out the baked food without burning myself on either the door or one of the grids inside, especially if the roasting tins/casseroles are very heavy and holding hot water or oil.  Yes, I know I could cover the hot bits of the oven with a cloth or something, but I just can't be bothered to do that each time, and it is the lifting out that is the main problem.  I want an oven that is easy to reach inside.  The small oven is in the perfect position, but far too small for batch baking (something I prefer to do).

In Leeds we also had a double oven, but the larger oven was beneath the smaller one, and that worked very well as we normally only used the small oven for grilling, or light-weight baking.

This afternoon went to the spiritualist church for the 'circle' meeting.  Quite a few regular members absent for one reason or another, just seven of us altogether.  We discussed so many things there was not time for the medium/s there to (hopefully) come up with some 'contacts'. 
At least five of the people there today are mediums, and it seems that each have a different way of making contacts.  I'm still hoping to find out more before I start developing my own 'talents' (if you can call them that).  Not yet sure whether I should or not.  I don't want to open a can of worms.

That 'Doors Open Toronto' sounded lovely Margie, especially the toof-top gardens.  Believe there are a few of these in London, usually on top of a major store.  It is the weight that causes difficulty, not just the earth, but the concrete and especially all the water that is needed, let alone the weight of the shrubs/trees.  But it can be done, and should be done more often, especially in built up areas.
It is also lilac time here, and I've noticed the laburnum trees are also in flower (normally when the lilac is, so normal).  The weather has turned warmer again, but showers over most of the UK as the low pressure area moves across the country.  We in Morecambe are missing most of the rain (for once).

Not sure if it is half-term, but when B drove me to the church this afternoon, we saw a lot of families with school-age children walking along the prom.  Some regions of the UK have their half-term a week earlier (or later). 

Thanks Hazel for giving us the link to the cheap-family-recipes-org.uk and this time it did connect up. I see that they can also be reached on Facebook.  It is an excellent site, and I was hoping to send them an email to ask them why I couldn't reach them through Google search, but it came up with a box saying this is not a safe site, so I chose not to continue.  It would probably have been OK but I'm the sort of person who prefers to be safe than sorry.

So any readers who wish to reduce their food bills even further, do follow Hazel's link and you'll find loads of wonderful recipes and suggestions of what to buy, how to use the food etc.

At one time I used to have a corn-popping machine.  This worked on hot air, so the corn, once popped was very low in calories.  But of course, I gave it away to a lady, with several packs of unpopped corn.  She was a one-parent mother of two boys, and was thrilled as she could then pop endless amounts of corn to keep her lads happy.

I still pop corn, but this time in a very large saucepan with a very little oil, and it always amazes me how very little corn (like two tablespoons - costing around 5p) is needed to produce a huge amount of popped corn.  Incredibly cheap compared to the popcorn sold.

Plain popcorn isn't very interesting to eat, but a little salt added improves it.  But then we are not supposed to eat salty things.  Tossing the corn in melted butter is even better (but then we are not supposed to eat saturated fat!!).  Sugar/syrup is another no-no according to nutritionists, but there are times when I really don't care.  If I want to munch some crunchy popcorn, then I do - occasionally.

Here is the way to make your own, and because the unpopped corn dramatically inceases in size as it 'pops', never use more than 2 level tablespoons at any one time - and use a large pan with a lid.
Put a tablespoon of sunflower oil in the saucepan, place over medium heat and add the corn.  Then cover with a lid.  Soon you will hear the first few corns begin to 'pop', probably hitting the lid of the pan as they do, then more and more will pop. Give the pan a shake from time to time, and in a very few minutes the popping will slow down, and eventually stop.  Remove from heat and carefully lift the lid - for if the last corn is about to pop this sends a spray of already popped corn into the air and probably all over the room (been there, done that).

Remove the corn into a bowl, taking care to get rid of any unpopped corn that may still be in the pan (these are very hard, so could break your teeth if you try to bit through them). 
In a small saucepan put 2 oz (50g) of butter, 2 oz (50g) of caster sugar, and 1 tblsp golden syrup. Heat until bubbling and the sugar has dissolved, then drizzle this over the corn in the bowl, tossing it with forks so that most of the corn has a light coating of the glaze, then spread the corn over 2 non-stick (or parchment covered) baking sheets.  Place on two shelves of the oven and bake for 5 minutes at 150C, gas 2, then change the baking sheets round (upper shelf to lower and vice versa) and continue baking for a further 5 minutes.   Leave to cool, then break up, bag up, and enjoy.

If concerned about calories, reduce the amounts of the glaze by half and tossing well - with luck - most of the corn will have some of the glaze.  Honey could be used instead of the syrup.  But even if not reducing, because it makes a lot, a small bag of popcorn contains no more calories than a bag of crisps.

The ham I cooked to see us over the Bank Holiday is - of course - lasting longer than that.  This time the gammon seems particularly tasty.  Better quality I suppose, but as it was half-price well worth it.
Some slices have been frozen for later eating, and as it was a bit of an odd shape (for carving), I'd cut off a good sized chunk that will be added to a dish as an ingredient in its own right.  Probably use the recipe below.

These pasties make good picnic food, as well as useful to pack in a lunch-box.  Or - if you prefer - eat hot/warm when just baked.  The recipe makes four large pasties, but could easily be stretched to make six smaller ones (or even 8 even smaller child-sized ones).

Ham, Pea, and Mint Pasties: makes 4 or more
8 oz (225g) butter, chilled, cut into chunks
12 oz (350g) plain flour,
half tsp mustard powder
half tsp salt
4 - 5 tblsp cold water
1 onion, finely chopped
7 oz (200g) peas, frozen or cooked fresh
4 oz (100g) thick sliced ham, cut into chunks
small bunch mint, leaves finely chopped
9 oz (250g) pack ricotta cheese
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten, for glazing
Put 6 oz (175g) of the butter into a food processor with the flour, mustard powder, and salt, and whizz until crumbed.  Add the cold water, a spoonful at a time, while pulsing, until the pastry just comes together.  Tip out onto a clean surface, gather together into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill while you make the filling.
Melt the remaining butter in a frying pan, add the onion and cook gently (sweat/sauté) for 10 - 15 minutes until very soft.  Stir in the peas and cook for 1 minute, then remove from heat, stir in the ham, mint, and ricotta with plenty of seasoning.
Dive the pastry into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a (6"-7") 16-17cm circle.  Using a saucer as a guide to cut round will make about the right size.  Brush the edges with a little of the beaten egg, then spoon a quarter of the filling into the centre, bringing opposite sides of the circle together at the top and press together to seal.  Crimp together to make a traditional pasty shape.   If you prefer you could put the filling towards one side of the circle, egg the edges then fold the unfilled side over, pressing the edges together to make a half-circle shape.  Place onto a baking sheet.  When all the pasties are completed, brush all over with the beaten egg, then bake for 35-40 minutes at 180F, gas 4
until golden and crisp.  Leave on the sheets to cool slightly, then serve - or leave to get cold.

As an alternative to the above you might like to try this filling,, and myself would probably use canned new potatoes as they are already cooked (and often cheaper than fresh spuds).:
Curried Potato:
1 onion, chopped
1 - 2 tsp curry paste
1 tsp mustard seeds
11 oz (300g) chopped COOKED potato
4 oz (100g) frozen peas
juice of half a lemon
Fry the onion, curry paste and mustard seeds until fragrant, then stir in the potato and peas. Add the lemon juice.   Roll the pastry (see above) into 8 smaller rounds, then divide and spoon this filling over four of the pastry circles, brushing the edges with egg, then topping with the remaining four circles, crimping the edges to seal.  Brush with egg and bake for 20 minutes at 180C, gas 4.

That's it for today probably back again this time tomorrow evening.  Hope you'll find time to join me. TTFN.