Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Blues

Not really a blue day, just a bit fed up because the sun has stopped shining.  It shone this morning, and as I'd done a load of washing asked B he would hang it out for me before it rained (as it was forecast).  Of course it was a couple of hours later before he got up from his chair and took the washing outside - "oh dear, it's started to rain" he said when he came back indoors, but he had still hung out the washing and left it on the line to get soaking wet.  It would easily have dried if he'd hung it out when I asked him to.  Men!

After I enjoyed writing my blog yesterday afternoon, decided to do the same today, although today do not have a couple of glasses of bubbly to keep me company.  Nevertheless I will try to keep bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

This morning noticed there was a constant drip (more a continuous drizzle) of water running into our loo from the cistern.  B said it had been doing that for ages.  That explains the sudden rise in the water charges (we have a water meter), the monthly payments had almost doubled when we had our last bill.  Pointed out to B that we have to pay for this excess 'dribble', so he tried to fix it, couldn't, so has called in the plumber who fitted it in the first place.  Should be here later this afternoon.  B seems to have no idea that we have to pay for all the gas, electricity and running water that he tends to ignore when switched on.  Several times I've gone into the kitchen and found the gas still burning on the hob because he has forgotten to switch it off.  It's safe enough (no pan left on top) but it still runs up the bills.  Same with the comp, he leaves it on 'sleep' (standby) overnight, even though I keep asking him to switch it off.  Maybe if we returned to him paying the bills there would be a noticeable difference. 

But life is too short to be concerned about petty details like dripping water and wet washing still on the line.  England didn't win the World Cup, and isn't that something we should really be unhappy about?  I don't think so.
Even that cloud has a silver lining.  No more footie matches on each day, the washing on the line will be mega-soft after being rinsed in rain-water, and the dribbling loo has been discovered before too much money has been wasted.    It gives me time to save up for Christmas.

Thoughts of Christmas came into my mind when I decided to watch 'Little House on the Prairie' this lunchtime, "Christmas at Plum Creek" it was called, so presume Plum Creek is where the little house was built, Walnut Grove being the small 'township'.   As ever, full of moral decisions and good works, but I do enjoy that sort of life, just wishing it was the same now as it was then.  No money to buy pressies but somehow they managed it by making sacrifices and sheer hard work.  All the more appreciated because of that.   Do people appreciate anything these days?  All the youngsters seem to want is more, more, more.   Being bought a mobile phone one year can be a pleasant surprise, but next year that is out of fashion so they want the latest model, and the same thing happens the next year, and the next. 

Mind you, there was a mention that our grandson might fix up Skype for me (whatever that is) so that I can actually 'see' my family (who all seem to have it) when I email them.  Not sure how it works, but at least it will help me keep closer in touch with those who live a long distance away.  Personally I'd rather see them in the flesh, but we can't have everything.

Thanks to both Jane and jane who sent in comments.  Yes, think bully beef was the original corned beef, and as well as using it in the dishes mentioned, I've found it quite good when diced, to make a chilli con carne.  One can of corned beef PLUS a sachet of Beanfeast Mexican Chilli, a can of red beans and a can of chopped tomatoes (plus extra chilli powder when some like it hot) - makes enough to serve six. 
My Beloved enjoys eating it sliced as part of a Cold Meat Platter, with either HP sauce or Branston Pickle.  I'm quite fond of it too, enjoying it almost as much as Spam.  Don't know why, but Spam does not have the nutritional info shown on the tin, so I don't know how many calories/fat it contains.  Perhaps better I don't know.  But I've been good, I haven't ordered any for several months now, so withdrawal symptoms now past maybe I won't eat it again.  But of course, now I'm thinking about it, am desperately craving a Spam sarnie.  Just as well I haven't any in the larder.

Bought some toaster bags several years back (from Lakeland) and they are still going strong.  I'm particularly fond of toasted cheese sarnies, but haven't had any toasted sarnies for some months now as avoiding carbos.   So far I haven't tried any other filling for the sarnies before toasting, so maybe jane (or other readers) could send me some suggestions.

As you know I do enjoy a good curry, and am finding vegetarian curries even more pleasing than those made with meat, partly because the curry flavour tends to disguise ingredients used, so when veggies have enough texture, who can tell they are not animal protein?
The organic veggie box sent a butternut squash a couple of months back.  Still firm and with plenty of life left (as long as left intact).  I've only just used a different type of squash they sent several months ago, and suppose when it comes to this type of 'gourd', they are all much of a muchness.  Here in the UK butternut is the usual squash on sale, apart from pumpkin always on sale around Halloween (and the way this year is speeding by, that won't be too far away).

The recipe below uses a butternut squash, but obviously any squash sold for cooking could take its place.  Or instead use another firm vegetable (or several) such as sweet potatoes, turnips, and certainly cauliflower (if you have some).  Mix and match.
Don't feel obliged to use the strength of curry paste (Madras) as used in this recipe.  Use a milder (Korma) one if you prefer, or a middle strength Tikka.  We could even omit the curry paste AND the coconut milk if we used a jar of ready-made curry sauce that contains coconut.  Always I'm trying to cut out labour, but regrettably doing this can make the meal slightly more costly.  Up to the cook to make the choice.
Instead of naan bread, serve with boiled or steamed rice, plain or pilau.  Coriander is optional (I don't force it on you as although it is a trad garnish, neither B nor I like the taste of it, and probably you don't either, so feel free to omit it).

Chunky Vegetable Soup:  serves 4
2 onions, chopped
1 tblsp sunflower oil
3 tblsp Madras curry paste (see above)
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, diced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into chunks
2 x 400g cans coconut milk
half pint (300ml) water
salt and pepper
chopped coriander (see above)
naan bread to serve
Heat a large frying pan and fry the onions in the oil for a few minutes until softened, then stir in the curry paste.  Fry for a further minutes, then add the chunks of squash and pepper, stirring these into the onion/curry paste.
Pour the coconut milk over the veggies, along with the water, giving another stir, then bring to the boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes or until the squash is very tender and the sauce has thickened.   Add seasoning to taste, then serve with a sprinkle of chopped coriander, and either rice or naan bread.

Because corned beef has been mentioned, thought this next recipe worth sharing.  Originally it was made using minces cooked beef, but it works just as well using canned corned beef.  If chilled, cut it into tiny chunks, but best used at room temperature as then it breaks up far more easily and looks more like minced beef.
The topping is very adaptable.  Traditionally mashed potatoes were used, then other suggestions were given such as mixing mashed parsnip or turnip with the potato.  We could also use mashed sweet potatoes.   This version uses potato, carrot and cheese. 
Baked beans are a true 'basic' in our larders, but recently I've been won over by Heinz Five Beans (five different varieties in one can) as these are really tasty.  They work well as 'beans on toast', or used instead of red beans in a chilli con carne.  Sadly they are more expensive than the ordinary baked beans, but I am prepared to pay that little bit more as I like them so much (and wait until they are on offer when I do buy them).
Depending on the brand of beans used, best to drain off the sauce before adding to the pan, as too much sauce would make the mixture sloppy.  Don't throw the sauce away, freeze it, then use it when making a spag bol, or any dish that uses a tomato based sauce.

20th Century Cottage Pie:  serves 4
2 onions, halved and finely sliced
2 tblsp sunflower or olive oil
1 tblsp plain flour
1 beef stock cube
5 fl oz (150ml) hot water
3 tblsp brown sauce
1 can corned beef, diced or flaked (see above)
1 x 415g can baked beans (see above)
2 lb potatoes, cooked and mashed
3 carrots, cooked and mashed
1 oz (25g) butter
splash milk or cream
2 oz (50g) mature cheddar, grated
2 tomatoes, sliced (opt)
Using a frying pan, fry the onions in the oil until softened.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Dissolve the stock cube in the water and add to the pan and stir until bubbling and thickened.  Add the brown sauce and the flaked corned beef.   Stir the beans into the mixture and simmer for 2 minutes, then spoon into one large or 4 individual serving dishes.
Make the topping by mashing the butter and cream into the potatoes, and either mash with the carrots or serve these as a separate layer above the meat but under the potato.  Place on a baking sheet and top with the cheese and tomatoes (if using).  Bake at 200C, gas 6 for about half an hour or until the tops are golden.   Serve with a green veg such as broccoli, beans or peas.

Have to say I'm enjoying writing my blog in the afternoons, so you may find this happening more often.  Not tomorrow though as I'll be going to the church meeting  (didn't go last Saturday due to B not wishing to miss any of the footie match).  So tomorrow's blog will probably be written up either late tomorrow evening, or more likely to be written tomorrow afternoon.  Hope you don't mind my chopping and changing times, and maybe missing a day because of this, but feel my blog is more interesting to read when I actually feel like writing it, not because I feel I should. 
Are readers finding my new-timed blog now makes better reading?  Myself feel the words flow more easily. 

It's our turn to get the rain, and the eastern side of the country looks as though it is now staying dry.  Said to become more humid, with temperatures possibly reaching 30C in the London area.  We, fortunately, will have it slightly cooler.  Just as long as the sun shines I don't mind. 

Off now to prepare B's supper (he is having the last of D.R's sirloin steaks, probably with salad and warm small potatoes), have to take great care when cooking it for B as he likes it medium rare, but not overdone, more rare than medium, but not too pink in the middle.  As the steak is slightly thinner at one end, this makes it rather difficult to get it perfectly cooked to B's liking all the way through. And he does like it perfectly cooked.  
No more rambling.  Time to go.  We'll meet up again tomorrow (probably).  See you then.