Foods You (I) Can’t Live Without

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to add it to the fruit salad.

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WHAT FOODS COULD YOU NOT DO WITHOUT?

While perusing other blogs yesterday or the day before, I came across a post with the author listing their top 10 foods they couldn’t do without, and I thought it was a great idea for a post.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember who’s blog it was, so I can’t give credit, sorry!

Olive Oil

The ultimate lubrication for your pots, pans, baking dishes, etc. and it’s healthier than butter!

Garlic

I have only one thing to say…when in doubt, add more garlic.

Onions

There aren’t too many recipes that don’t start with an onion.  They are a staple of the cooking world and add great flavor to any dish.  Come on now, who doesn’t love the smell of fried onions?

Salt & Pepper

The ultimate seasonings.  Even if you have no other herbs or spices, these will always pull through for you.

Lemons

Another versatile food.  The juice is used as an acid and adds tang and gives a clean, fresh taste.  The peel/zest gives a subtle hint of flavor and even works well in a martini!

Chocolate

No woman can survive without chocolate…need I say anymore?

Rolled Oats

Oats can be used for porridge, ground for flour, used as a coating on meats and added to baking.  It is also a low GI food so stabilises the blood sugar.

Potatoes

What’s not to love about potatoes?  Even though they’re somewhat of a no-no on South Beach, it doesn’t mean I don’t eat then on occasion. Whether mashed, dauphinoised, baked, boiled, roasted, fried or au gratined, potatoes are one food that we all love.

Vinegar

From the basic oil and vinegar for a salad, to flavoring for a Thai dipping sauce, vinegar is one that I wouldn’t want to do without.   I love the fact that there are so many flavored vinegars out there and each one has its own special purpose.

Tomatoes

Whether cooked or raw, tomatoes add flavor and texture to many dishes.  Like potatoes, they can be cooked in many ways:  baked, roasted, pureed and made into sauce.  There’s nothing better than popping a fresh cherry tomato into your mouth straight from the vine…mmmmm.

Cheese

As you take a bite of your pizza, the melted cheese is stretching itself from your mouth to the remaining pizza, holding on for dear life until it can no longer hold on, breaking the connection…your mouth has won.  Blue, mozzarella, cheddar, red leistershire, stinking bishop, ricotta, cottage, munster, edam, brie, gouda, camembert, goats, swiss, colby, parmesan, provolone, asiago, caerphilly, monterey jack, feta, fontina…the list goes on and on.

There are a lot more foods I could list here, but I’ll let you decide what to add to it.  What are your ultimate can’t-do-without foods??

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Miscellany and Mustard

MISCELLANY AND MUSTARD

Sigh…I seem to have writer’s block today.  What can I talk about?  What would you like to read about?  What I did today since getting up at 5:00 am?  Probably not, but it’s a start.  Got up, made the bed…removed laundry from the clothes rack, folded and came down to the kitchen and had my Berocca.  I put dishes away from last night and gave the kitties a bit more dry food. (borrrring)

It was raining and blowing a gale out there this morning!  Cleaned out the litter boxes (always a fun job!)  Got hubby’s lunch out of the fridge and packed up his bag and put it by the front door…made sure his phones and keys and work badge were all together. (Oh, how exciting)

Made a cuppa tea…hubby left for work.  Went up to shower and dress and was back down in the kitchen by 6:30 am.  Had a little bit or ironing to do; about 3 shirts and several dish towels.  Some of you may remember my post a while back about me and my ironing and know that I give myself more work than necessary by ironing the ‘glass drying’ tea towels and also the bed sheets. (yawn)

I caught up on reading the papers (and a catalog or two!) and then it was getting near time to feed the kitties; I knew because they were all circling like sharks in the kitchen!  Whoever said cats can’t tell time was lying! (are you still with me?)

I fed the sharks…I mean cats, and then fed myself some breakfast…some scrambled egg with lowfat cheese in a whole wheat pita. (I think I’ve got something now!)

I didn’t get to finish making the mustard yesterday so got down to doing that.  Making your own mustard is really easy and once you get the basics down, you can try adding different ingredients for a variety of flavors.  For those who want to try making your own mustard, here’s the one I did today… (yay, a recipe!)

~~Sweet Spicy German Mustard~~

2/3 C mustard seeds (black or white or a mix)

1/2 C dry mustard powder

1 C cold water

2 C cider vinegar

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 C brown sugar

2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp each: ground allspice, turmeric, tarragon

4 tsp honey

Combine the mustard seeds, mustard powder and water in a small glass or ceramic bowl.  Cover and set in fridge overnight.

Next day: combine vinegar, garlic, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, allspice, tarragon and turmeric in a small pan.  Heat gently and simmer uncovered 10-15 minutes until reduced by half.

Add to mustard seed mix and blend with an electric hand blender.  The seeds will not break up but you do want to mix thoroughly enough to blitz the garlic.

Pour mixture into a double boiler over slowly simmering water.  Cook until thick, about 15-20 minutes stirring often.  Add honey and stir.

Pour into small sterilized glass jars and seal.  This will keep refrigerated for several years.

Cook’s Note:  It won’t taste very good right now; very sharp and tangy.  Keep it in the cupboard for 3-4 weeks before eating to allow the flavors to mellow and blend.

I then cleaned up the dishes and made myself some lunch.  A thrown-together Oriental type soupcabbage, mushrooms, spring onions, garlic, ginger and any leftover cooked meat you might have (I had duck).  Shrimp work well too.  Throw it all into a pot, (if using the shrimp, add with the noodles) add some boiling water (to cover) along with a bit of sesame oil.  Bring to the boil for about 5-10 minutes then throw in some Oriental noodles.  I used buckwheat noodles and cooked for an additional 5 minutes.  Put a packet of miso soup paste in your bowl.  When the soup is done, pour into the bowl, mix and eat.  You don’t add the miso paste to the pot because boiling it reduces its health properties.

While I was cooking up lunch I turned on the laptop and started checking emails and blog stats, etc.  Sat down and ate my soup while on the computer.  Had a chat with the MIL as she called to check in. (oh no, not again)

While still pondering on what to write about, I cleaned up the lunch dishes, came back here and sat down and started typing…about what, I don’t know!

I have also just eaten the last of the banana muffins and so now will have to figure out what to make in place of them.  P brought home some raspberries yesterday from the reduced to clear section so I’ll need to do something with them really quick before they go off.  Maybe I’ll make raspberry muffins tomorrow!

Until then, y’all have a good day now!

UK Food and Pickled Onions

When I first came here to the UK, I was a bit, how shall I say, disappointed in some of the foods available.  There were items I was so used to getting in the states that it would frustrate me when I couldn’t find them over here, not even a reasonable replacement.  Two items that spring to mind are chocolate chips and Cup-a-Soup.

Both of these are available here, but not in the size or selection I would like.  Chocolate chips for example are available in small packets with weights of 100g.  That’s about 3 1/2 oz.

I wanted to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies for humans, not Barbie dolls!

I had to buy four bags to even come close to the normal sized bag of chips you get in the states.  I ended up resorting to having family members send bags of chips over from across the pond.  Now, I just buy bars of plain chocolate aka semi-sweet chocolate and break them up into chip size pieces.

And the Cup-a-Soup?  I’ve yet to find any that have noodles in them.  I really don’t eat these anymore, so it’s not such a big deal.

It took a bit of getting used to, but over time I’ve learned to compensate for what I can’t find and for what I can find.

I’ve also learned to enjoy some of the English foods that I never thought I would eat.  I was never a big lamb eater until my hubby made a leg of lamb one night.  It didn’t have that horrid smell while it was cooking and it was absolutely delicious!  We enjoy it often now.  I also now eat chutney (along with making it!) and haggis; but not together!  I absolutely love oatcakes especially with Blue Stilton cheese.

There are also some things I won’t eat, although I have tried.   Offal, black pudding and kidneys are three of them.  One of the items I make to sell is pickled onions.  I love onions…as long as they’re cooked.  I will not eat these as they are basically raw.  They do sit in a brine overnight but they are still raw as far as I’m concerned.

The English love their pickled onions; in fact they enjoy lots of things pickled.  I purchased a rather large bag of pickling onions…a 5kg/11lb bag to be precise.  I’ll be making a lot of pickled onions over the coming weeks.

The preparation of the onions takes the longest and is a bit tedious as they are small and vary in size from perhaps the size of your thumb to golf ball size.

They must first be topped and tailed.  I also remove the papery outer covering if at all possible.   Pour boiling water over the onions and leave to sit for 4 minutes.  This allows for easier peeling.

After they are peeled the onions are put into a brine consisting of water and salt (1 litre water to 100g of salt) and left overnight.

The pickle is made using malt vinegar and pickling spices consisting of dried chilis, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, mace blades, allspice berries, bay leaf, peppercorns and fresh ginger.  The mixture is brought to the boil, then simmered for 5 minutes and left to infuse overnight.

The next day the onions are drained and rinsed in cold water and stuffed into hot, sterilised jars.  The vinegar mix is reheated and brought to the boil.  I then pour it over the onions and seal the jars.

Most recipes for pickled onions will say to just pour the cold vinegar over but I prefer to heat it so that the jars vacuum seal properly.  When I hear the ‘pop’ of the lid, then I know they’re sealed.  The residual heat from the vinegar may soften the onions a bit, but not so much that they lose their crunch.

Don’t quite know what I’ll be making tomorrow, but you’ll find out soon enough!