Sunday, September 27, 2009

Another Sunday . . .

And here we are dear readers at another Sunday . . . as I write it's getting dark in the wilds of Wiltshire and Fall has well and truly arrived. Beautiful blue-sky Fall days - the sunshine having that peculiar Autumn quality about it along with a smokey mushroomy scent that follows you as you crunch your way through the already drifting leaves on the sidewalk. Big Sis and I are just over 10 weeks to vacation and we can't wait!!!!! I'm very happy to report that Big Sis is almost fully recovered now and for that I am SOOOOO thankful!!! No sourdough breadmaking this weekend as I had to sign up with a new opticians in town yesterday for contact lens supply and today I had a new fridge/freezer delivered as my old one was due for replacement. Over here these appliances seem to have a life of around 7-8 years and I wanted to replace mine before it died on me!!!!! Of course what I really wanted was a proper half-and-half fridge freezer but have had to settle for a little less than that as I was told half-and-half ones "aren't made any more madam" - what utter tosh!!!! The icing on the cake was the delivery time I paid for (paid for note!!!!) wasn't met and the thing was delivered almost an hour late with no apology. However when I raised hell with the store's customer services I was grudgingly informed I could get a refund of the delivery charge (a whopping £25) by trolling back to the store and presenting my receipt. It nearly didn't get through my front door till one of the delivery guys had the bright idea of turning it on its side and jiggling it through - don't they train these guys before they let them loose on an unsuspecting public????!!!! The store's delivery paperwork refers to our highly trained delivery staff which really is stretching a point!!!!! OK - rant over but I fear we'll have to go through this all again when I replace my little under-the-counter size freezer in a couple of weeks' time!!!!!! Sourdough breadmaking will recommence in a couple of weeks' time. I managed some stitching today but could really have done with a restorative in the spiritous liquor line - cheers!!!!!! One of my adopted stepfather's killer G&Ts would go down a real treat right now . . . he makes the best G&Ts going you know - stuffs the glass (tall, it's no good having a G&T in a tumber!!!!) with ice, proper slices of lime and generous measures of good gin and tonic - bliss!!!!!! Of course anything is much nicer when it's made for you and presented on a tray!!!! He is a generous host and I recall one time he kindly gave me a glass of Irish whiskey - I'm not keen on whiskey as a rule but Irish whiskey has a certain smokey something about it. It was a generous measure and for the rest of the evening I could feel myself getting comfier and comfier in the chair, while knowing I had to make it out to Big Sis's car when it was Time To Go Home!!!!! Big Sis says I was smashed but even though it was a shock when the cold air hit me (it was Winter and slippery underfoot from snow) I could still walk unaided and didn't require pouring into her car!!!!!! Here's to our readers *raises glass of fizzy mineral water* and check back next week for updates!!!!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Bread is Done!!!!

Now I'm here to tell you dear readers that I had another go at sourdough breadmaking today and what a difference!!! I made one loaf with my own starter and the other with a bought San Francisco culture - just check out the pix!!! Very satisfying crisp crust and a YUMMMM taste!!!! I did tweak the recipe to make it my own and this is Little Sis's Coldwater Canyon Sourdough Bread!!! Big Sis and I are definitely making this over our December vacation and it will be SOOOOO good with chicken noodle soup and casseroles. She's making bean soup tomorrow and I wish I could send her some of my bread for real to have with that. We both find it real satisfying to cook from scratch although we find it strange that a whole generation seems to have lost the skill and knowledge of turning leftovers into tasty meals and cooking from scratch generally. There's a cookery program on over here right now - Nigel Slater is showing how to make the most of suppers using what he grows in his small garden and also leftovers. It's all common sense that my mom and grandma did almost in their sleep and Big Sis's mom did too but it seems hardly anyone these days knows how to either shop on a budget or possess basic cooking skills. I don't write this in a big-headed way but rather sadly as it seems to us that a lot of illnesses could be alleviated by less junk food and more good homecooked stuff. And yes before you start throwing rocks dear readers and complaining you work all day and don't have time, etc, etc I do know ready meals have their place but just ONCE a week maybe make something - for me it's a great stressbuster!!!! And on to stitching now - it's a stitchalong weekend and both Big Sis and I plan to stitch up a storm!!! Have a great weekend folks and make the most of the nice Fall weather!!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sourdough Update

Now as I'm sure you recall I have been nursing along some sourdough starter and this weekend made bread with it. Not a complete success cos I didn't read down to the end of the instructions page but at least I've learned a couple of things!!!! This type of bread is different in that it has to have extra kneading time first off and only one rise - I gave it two risings as in yeast breadmaking and as a result the dough was extra stretchy and sticky, needing to go into a loaf pan rather than be a freeform one. I baked it and it had a good crust but the other thing I learned is that the loaf pan needed extra oil as I've just had to break the loaf in half to get it out of the pan - GRRRR!!!! The instructions weren't very precise as to actual baking time but I gave it my usual bread baking time and I think it needs just an extra 15 mins to be perfect. The taste is good - you can certainly tell it's sourdough bread - and the texture was good (it should have been with all that kneading!!!!). I'll try again next weekend - the starter is sat happily in the fridge and just needs "feeding" once a week. In other news the seasons have for sure changed now both sides of the pond and Fall has arrived!!! Big Sis and I are counting down to our December vacation and looking forward to homemade sourdough bread and chicken noodle soup - not all the time on vacation of course, we have a LONG list of other goodies we plan to make!!!! We both plan on stitching today and just recharging - Big Sis is feeling much better and for that alone I am truly thankful!!!! Watch this space next week for proper sourdough bread!!!!!!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

We Are Back!!!

Now apologies for being away so long but I was with my Big Sis across the pond after her surgery to have her gallbladder removed. I am very happy to say she is making extremely good sustained progress and I like to think I helped out in a small way by being with her and taking care of food and day-to-day issues to allow her lots of naptime!!!! I am truly grateful she had the best medical care and that I was able to fly out. Flying back to the UK was not much fun as I spent most of the time wishing the aircraft was flying the other way but I am next with her for Christmas and the New Year which is not long away - yes, I hear groans from our readers!!!! And for all the airlines wailing that passenger numbers are down, I saw no sign of this, as I pass through two of the world's busiest airports - Heathrow and O'Hare. What IS annoying is the cutback in flight scheduling which does nothing to endear passengers to their chosen carriers. Fortunately my flights were more or less on time and I arrived safely both sides of the pond which is, after all, the point!!! While my Big Sis rested and recuperated I whizzed around in her kitchen and left her freezer stuffed with homemade goodies (soups and veggie pasta) all portioned up and easy to reheat. I also managed to squeeze in some stitching as well as driving to the grocery store although my Big Sis did supervize by riding shotgun!!! It was strange this morning doing the grocery run now I'm back in the UK, having run round my Big Sis's grocery store a few times!!! Needless to say my checked bag was stuffed with goodies I can't get back here, including some rather YUMMM coffee creamer (chocolate eclair) and some pots of applesauce. I brought out crumpets for my Big Sis and these are very nice toasted with a little strawberry jam or nonfat cottage cheese and fresh strawberries - just right for breakfast!!!! So today in my part of the UK it started off a bluesky Fall day but we now have wall-to-wall grey clouds . . . my Big Sis tells me it's 80 degrees and sunshine with her!!!! But the seasons have definitely changed early both sides of the pond - some of the trees are just starting to turn here and in my Big Sis's street a few of the sugar maples had a faint color change right before I left. Her folks have just returned from cruising in Alaska and brought us presents - mine was a cookbook filled with recipes from the pioneer time right up to the present day and we are now planning on trying our hands at sourdough breadmaking!!! I used to make my own bread a few years ago and today I set a batch of sourdough starter going following instructions from a dedicated sourdough bread website. I want to make sure I get it right before our Christmas vacation such that I can make up a batch of sourdough bread and homemade soup for us on a cold Winter's night!!!! Well . . . that's the plan!!!! What I've started now should be ready for breadmaking this time next week and I'll let you know how it goes. Right now it's back to stitching and dinner!!!!!