Thursday, April 30, 2015

Pancakes (Crepes) With Caramelized Pears

Pears were on sale last week at the local co-operative grocery store.  We ate most of them but by the end of this week the last 2 were getting soft and brown.  When you put that together with the fact that I needed a dessert to fill out another evening of leftovers (not having a freezer makes meals a little boring) and crepes were born.

In England crepes are called pancakes.  No matter what you call them, they were delicious if I do say so myself.  And, they were easy and fast.  Those three things make them phenomenal as far as I am concerned.

If you need a quick end to a meal and you have almost any kind of fruit then this is what you do:

  • make the crepes according to a standard recipe
  • if needed, cut the fruit up into small pieces
  • melt some butter in a frying pan
  • add the fruit
  • sprinkle with sugar, the amount needed will vary according to the sweetness of the fruit being used
  • saute until the fruit is soft and the butter and sugar mixture is bubbling and browned up
  • divide the fruit up amongst the crepes, roll them and place in a greased pan
  • pour the caramel sauce over the center of the crepes
If there are leftover crepes they can be used as holders for a main dish mixture of meat and veg or for another sweet ending using pudding.  They are also good for breakfast sprinkled with lemon or orange juice and sugar.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mama Duck Update

We have now been back on the boat for two weeks and Mama Duck is still sitting on her nest.  At most, she should have two weeks more before hatch day.  I am rooting for less  because I am not sure how much longer I can hold off the moving of the boat and when that happens we either relocate her or she travels down the canal with us.  Either could make her abandon the nest.  And that I would really like to avoid.

One of the times she was off the nest getting something to eat I snuck a peak and discovered there is only one egg in the nest.  That fits in with her very small size.  I am thinking this may be her first nest and her first time at this mama thing.

In my mind that is just another reason to help her make this a successful one if we can.

I will keep you posted.  Let us all keep our fingers crossed and send good thoughts.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Cake Mix Biscotti

I have written here before about Approved Food, an online discounted food provider, and the fact that I often purchase things here to help keep our food spending under control. 

Well awhile ago they had large bags of chocolate cake mix (think restaurant size) for sale.  For 99 pence ($1.50) I could purchase enough mix to make 6 chocolate cakes!

Too good to pass up even though I usually cook from scratch and don't use mixes.  But this would be great for fast desserts when I needed something to fill out a meal of leftovers.

Well, last night was such a night. 

Not having the freezer has meant that any leftovers have to be eaten now.  They can not be frozen to pull out later. 

Dinner last night was to be the leftover meatless cheeseburger soup I had made on Saturday and bread.  I decided something sweet would help round out the very basic meal.

Chocolate almond biscotti was what I decided to make since I had made them once before and Mike specifically mentioned that they would be nice to have again sometime. 

They are easy and turn out better than my scratch ones when I use the cake mix to make them.  I wish I knew why my scratch ones don't quite make it but I haven't figured that out yet.

Anyhow here is all you have to do to have yummy chocoate biscotti:

1 box cake mix
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1tablespoon vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick cookie sheet). In large bowl, mix cake mix, flour, oil and eggs with spoon until dough forms. Stir in almonds, using hands if necessary.
  • 2 On ungreased cookie sheet, shape dough into 15x4-inch rectangle, using greased hands. Bake 21 to 27 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet on cooling rack 15 minutes.
  • 3 Cut rectangle crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Place slices, cut sides down, on cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes longer or until edges are deep golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
Crunchy cookies great with coffee or tea. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

"Wisdom Highlights"

According to something I read today gray hair is highlights earned along the way along with all the wisdom life teaches you, one way or the other.

Well, I must have had a lot to learn because I sure have a lot of wisdom highlights.

So, if I stop and think, what  is some of the wisdom have I learned:
  • Never ignore your gut instinct.  Nine times out of ten, if not more often, you will regret it.
  • Raising kids and being married is hard work but great work if you can get it.
  • Friends are angels sent by God to be there in your happiest and unhappiest times and they make both better.
  • Pets are the only love money can buy.
  • You cannot count on anyone else to make you happy.  You have to make yourself happy through the choices you make and by deciding to be happy instead of unhappy.
  • Memories are better than things.  Hands down.
  • Most of the things you worry about are not worth all the time and effort you put forth worrying about them.
  • Accepting that there are certain things you do not have the power to change is huge.
  • You can never run away from yourself no matter how far or how fast you run.
  • Some days the best you can do is continue to put one foot in front of the other and if you do that things are guaranteed to get better.
  • You should never be ashamed to ask for help.
  • No one is always happy.  If they were, they would be unable to recognize what happy is.
  • Life takes work.  Hard work.  Don't quit.
Yep, some of this gray is definitely wisdom highlights.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dandelion Jelly

My father was very proud of his yard.  It was lush, green, impeccably mowed (a different direction each time so as not to get "ruts" and a dandelion would never show its face there.  Never.

So, if and when he ever reads this post he will be sure I have lost my mind.  Truly.

Yesterday I voluntarily went out to find and pick dandelion flowers so that I could make dandelion jelly.  To me at least, it was a fitting Earth Day project.  Take one of nature's undervalued wild flowers and turn it into something good to eat as well as something good for you.

It turns out dandelion flowers have a quite high nutritional profile.  They are rich in Vitamin A (an anti-oxidant),B6, C (an anti-oxidant), D plus calcium, manganese, magnesium, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, iron, potassium and zinc.  That's quite a nutritional power punch from a "weed".  Actually, botanists consider the dandelion flower an herb.  Now doesn't that sound better. :-)

I found the recipe I used as the base for the jelly I made at The Floyd Family Homestead Blog.  It is from her book Poverty Jelly:  Delicious Jellies for the Home From the Home.  Her recipe is as follows:

You Will Need:
1 – Quart of lightly packed Dandelion Flowers. Only use the yellow portion; try not to get any of the bitter greens of stem into the pot.  (Do your best.  I found it impossible to not get any but it worked OK still.)
2 – Quarts of Water
2 – Tablespoons of Lemon Juice
Zest of one Lemon
1 – Package of Pectin to 3 cups of yellow liquid
5 – Cups of Sugar
Boil the flowers in the water for about 10 minutes.
Cool and strain the liquid.
Add the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, the zest of one lemon and the 1 package of pectin to 3 cups of yellow liquid.
Bring to a rolling boil.
Add the 5 cups of sugar.
Mix well and return to a boil.
Pour into hot, sanitized pint jars and seal.
Allow to cool before storing.

I did make some changes to the recipe to take into account what I did and did not have here on the boat.
  • I did not have a lemon to zest so I used 3 Tbs. of bottled lemon juice and to add the flavor that would be missing due to the lack of the zest I used 1/4 tsp. mace and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • My pectin was for low sugar jam so I needed to use only 3 cups of sugar
The jelly set up beautifully and my taste tester, Mike, said it tasted like apple pie, something he loves.  I took that to mean we had a hit.  I now have 7 small jars of jelly. Two or 3 I will give as gifts and the others we will enjoy on toast or use as a base for marinades and sauces, and bastes for meats.

See Dad, dandelions aren't all bad.  Just wait till I tell you about my dandelion leaf pesto. :-)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Don't Mess With Mother Nature!

Happy Earth Day.

What are you doing these days to help our ailing planet on her road to wellness?  Remember, we only have one planet and we are all in this together.  It took all of us to make her sick and it will take all of us to make her well.

Money, or the lack thereof is no excuse.  Frugality and environmentally wise decisions overlap by 90%.  No one is asking for 100% here.  You are just asked to try.

What are some of the things we do here on the boat?

  • We purchase most of the non consumables we need from charity shops and they are always the first place we look for things we need. Even the yarn I crochet with is from a charity shop.
  • Although every dish used needs to be hand washed we have never used disposables here on the boat.  I have the dishpan hands to prove it. :-)
  • Our laundry detergent,cleaning products and washing up liquid are homemade.  The ingredients are kinder to the environment, we have less packaging to dispose of, and it lessens our carbon footprint. It also lessens our personal exposure to toxic chemicals.
  • We use cloth napkins in place of disposable paper napkins.
  •  We try to buy locally produced foods and to eat seasonally.  We are not 100% but as I mentioned before, 100% is not what is required.
  • When clothes rip, items break, etc. we try to repair/fix before replacing. And, if it needs replacing we try to figure out if we can get along without it (think freezer). 
  • If we need things we try to think if we have anything that we can use to get the job done so that we don't have to purchase something new.
  • I have joined The Compact for 2015 and promised that except for consumables and certain unavoidable items (think undergarments) I will purchase everything I need from the used market or make it myself using items from the used market.
  • We walk most of the places we need to go over here.
  • We save glass jars to use as food storage containers.
  • I was out our food storage bags and use them over and over until they get a hole.  We also save and reuse aluminum foil and the waxed paper bags that cereal and crackers may be packed in.

Where are we some of the places we are still contributing to Mother Earth's Illness?

  • We use taxies or rental cars to see sights or get to and from train stations over here.
  • We use our car in the states to get around to see friends and family.
  • We heat the boat with wood and fuel it with diesel.
  • We cook with propane.
  • We use TP.  Enough said. 
  • We still use some paper towels although we have cut way back.
  • Not all of our food is local and/or seasonal.
  • Some of the items we use are plastic.
  • We fly airplanes.  But, no matter what this is not gonna change since I need to see friends and family and I love to travel.  Part of our not 100%.
I am sure I have missed things.  But you get the idea.  This post is not to brag or beat myself or someone else up.  It is to get us all thinking about how to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Let's put our thinking caps on!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Still Learning After All These Years

I'm learning.

I'm adjusting.

I still have a way to go.

It is a week now that I have lived without my freezer.  I know that doesn't sound luck such a hardship, and it really isn't.  I know I am lucky to have this first world problem.  But, it does mean I have had to make some adjustments in how I do things and I still have a lot to learn.

I have learned, for example, that the tiny freezer compartment in the fridge can hold 2 bags of frozen veggies and still have room for one very small ice cube tray.  I like to buy frozen peas (canned are not a favorite), frozen green soy beans (only way I have seen to buy them),  and frozen spinach (much less expensive to use in recipes than fresh).  All three will not fit.  Therefore all three cannot be part of the meals in any one week unless I am finishing up two of the bags and just purchased the third.

There is no freezer space, or very little and only at the expense of having the veggies, to stock up on meat.  That means that our lenten vegetarian diet was a good transition to basically what our normal diet will now be.  We can probably have fresh meat once a week on the day or the day after I do the shopping for the week.  And then, only if we have access to a store that is large enough to stock it.  We can do canned fish like tuna and salmon and smoked haddock, canned corned beef and canned ham, too.  So, maybe it won't be all that bad.  And just think of how good our cholesterol numbers will be.

There is NO room to freeze leftovers for another meal later in the week or month.  Consequently leftovers need to be served until they are gone or until total boredom with them means they become a science experiment in the fridge and then end up in the garbage.  I hate food waste so to try and minimize this I need to really, really work on cooking smaller amounts.  This is very hard for me to master.  Some might almost say impossible.  Wish me luck.

With all the leftovers hitting the fridge there will be less room for things like salad items, larger packs of eggs, multi types of cheese, etc.  This will change what I can cook at any one time.  I will not have the abundance of ingredients I had before.  Another reason to cut down on the amount I cook so that there are fewer leftovers and more room for other meal ingredients.

With the small fridge I have already had to stop making such things as homemade yogurt.  Now I will have to think about whether I can make homemade ricotta and if I so, can I save the whey generated to use in baking.  And when I bake, things like whey lemon pie which needs refrigerated will have to be carefully planned for (see above).

So, anybody know a way to stretch a fridge and make it hold more?  I could use some ideas.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Officially Older, I Think

My dad and my sister are both morning people.  My sister gets up at 4:00 every morning, has for years, and doesn't mind it. (Huh?!)  My dad has been up by 5 or 5:30 for as long as I can remember.  No alarm.  Nothing.  Just wakes up. (Really?!)

Me, I have never been a morning person.  My view has always been if the sun is not up then I shouldn't have to be either.  (Yes, I had to make exceptions for things like jobs but I didn't have to like it.)

I have asked my dad several times over the years, decades, when I would learn to like mornings.  He always told me it would happen when I got older.

Well, I must have suffered from severely arrested development.  My sister "got older" decades ago.  Me, it is only now beginning to happen. 

Recently, read over the last few months, I have found myself waking up as early as 3 (this morning) but more normally about 4:30 or 5.  And, I can't go back to sleep.  So, I get up and start my day.

 That has never happened before.

And, wonder of wonders, I am learning to like this new routine.  I get quite a bit done so early in the morning and I get a real jump on the day by folding dry laundry, doing one or two cleaning jobs I have been trying to fit it, sweeping the floor, etc. 

Now, this is not yet an everyday thing, more like 4 or 5 out of 7 days.  But, I do think it finally means I am able to get up with the big people.  Who knew it would finally happen?!  I had almost given up hope.

You were right, Dad.  Again.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Thick Bleach

This is a wonderful product that is widely if not universally available over here that I have not seen in the US (but correct me if I am wrong).

It comes in a tall bottle with a small mouthed opening just perfect for applying to mangy grout lines, old and failing refrigerator seals or onto a rag for wiping down other surfaces such as the lids, etc. of our little washer.

And, because it is thick it goes where you want it (for the most part unless you get too generous with it) and not where you don't want it (think clothing with tell tale white spots, not that I ever had any you understand :-)).

This has "normal" liquid bleach beat hands down and is available at very economical prices (think store brand).

A win-win in my book.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Roof Top Tennent(s)

We are ducks!

Mama duck has built a nest in one of our flower boxes, to the extreme detriment of our spring flowers BTW, and is patiently sitting on her eggs and waiting for her babies to arrive. 

We just saw her yesterday so we really don't know how long she has been nesting there.  She is rather well hidden if you don't know where to look.  And, obviously, we never thought to check the roof for ducks when we returned.

It takes 28-35 days for duck eggs to incubate.  If ours are at the 28 day end and she has just started nesting then we have 4 weeks to wait.  If she started to nest while we were gone, which is what we both believe happened since the boat would have been calm, quiet and seemingly free of pesky people during that time, then we have maybe 14-21 days to wait.

According to what I have been reading, mama and ducklings remain in the nest for about 24 hours after hatching before venturing out into the world.  Boy, is that fast!

I want to stay put until the big day.  Mike wants to move the flower box to shore and get going.  This could be a real battle of the wills. 

I just don't want to upset mama and this wonderful process taking place.  Other mamas will understand, I am sure. 

Stay tuned for more developments.

PS:  Another duck is nesting in the reeds near our boat.  No knowledge about the possible date of her confinement either.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Eating Our Curds and Whey

I regularly make ricotta cheese since it is super easy and only takes milk (sometimes I add cream or half and half if I need to use some up) and some lemon juice to make. 

The process creates a great deal of whey(the yellowish liquid that separates from the ricotta solids) which I then freeze and use later in baked products. 

That whey is now thawing, due to our freezer malfunction, and I will use 2 cups of it today to make some whole grain bread.  I use whey as a substitute for the liquid called for in bread making and by doing so introduce some additional amino acids, protein, vitamins and minerals into the final product. 

Besides the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, oil and liquid I use when making bread I add about 2 Tbs per loaf of flax meal, 4 Tbs per loaf of wheat bran and 2 Tbs per loaf of oat bran to create a higher fiber loaf that both Mike and I enjoy. 

I usually make 2 loaves at a time since I am heating up the oven and want to make full use of that heat.  Sometimes I use part of the dough for rolls (sweet or regular) or, as I will today,  to make pizza, calzone or Stromboli for dinner that day. 

Today I will be making calzone with part of the dough to use up some of the ricotta (the curds of curds and whey) and "meat" mixture that was also in the freezer and is now defrosting. 

I will add some oregano, basil, fennel and cayenne to the" meat" mix to give it more of an Italian flavor.  

I will also be roasting some of the veggies that were also in the freezer to serve tonight with the calzone. 

I was going to have pasta and "meat" balls for dinner but I think I will move that to tomorrow instead.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Eating From The Freezer

When I was in high school, for a short while, Banquet made a tuna pot pie that I enjoyed.  I must have been one of an exclusive few since it did not stay on the market long.  :-)

Tonight I am making a version of my own for dinner. 

In our dead freezer were two containers of tuna chowder.  I used them, thickened with some cornstarch, some carrots and peas from the freezer to augment the potatoes and corn in the chowder, and some puff pastry also in the freezer.  It is now in the oven baking and I am trying to type with my fingers crossed that it works out OK. 

I will be serving it with some previously frozen winter squash and some cheese bread made with previously frozen hamburger rolls/bats.  The sweet course will be the rest of last nights previously frozen chocolate and caramel dessert.

Last night, so as to use up my frozen eggs, we had spinach (frozen) with a blender hollandaise sauce and fried potatoes and eggs with baking powder biscuits.

Breakfast was previously frozen bagels topped with once frozen ricotta mixed with the last of the smoked fish from the freezer.

Do you see a pattern as to where I am getting the ingredients?

I figure I have maybe another day, max two before everything needs to be pitched.  The fridge can only keep them good for so long.

Ready for Summer

The inside of the boat now is adorned with its summer finery.

During the winter the cushion covers and curtains throughout the boat are made from a heavy navy blue and gold fabric.  It keeps a lot of the cold out and makes the inside feel cozy.

But, come spring it just feels heavy, dark and blah!  I am so over dark.  Hence, a makeover was in need.

Last year I used white and tan sheets to cover the cushions but I never did like the look.  There is a reason decorators talk with disdain about builder beige.  Yes, it is neutral.  But, it is a boring neutral.  Very boring.

So, when summer was over last year those thrifted sheets found their way back to the charity shop.

This spring I was on the lookout for a heavier fabric (to stay in place better) and one with a springy and outdoorsy print.  I found what I was looking for in the form of two large lined curtain panels with a muted but still colorful floral print on a creamy yellow background.

The curtain panels provided enough fabric to cover 2 large and 2 small seat cushions.  For the back cushions I used a white duvet cover with an inlaid lace panel.  The results are sooooo much better than last year.  Now when I look around the room things seem light, colorful and cheerful.  I love it.

The window curtains are made from two woven throw blankets cut to size and hung using the same hardware as the winter curtains.  The throws were basically white with a pattern woven into them using a goldish- beige thread.  They let in more light even when closed and I am all about light.  They do block the glare of the sun and that is all that I need them to do.

So, the boat has new finery for about £20 or $30.  Not bad.

Our Freezer Was DO(our)A Back at the Boat

And, of course, it was VERY FULL. 

It appears that it had only died recently since my containers of whey, vegetable broth and chowder were still frozen. 

However, my numerous veggies and veggie meat mixtures will now need to be cooked up quickly and I will need to find room in the fridge for them until they become part of our menu, with luck. 

Yes, our fridge does have a small freezer compartment but the emphasis is on SMALL.  At most, I seem to be able to fit 3 partial bags of veg up there. 

But, to look on the bright side, we did not lose a ton of meat like we did the last time the freezer had a problem. 

It is, however, difficult to keep the food budget under control when I keep having to keep pitching part of the food I buy.  Annoying, to say the least.

Mike and I have been searching online for replacement freezers to gauge how expensive our replacement will be.  Let us say up front that the cost will not be small. 

We need a 12 volt small 3 drawer freezer and it appears the cost will be about £500 ($750)!!!!!  Maybe it is time to learn to do without a freezer, if only I thought I could.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Back Across the Pond

I am currently sitting in the Dublin airport waiting for our 2:15 local time flight back to Manchester.  Once there we will grab the train and head back to the boat.

Let me tell you, it will be one LONG day by the time we arrive back at the boat: almost 24 hours total to make the trip.  Let us just say we should sleep well tonight.

Dinner will be whatever I can grab from the freezer and serve as a ding meal.  I know there are some leftovers in there although for the life of me I cannot remember what they are right now.  I will blame my mental fog on tiredness.  That is my story and I intend to stick to it. :-)

On the flight over we were surrounded by a group of young Irish boxers all of whom had been to the U.S. for a boxing tournament.  Most of them were returning to Ireland with ornate belt thingys (a technical term) showing their success.  They were happy lads.

Oh, keep your fingers crossed that the weather here remains springy in nature and temp since both Mike and I left our winter coats in the car at DD2's house.  So, if it gets colder we will also be cold.  Keep your fingers crossed for us that our forgetfulness isn't much of a problem.

That's all for now.  More later.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Peggy Jane

Life is never to be taken for granted.
Tomorrow is never promised so do not waste today.

On Monday we lost a beautiful family member; beautiful both inside and out.
She was kind to everyone and helpful to all.

She was only with us for 28 short years but her memory will live on our hearts and minds forever.

She was very much loved and will be very much missed.

I will be back to post again in another couple of weeks.  Thank you for your patience.