Sunday, June 12, 2011

Where Our Money Goes

Generally it is nutritionists that are more concerned with the food we should be eating. Most of us prefer to rely on the old advice of 'eating a balanced meal' to get our nourishment. We don't really care to be told we should not be eating this that or the other, and instead eat only the right foods. Or not as the case may be. It does seem that we are not producing a lot of unhealthy and obese children because they prefer to eat the wrong foods (although myself tend to think sitting in front of a computer playing games does the most harm).

So am wondering how many of us really work out a really good 'balanced meal' when we plan the day's menu. Am sure I don't, although do have enough experience to make sure that it is nearly so - without really having to think about it at all. My Beloved is not doing too badly - health wise - so this must prove something.

Even so - now that prices keep on rising, we really should start thinking about alternative foods that we can serve that contain as much 'nourishment' than the more expensive we normally use. Also listen to any advice that comes via the media. At the moment it seems that the old saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" has some truth in it. Decided to buy a Value pack of Tesco's apples as well as another variety, and quite honestly the Value ones tasted much sweeter. So am now adding sliced apple (peel left on) with both fruit and green salads, making apple sauce to serve with pork etc. And eating them raw as a fruit in their own right instead of a more expensive banana.

When it comes to meat - as you know I always like to buy the best quality I can - and still do despite the recession (but of course - only when on offer). Why do we eat meat? Other than liking to, we eat it as part (or all) of our daily protein intake. Just for interest's sake, 3 medium eggs contain the same amount of protein as does one portion (100g) of medium quality minced beef. We can still buy eggs for 10p each, so obviously this could work out a far less expensive way to get the protein we need.
It's almost coming to the point that we now have to work out the cost of foods by the amount of protein they contain, as although proteins are only part of our food intake, these can be some of the most expensive to buy.

So with this in mind have compiled a list that show how many of the foods that contain the most protein compare with each other. Thankfully I've enough books for me to work this out, although it does take some time, and am hoping this might be some use to those who need to be as frugal as possible but still wish to feed the family in the healthiest way, here are some comparisons between the foods with the highest protein.
The list below gives the food per portion size (normally 100g unless otherwise stated.
Milk (semi and skimmed: 100ml = 3.3
Yogurt: natural whole-milk: 100g = 5.7g
Fromage frais 0% fat : 1oog = 7.7
Brie: 50g = 9.6
Cottage Cheese: 50g = 6.9
Danish Blue: 50g = 10
Edam: 50g = 13
Feta: 50g = 7.8
(Hit the wrong button and published, but will continue)...
Parmesan: 10g (1 tblsp) = 4
Low fat soft cheese: 50g = 6.0
Stilton: 50g = 11

Eggs medium: 1 = 7.2
Eggs large: 1 = 8.5

Cod: 100g = 18
Fish Fingers: 4 = 14
Haddock (smoked) : 100g = 19
Herring fillet: 100g = 18
Kipper fillet (grilled): 100g = 20
Mackerel fillets: 100g = 19
Fresh salmon: 100g = 20
Canned salmon: 100g = 24
Smoked salmon: 50g (average serving) = 13
Fresh sardines: 3 whole fish = 21
Canned sardines in oil (drained): 100g = 23
Fresh trout: 1 medium (8 oz/225g) = 44
Fresh and canned tuna: 100g = 24
Shelled prawns: 100g = 23

Bacon, lean back, raw: 100g = 19
Streaky Bacon, raw: 16
Minced beef, average: 100g = 20
Minced beef, extra lean: 100g = 22
Roast beef, lean only: 100g = 32
Corned beef: 100g = 27
Ham, lean: 100g = 18
Lamb chop, trimmed : 1 = 29
Roast lamb, lean: 100g = 28
Lamb's kidney: 1 = 17
Lamb's liver: 100g = 20
Pork leg: 100g =35
Pork chop,lean: 100g = 38
Pork sausage, grilled: 2 large = 11
Chicken breast, skinless: 1 breast = 42
Roast chicken: 100g = 27
Roast Turkey (light meat): 100g = 34

...and although not meat the following are protein packed:
Cashew nuts: 50g = 8.9
Almonds: 50g = 11
Chopped mixed nuts: 50g = 11
Peanuts: 50g = 13
Walnuts: 50g = 7.3
Pumpkin seeds: 1 tblsp = 3.9

From the above we can now more easily compare the prices we might be paying between one or more of similar items. For instance canned sardines work out cheaper than buying the fresh, and - at today's prices - canned salmon far cheaper than fresh. Two large eggs have almost the same protein content as one herring - and no doubt eggs (even the free-range) will work out a lot cheaper. Peanuts have almost twice the (vegetable) protein content of walnuts - and cheaper for what you get.
It's also useful to note that one chicken breast contains enough protein to be worth dividing in half so that it serves two people, not just one.

Other useful info is that one gram of protein contains 4 calories, and the recommended amount of protein a person weighing 8 stone (51kg) needs per day is 38g. For each stone heavier, add 5 more g's protein, although the heavier we are the less we need (16 stone/102kg) should be having 77g protein per day.

Animal sources of protein (meat, fish, dairy products and eggs) contain all eight essential amino acids - and therefore called 'first-class' proteins. Vegetables sources of protein (with the exception of soya beans) don't, so are called - 'second class proteins'. Some have certain amino acids, others don't, so they need to be eaten with another that has the 'missing' ones, or our bodies won't be able to make use of them.
An easy way to remember what to eat with what is that pulses should be eaten with a grain (why beans on toast eaten together give us the full Monty), alternatively eaten with nuts and seeds, also rice with dhal, hummus with bread etc., and that any second-class protein will be completely absorbed by the body when eaten with a first-class (animal) protein. Not necessarily in the same dish, it could be a bean-based first course followed by a pudding containing eggs/milk.

Unlike animal proteins, vegetable proteins are not completely digested within our bodies, so we should eat slightly more than we would of meat. For those who understand figures - 85g of animal protein is equal to 100g of vegetable protein.

So, just to whet your appetite, here are a few egg-based recipes to healthily fill corners without too much cost.
First and egg and potato curry. Add less eggs (they will look more if quartered), serve with rice and dhal and although the dish is cheap enough you are cutting costs without loss of protein.
Egg and Potato curry: serves 4
1 onion, (pref red) sliced
2 lbs (1kg) potatoes, diced
3 tblsp sunflower oil
4 - 5 tblsp mild curry paste (suggest Korma)
1 x 400g coconut milk
6 eggs, hardboiled, shelled and halved or quartered
Put the oil in a frying pan, and fry the onion and potatoes for 8 or so minutes until the onion is soft and golden. Stir in the curry paste and the coconut milk. cover and simmer for about 15 or so minutes or until the potatoes are tender, then add the prepared eggs, yolk side up and cook for a few more minutes until heated. Serve with rice, poppadums or naan bread.

Next dish is based on a Chinese stir-fry and although (dare I mention them) bean sprouts are used, and we can of course grow these easily ourselves) we could use other thin-sliced veggies, such as carrots, onions, beans, mushrooms.... add frozen peas (or whole mangetout), and sweet corn kernels if you wish. The idea of this dish is first make the stir-fry and then add eggs. To cut costs omit the prawns altogether, or just add a few of those frozen small prawns that are often 'on offer'.
Oriental Egg Stir-fry: serves 4
7 oz (200g) cooked frozen prawns (see above), defrosted
1 tblsp sunflower oil
either 5 spring onions, sliced diagonally OR...
...1 banana shallot, sliced lengthwise into strips
1 bag (approx 300g) beansprouts (or other veg. see above)
6 eggs, beaten
3 tblsp soy sauce
Put the oil in a wok or deep frying pan over high heat, then drop in the prawns and stir-fry for half a minute. Add the prepared onion/shallot and the beansprouts and continue stir-frying for a further minute, then reduce the heat down to low. Pour in the beaten eggs and allow a few seconds for them to begin to set, then gently stir into the veggies so that the eggs are then 'scrambled'. Sprinkle the soy sauce over and serve.

Next dish is a variation of a traditional recipe that doesn't use anchovies (although it should). Personally feel this doesn't taste as good without them, but this has to be a personal choice as to whether to include them or not, if you have a tube of anchovy paste, some of that blended into the dressing is almost as good as. But as they say "what you've never had you never miss", and anchovies might never have passed your lips, so why do I think there is a problem here?
Anchovies obviously contain protein (but at time of writing don't know how much), but even without these, the tuna and eggs provide plenty. If we can include home-grown beans, use canned new potatoes instead of cooking the fresh (but heat them through before adding to the dressing), and grow our own lettuce (which should be a cos type but Mixed Salad leaves could be used instead), use the cheapest eggs on sale and buy canned tuna when on offer - this dish will not turn out to be very costly at all (not that it was in the first place).
Not Quite Salad Nicoise: serves 4
1 lb (500g) new potatoes
8 oz (225g) runner beans, sliced diagonally
1 x 200g can tuna in oil
4 - 5 tblsp (bottled bought) mustard vinaigrette
1 heaped tblsp mayonnaise
salt and pepper
4 eggs, hardboiled then shelled and halved
1 crisp lettuce (cos type, suggest 2 x Little Gem)
handful black olives, pitted
Keep tiny potatoes whole, but cut the larger ones down to much the same size, boil or steam for 15 minutes or so or until tender, adding the beans halfway through cooking time. When both are cooked, remove from heat and - if necessary - drain.
Drain the oil from the can of tuna, putting the oil into a bowl then whisking in the vinaigrette and mayo, adding seasoning to taste. Tip the still-warmed potatoes and beans into the dressing and stir well so they are coated (they absorb the dressing better when still warm).
Shred/tear the lettuce into a large shallow bowl, tip potatoes, beans and dressing on top, and finally cover with flaked tuna, the halved eggs and the olives (these can also be halved). Any reserved dressing can be drizzled on top.

Final recipe today is for a rather classy pudding. Normally this amount would make 6 individual puds each containing 10g protein, but if having a vegetarian main course, my suggestion would be to make one large one and just divide it into four which would then give 15g protein per serving. Or am I just being greedy?
Save all broken sweet biscuits in an air-tight container, then these can be crushed to make the base - include a few porridge oats if you wish. Using orange liqueur makes this a dish suitable to serve when entertaining, but if we are going to using only the zest of an orange, see no reason why we couldn't use the juice of the fruit instead of the spirit. We can always add a dash of brandy as well!
Once cooked and chilled, this can be kept for up to 2 days before serving. Cover with the base when cooled down but not set. Or make the base up to a couple of days earlier and serve with the Caramel inverted onto the top.
Caramel Cheesecake: serves 4 (can serve 6)
1 x 284 tub double cream
zest of 1 orange
8 oz (225g) caster sugar
cold water
4 tblsp orange liqueur (see above)
1 x 200g tub soft cheese (Philly type)
4 eggs
9 oz (250g) digestive biscuits, crumbed
3 oz (75g) butter, melted
Put the cream and orange zest in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil then remove from heat then leave to infuse.
Taking another pan, put 3/4 of the sugar (that's about 140g) into another pan with a couple of tablespoons of cold water (or just enough to make it 'slushy'), then heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer until it has boiled down to a darkish caramel colour. Add half the liqueur (or orange juice) but take care as the syrup will spit and splutter, stirring in then leaving it to settle for a minute or two before pouring into a greased heatproof souffle dish (capacity about 1 ltr).
Beat the soft cheese with the remaining sugar, then beat in the eggs and remaining liqueur/orange juice. Finally strain in the boiled cream. Beat together to make a 'custard'. Pour this into the prepared souffle dish, and stand it in the middle of a roasting tin, pouring boiling water into the tin to come half-way up the outside of the souffle dish. Then put into the oven. Note: it's probably easier and safer to pour the water into the tin once it has been put into the oven).
Bake for 40 or so minutes at 150C, 300F, gas 2 (the time given for individual ramekins, one large make take longer) or until just set (slight wobble in the centre), then remove from oven and from roasting tin, leave to cool then chill in the fridge.
Make the base by crumbling/processing the biscuits into fine crumbs, then stir in the melted butter. Either roll out between sheets of baking parchment or cling-film and cut to the internal width of the souffle dish (then store away for up to two days) or wait until cooled down and then spread on top of the caramel in the dish. To serve ease the caramel away from the sides of the dish and invert onto a serving plate (or onto the top of the biscuit base if made separately). Any caramel sauce left in the dish can be spooned over the top or around the sides.

Yesterday took myself off with Norris to take a look at our 'Barefest'. Unfortunately they had changed the timings, so missed the Mayoral procession. But while I was waiting patiently (in the wrong place at the wrong time), met up with another elderly lady (slightly older than me) who is now my 'new friend'. We spent quite a time talking about our past (we both lived through the Blitz), and how everything today is going downhill fast. We found we had so much in common, so we both hope to meet up again and talk more.

Luckily (despite the forecast) the weather yesterday was wonderful, although the wind was still up and chilly. So many people had come to see all the events that it was impossible for me to travel more than a snail's pace, and by the time I had managed to reach the shops, where most of the stalls were (outside), could not even find a gap to 'drive' through, so turned round, came home and baked a loaf of bread. Then did some more gardening.
Beloved went later (walking) and had some of the 'hog roast' served on tiny grassy plot opposite the shops, so he didn't need any supper.

Later that evening, remembered I had ordered a bottle of 'ginger refresher' from Lakeland (B loves anything with ginger), so we added a bit to the near-empty lemonade bottle he had by the side of his chair. Have to say he was over the moon with the taste. Tried a sip myself and though it could do with less ginger (but it was the correct proportion). B now wants to drink this regularly, but I told him it wasn't THAT cheap, but he could have it occasionally (next time must order more).

Mindful of the large bowl of trifle still waiting to be topped with cream (this already has sherry-soaked sponge, jelly and fruit, plus custard), asked B if he realised how lucky he was always being able to eat all his favourite foods ALL the time. He agreed and said he eats better than kings. Said quite a few more nice things about my cooking, probably because he had just downed a few glasses of wine (always makes him garrulous). But at least it's nice to know he appreciates me (even though he doesn't always seem to).

Because I happened to mention that it was the shortage of freezer space that prevented me being able to make as many of B's favourite meals/desserts that he likes, he is now planning to buy a small freezer (with drawers not chest top), to stand at the side of Boris, so that I can then keep that stocked up with varieties of ice-cream (B loves ice-cream and there is rarely room to keep any in Boris at the moment), plus buy more of Donald Russell offers (B particularly loves their meat - and it really is worth buying), so that there will always be a good choice of food that B likes to eat. Have to say this pleases me also, as I will then have more room to store any frozen food that is on offer, room to store home-made stocks/soups/puddings/and home-made 'ready-meals'. On the face of it this may seem as though it will now cost me more to feed B than it did before, but on the other hand having extra freezer space will enable me to save an lot of money being able to 'batch-bake', freeze more (home-grown) fruits and vegetables, and even spend time foraging for blackberries again (never room to store them before). Could be we end up with more money left from the food budget than before. Time will tell.

Not a lot done yesterday except bake a loaf. The fat/rind from the gammon joint was roasted while the bread was baking and it didn't give out much melted fat, but a heck of a lot of wonderfully crispy crackling that didn't break teeth when bitten into. Even had a bit myself and LOVED it!

Beloved had fitted up four new shelves above our washing machine (maybe five shelves as some can be lowered), so now have more room to store all my things. That means the floor under the kitchen table can now be cleared! So that's one of the jobs to do today - fill the shelves. At least the kitchen is now fast becoming more organised with everything (hopefully) to have it's own place.

Late finishing today due to Gill phoning (as usual on a Sunday) so definitely time for me to love you and leave you for today, and hope we'll be meeting up again tomorrow. But before I leave, must reply to the comment sent in.
Congratulation Ciao for your three wins. Fingers crossed you;ll get some more.
Pleased to hear your butcher is being kind to you MimsyS. Good customers usually find shopkeepers are prepared to give 'hand-outs' to keep regular customers happy. All we have to do is ask.

Good ideas from Sairy about making our own 'containers' to grow vegetables. Still have sprouting spuds to plant and hope to get these in this weekend (using the Lakeland - and other - boxes as containers).
Good idea also Woozy, making use of peapods. These are even more tender if the pod's tip and/or stalk end is held then pulled down the inside of each side of the pod - thus peeling off the membrane.

To all readers I ask : "keep those comments coming". Until tomorrow - see you then.