Sunday, July 03, 2011

Use It or Lose It..

Had a really good day yesterday. As I was just about to publish yesterday's blog, B wandered in and said we'd go out for a drive, but he just had to pop out for a minute first.
Got myself ready and then went and sat in the garden to wait for his return. And wait. And wait. Two hour's later he came back. "Sorry to be so long" he said, "happened to see a couple of sailing buddies launching their boat, so stopped to give them a hand".

At least, by that time I was turned a lovely golden brown, having nodded off in the sun - and boy, was it HOT yesterday. Looks like being the same today, only not a breath of wind, so suppose that means no sailing AGAIN. When the weather is perfect, the tides are wrong, when tides are right it is either too windy or not enough wind. Beloved is lucky to get on the sea at all more than 6 times each year.

We drove off to Middleton Sands where I discovered there was a huge sandy beach - the tide now receding. Quite a few cars had driven on to the sands and the occupants were together setting up a barbecue and looked settled until the tide started coming back in again. Hardly anybody else there. We sat in the car parked above the beach and both of us nodded off again.
Prior to that forgot to mention we called in at the Zoo Cafe (now given the new name of Half-Moon Bay Cafe as the owner had himself built a larger one of brick - formerly it was more a caravan type with an open side to buy the food). Had an ice-cream from there as I thought it was 'safe' enough (due to my digestive problem) and it was.

After Middleton Sands we drove to Sunderland Point where the sea had risen way about the causeway and even though was fast receding, we still had to wait a while before we could drive over - still with about a foot of water in some parts. Quite exciting. Half an hour later the tide had gone down and the road was quite clear.
Was hanging my head outside the window sniffing the seaweed left at the sides of the causeway - this always make me feel I am at the seaside. Morecambe usually has no sea-smell.

Being such a glorious day, Morecambe was thronged with people - and this is always good to see. Make it seem like a real sea-side resort. Let us hope the weather continues. One large non-food discount store that had opened a couple of months ago, has posters on the window saying it is closing down. A third of the shops in Morecambe have had to close. Just can't afford the rent, rates and all that goes with it. People too are spending less. Seems it is the cafes that are doing the most trade - and what a lot of them there are on the front.

When we got back home Beloved said he would make another loaf of bread, but then settled himself down to watch a film on TV. I suggested that this time I make the loaf as I needed to do some cooking and could time the lot so the oven could be used to best advantage. B grumpily agreed. So I metaphorically rolled up my sleeves (was wearing a sleeveless top at the time) and set about using up things that needed using up.

Instead of making lemon curd and soft-scoop ice-cream as planned (in other words two treats for B), decided instead to use the eggs to make a cheese quiche and ice-cream. At least I could then eat some of the quiche, and it was more nourishing than lemon curd I suppose. Well, that's what I told myself.

In total, used 6 eggs (six yolks and two whites for the quiche, three whites for the ice-cream). The grated cheese was part of a great BOGOF (buy one get TWO free!), and the pastry was Jus-rol, but only used a third of a pack. When I went to get the cream from the fridge to add to the beaten eggs, discovered two half-empty tubs - B having opened one, used some, then forgot and opened another. "Well, the opened one was under the other, so I didn't realise" he said when I mentioned it. Considering he is the only one normally to touch the pots of cream, he was the one who put the new on on the top of the other anyway.
However, was able to use the bits left, plus a bit of milk, to make the quiche.

Put the ingredients in the bread machine to turn into dough. The machine wouldn't start. Turned out that Beloved had forgotten to turn it off when he used it the previous time (like three or four days ago), so all that time it had been holding itself at the correct temperature. ""Well, I thought I had turned it off" was B's reply, cross with me as I was talking over a bit of film he was wanting to watch. Cross with me! Huh, I was getting more and more cross with him.
Anyway, pressed on. Crumbled the last unsweetened chocolate muffins (by now they were very dry), to those drizzled over some of the last of the sugar syrup that had nearly turned into toffee (remember that?) which yesterday had flavoured with some ginger extract. Finely chopped some crystallised ginger, added that to the muffin crumbs, then set about whisking the egg whites (using my mixer on a stand), while boiling up some sugar and water (plus the remaining ginger flavoured syrup) on the hob. When at soft-ball stage took it over and slowly drizzled it over the still-beating whites.
Fortunately there was another small tub of double cream in the fridge, so beat that up and then folded in about tw0-thirds of the meringue, followed by the muffin crumbs and ginger. For good measure also folded in the ed of a free packet of grated chocolate that was in a gift box of chocs given to us a year (or so) ago. Enough to exactly fill a litre tub (and licking out the bowl/spoon, have to say it did taste pretty good).
The remaining meringue was spooned onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, and once the bread was out of the oven (that looked good too), the meringues went in, oven turned off and then left overnight to dry off in the residual heat.

In the middle of doing all that, and just as I was about to start the ice-cream, B wandered into the kitchen and asked when his supper would be ready. Now don't know if he was being awkward, but ALWAYS on a Saturday he makes do with a light snack that he gets himself. But not yesterday, he wanted a proper meal cooking for him. Was it because I was mega-busy in the kitchen and he was feeling neglected? Or does he enjoy being awkward (which he seems to do a lot)? However, he was served up a Chicken Mole with rice (the meal thawed from the freezer - it was home made, the rice being a two-minute microwave - plus an avocado (as it was a Mexican dish), so think he was happy enough. He wouldn't even eat it on his lap in front of TV (as he normally does on a Saturday) so that I could carry on cooking, no - he wanted to sit at the kitchen table to eat, so I had to clear the decks of my ice-cream preparation so there was room for him, and then move it all back again after he went back into the living room. Instead of the normal 15 minutes he takes to eat a meal, yesterday he took half-an-hour, so by the time I had finished cooking, the quiche baked, the bread baked, the ice-cream in the freezer, the meringues in the oven, I was feeling pretty tired. B of course was snoozing in his chair in the living room. Men!

There was one point when I was struggling to get the quiche out of the oven and nearly dropped it. B having wandered in at the time. "Why didn't you ask me to do it?" he said. The problem with our oven is that - being a double oven (the top one normally used as a more useful size when batch baking) - when the drop door of the top oven is down, have to stand almost on tip-toes to reach over it to pull out the baking tins, and more than once have burned the underside of the top of my arms as they touch the edge of the very hot door (my fault for having 'bingo wings'), so trying to avoid touching the door and also pulling out the hot tins at the same time, is not that easy. Yet, having to find B each time I need something taking out of the oven would be a nightmare. He would probably be busy (or nodded off again), and so I would have to wait until it was convenient for him, not convenient for me. Anyway, you know me. Mrs. Independence.

B did ask me if I'd like another oven, but declined as at my age hardly think it is worth it. Would hate to have a lovely new oven, then pop my clogs leaving Beloved to have the pleasure of using it. How selfish is that?

The tomatoes in the greenhouse are coming on nicely. Discovered that overnight my Tumbler tomato had 'tumbled' (which I suppose it is supposed to do), and now hanging down over the sides of the pot, although still perfectly stable. The many tomatoes on it are now beginning to change colour - still green, but now a yellowish green. Soon hope they will be red and ripe enough to eat.
The other (upright) tomatoes are also bearing fruit, so at least the greenhouse is working well.

Seems the pear tree is holding its fruit, and despite it being planted only last year (when it had no fruit), at the moment it has about a dozen pears showing, growing by the day. These are for Beloved (I don't really like pears). Our apple tree too seems to be laden with fruit. So far seem to have avoided 'the June drop', so either there won't be one this year, or it is still yet to come. Seems to be a good year for all fruits, so will make the most of them.

The thought of fruit leads me to thinking jams and marmalade, and was so pleased to see in the latest Lakeland catalogue that this company are now stocking something similar to MaMade. Not just the tins of basic prepared marmalade oranges (that they've been selling for a while), but now in thin cut AND thick cut. Even better - they are also selling the tins of prepared lemons - which is what I've been hunting for since MaMade stopped making their lemon variety. As well as that, Lakeland are also supplying tins of the necessary to make 'strawberry jam'. The lemon and the strawberry are more expensive than the orange, but when considering the cost of similar ready-made "quality preserves' on sale, even allowing for the cost of the sugar, these home-made preserves - still work out cheaper, and certainly (potted up in small jars) all four varieties would make a very agreeable gift to give at Christmas, or to include in that Hamper.

The Lakeland catalogue have yet another flavour to add to their EasyYo range - this time coconut. They used to sell EasyYo ice-cream mix, and yes Sairy, I did make this once, but many years ago now. It's not bad, but still preferred my own 'soft-scoop'. Let us know what you think about the E.Yo ice-cream.

Discovered a small tub of 'Celebrations' (samples of a wide variety of different chocs: Mars bars, Snickers, Bounty, Milky Way etc). on my desk this morning, left for me by Beloved. Bless. It's our 58th wedding anniversary today, and despite the fact that I'm not supposed to eat sweets (being diabetic) and am also avoiding anything that makes me gain weight, it's the thought that counts. With a b.b. date of 11/11 on the box, can at least hold on to them for a while in the hope my blood sugar has dropped even further so am allowed one or two, now and again. Trouble is - with me it's open the box then eat the lot in one go. One taste of something sweet and I have to keep on eating. Used to be like that with biscuits.
Have so self control whatsoever. Just safer to not open the box at all. It's looking at me as I write, so will move it out of sight....
...there, now I'm not being tempted. Probably B will end up eating the chocs anyway. Or I could put them away to hand out at Halloween. Every mindful of the cost - it at least saves me buying some. Sob, sob, I'm now desperate to eat one (then two, three...and all of them). Why, why should I have to go through this temptation, this misery? Is it good for my soul?

Blogger just cut out again, but thankfully has returned. They are hardly likely to do some 'repairs' at the weekend. Am just hoping it won't fail again before I publish today's blog.

Returning to yesterday's 'cook-in'. The 'free' food used up was the BOGOF cheese, the deliberately saved egg whites, the stale muffins, and the home-made sugar syrup. Only had to cost the pastry used (50p) the eggs (50p), cream (70p), sugar (10p) ginger (20p). So for £2 made a 12" packed-with-cheese quiche, a litre tub of chocolate and ginger ice-cream, and 8 meringue 'nests'.

The trade magazine arrived with this mornings paper, so will give it a quick read through to see if there is anything worth commenting on....
...oh, lovely. A new range of prepacked sandwiches with "an incredible 14 day shelf life". From the photo they appear to be just one round (cut across into two triangles). All have with an rsp of £1.49p each. (If interested the profit for the retailers on each pack is 40%).

Grocery prices are 5% up over the same period last year (4% up when promotions are factored in). The gloomy news is that "retailers are starting to feel the squeeze as much as their customers, and now seriously concerned about exactly how much they can continue to sell on promotion".

Asda is again has the cheapest (overall) prices when it comes to the 'shopping basket'. Again 33 different items, of which 17 of these would never end up in mine. Tesco had the highest number of promotions, and exclusively cheapest on four of them, and price-matched 15 items with Asda, Yet - because of the higher price they charged for alcohol and a few other items that I wouldn't have bought, their basket came out more expensive.

A lot of pages are given over to butter. It's gone up in price, it's probably going up even further, but the stores are giving plenty of promotions on this product, rather erratically, so we need to keep alert to find the best buys for butter each week.

The Nat. Fed. of Women's Institutes are now 'going retail'. Shortly we may be seeing a wide range of cakes and biscuits on sale "marketing as an alternative to home-made food, targeting those who are too busy to cook". So what are all the other baked goods already on sale there for if not for that? Thought the idea of the WI was to promote home-cooking, not to steer us away from it.

Although not in the trade mag, there was a good feature in the newspaper about comparative foods. Seems that M & S beans are far superior in flavour to the top (57 varieties) brand, and also cheaper. Of the several foods tested, the majority of the cheaper brands ended up with the highest rating. So it obviously pays to do our own taste-testing.
Some of you may remember when I tested baked beans, tomato soups etc recently, and did find that the cheaper (often very much cheaper) brands appealed to me more than the 'best'.

As Gill will be phoning any minute now, had better finish and publish, or you'll have to wait another hour. Hope you can join me tomorrow. See you then.