Monday, August 01, 2011

Back in Harness

Back writing my blog again, and very pleased to do so. A new month has begun, how the time flies. Soon will have to think about 'making ahead for Christmas'.
Have to say last week was hectic, and despite me being far more energetic than usual, managed somehow to gain 6lbs in weight. Probably due to eating more than usual - with quite a lot being carbos!

Gill had a great time visiting us. The weather was lovely, sunny and quite hot - apart from the Thursday which was cloudy and a bit drizzly, but as this was the day we went to Barrow/Roa Island/Grange over Sands and most of the times was spent in the car, or museum, the rain didn't matter and by the afternoon the weather had cleared so the return trip by the coast road gave Gill a chance to see the wonderful views from the other side of Morecambe Bay - the tide being out made it even more spectacular.

Despite having to spend a lot of time with my friend (either playing Rummicubs and Cribbage, or sunbathing in the garden). was able to fit in some extra cooking. A neighbour joined us for morning coffee on Wednesday, so a batch of fruit scones were baked before she came, and as they didn't rise as high as hoped baked another batch using a different recipe without fruit and these turned out better, although the fruit ones did taste nicer. Quite a few scones were were eaten with eitherf 'no-bits' strawberry jam and/or h0me-made Summer Fruits jam. Plus cream! Lots of cream'. Eaten outdoors under the huge sunshade with coffee, have to say this was a really lovely couple or so hours, although have to admit it was mainly me that did the talking. Well, you know how I can never stop.

Quite a few meals Gill and B ater outdoors last week as the weather so good, and they both enjoyed these. Can't now remember the order of meals, but did cook both a large gammon and a turkey roast on the Tuesday afternoon. Gill having just arrived then Beloved too her over to Middleton Sands to enjoy the sunshine and view while I cooked supper.) This being roast turkey with gravy, roast potatoes, sausages, stuffing, carrots and brussel sprouts, plus cranberry sauce. The large gammon first simmered and then finished off in the oven with a mustard and honey glaze, to be cooled and then chilled along with the last piece of turkey and some extra sausages. The meats sliced a couple of days later to serve with the sausages, corned beef and a Walker's Pork Pie (that Gill had brought us), plus a garden salad, egg mayonnaise, and warm new potatoes as a 'Cold Meat Platter' on our return from Barrow (saved me cooking that day).
Think Wednesday Gill asked for Chilli con Carne, and on Friday a Lasagne (yes can remember it all now. On Saturday was planning to serve a 'Thali' (mixed curry), but Beloved said he was going out to 'help' with a barbecue at the social club, do the washing up etc, and therefore eating there (it turned out they didn't need his help at all but he went anyway despite not being invited!!), so Gill settled for a cheese omelette with salad for her supper. Plus a dessert of some of the ice-cream that I'd made on Wednesday.

The ice-cream itself was interesting. Used three egg whites to make the Italian meringue and of course this made a lot so decided to just flavour half with vanilla and fold in whipped cream and Greek yogurt. Wasn't sure what to do with the remaining half of the meringue so decided to experiment and fold in the remaining cherry EasyYo that hadn't set as firmly as I hoped for. Because the yogurt was a bit thin, it didn't mix into the meringue as evenly as normal, so there were little flecks of meringue still visible, but have to say - once frozen - it tasted REALLY good, and from now on will probably make ice-cream from just the meringue and fruit-flavoured yogurt and not bother with the cream.

Another dessert was the yogurt 'ice-cream' served with stoned cherries that had been heated in the microwave with a little sugar - this softend the fruit without it turning to pulp and the sugar and cherry juice made a pouring syrup.
Oh yes - another dessert was a Sherry trifle with the glace cherries, angelica, and nuts on top that Beloved says 'makes a trifle'. So not surprising he ate at least more than half of it - and there was enough there to feed six!

Before I wind up the edible side of last week, must mention the three egg yolks left once the whites had been used for the ice-cream. Was intending to make lemon curd with them, but having already done a lot of cooking, just covered them and the next day added one whole egg and stood the little bowl in a pan of boiling water to hard boil/poach them. When cooked and chilled, chopped them up and folded in some mayo and cream to make 'eggs mayonnaise' which they ate with the CMP salad, and so good I'll make it this way again.

Every other day had to bake a fresh loaf of bread as both Gill and Beloved were wolfing it down. Gill normally brings her own choice of cereals for breakfast, but this time she didn't and so chose toast with butter and either jam or marmalade for her breakfast each day. Not that I minded. It's lovely to see people enjoying eating what has been home-made.

Gill brought me the usual bag of goodies. Four Lakeland cans of lemon marmalad mix (which I had to pay for!!), but the rest were free. Some interesting packages - a savoury doughnut mix, two packs of a type of semolina, some canned mussels, two 'tetra-packs', one containing a slice of tuna fish in tomato sauce, the other a type of risotto, and several other items I am not even sure what they are as the words on the pack are a foreign language that I have no idea what it is, and no other language on the pack (French, German, Italian, Spanish)that might be more understandable and help me to work it out. But all still within their best before date, so I have time to peruse them more closely.

Gill returned home with her usual 'Goode Foods'. About a dozen pots of assorted home-made preserves (jams and marmalades), some frozen chicken breasts, big piece of fruit cake, several bananas, home-made bread, several slices of cooked ham, and a few other items she 'fancied' from the larder. Plus several garden plants she wanted (that we were glad to get rid of), and an avocado stone to grow.

This means that at long last now have gaps on shelves bothin the fridge and freezer sides of Boris. All the ice-cream (two x 1 ltr) was been eaten within a few days, so more will need to be made. Beloved had lamb shank with the usual for his supper yesterday, but is eating out with our daughter tonight, so that makes it easier for me today as will need to get myself back on track again when it comes to my own 'diet' and also using up any oddments of food already in store.

So now the Goode life begins again. Thanks for your comments. Hope you win the garden comp Kathryn. Sorry the early part of the July blog has disappeared Susan G, now that we are in August will go back and edit out a lot of the ramblings of the past month, so at least you can go back and read some of what was originally missing.
Agree the Polish beetroot soup is delicious Suzi - and did see the same packs on sale on the Approved Foods site.

Don't know if any of you watched 'Grumpy Guide to Food' last night (BBC 2), but how true it was. B and I were nodding in agreement with just about everything they said. Which brings me to the current issue of the trade magazine which - this week at least - has a lot of info that I feel is worth passing on.

There is a new scheme to enable us to increase our 'five a day' intake as 70% of adults (and even more children) are failing to eat enough fruit and veg. Apparently half-portions are already hidden in ready-meals and other 'composite foods' (baked beans - these contain both beans AND tomato sauce, which is two of the five, but not necessarily a whole portion), and it would help us if the portions are labelled as to the amount given so we can increase our consumption as and when necessary.
It seems to read that 'half-portions' are being recommended, with more fruit and vegetables being added to the 'ready-mades' to bring them up to this amount, and we will be told this along with the other nutritional info on the labels. Have to say that if we are led down this road, this means we still might not be getting the full portions of anything.
Although this way to get us to eat more fruit and vegetables is not a bad idea, if the thinking is done for us, we are then again in the hands of the manufacturers. Doesn't anyone buy fresh produce anymore? If we are to be educated to seek our five a day in 'composite' form, it will probably end up costing us.

Here is an example. In the mag this week see a company is marketing corn on the cob 'snacks'. Eight small portions of corncob called 'Bites' (which need cooking before eating) on sale for £1.99p. That makes them 25p each. Then I read "four 'bites' count as one of an adult's five-a-day'. Our education has begun. We have learned how many to eat to get our portion, but we have to discover for ourselves the price for this comes to £1. Think we all realise it would be much cheaper to buy the sweetcorn kernels in a can or cook them from frozen (or even grown them in the garden).

If we are being offered 'half-portions' (or even less) then this means we need to eat either more of the same or something different. We then need 10 x half-portions to reach our goal, or 20 x quarter portions. Can anyone see how costly this could become? Is eating one apple or banana, some baked beans, a drink of orange juice and carrots, peas, another veg or salads per day too difficult for us consumers to get our head around? We must be made to believe it is.

There was a feature on the supermarkets of the future, and believe me you don't want to know. Learning what is to befall us makes me glad I'm too old to live to see it. Just believe me that if you think the supermarkets are pulling our strings now, you ain't seen nothing yet!

One bit of good news (at least for me) is that Campbells' Condensed Soups will now be on the shelves from today at Tesco's, and other retailers later in the summer. The condensed soups will be Cream of Mushroom, Cream of Chicken, Cream of Tomato, and Cream of Celery, with two new varieties: Low Fat Chicken and Low Fat Mushroom. As condensed soups are used in other ways than just 'soups', there will be recipe cards on the shelves and also a web-site to make the best use of them. Myself used to add chopped mushrooms to the (undiluted, straight-from-the can-Condensed Mushroom, and cooked chicken scraps to the Condensed Chicken and these made a great filling for vol-au-vents etc).

The main feature in the trade mag this week was to do with home-baking. There "is argument that the tough economic conditions and celebrity chefs plus the wave of nostalgia is what has turned some to being baking, and once the economy recovers and the chefs turn to 'the next big thing', home-baking will finish".
With the rise of interest at the moment, "new products and more advertising are needed to keep driving consumers to the home-baking aisles". There are times when I feel we consumers are being treated like sheep being driven into pens.

Quite a lot of advertising and supermarket interest is more about the cake mixes and cake decorations than the sale of the 'basics' such as sugar and flour. For instance "baking mix brands are capitalising on the burgeoning children's home baking market. Since 2008, under sixes, six to ten-year-0lds and 11 to 15 year olds' shares of home-baking have increased by 39%m 30% and 17% respectively, and families are turning to baking as an activity they can all take part in, and baking kit brands say their products are the best fit for this market as they are quicker, easier and more reliable than scratch baking".

Another rather sad thing to read is "for the younger generation a baking mix is from-scratch baking". Does this mean that they will probably grow up never learning how to really cook from scratch? Certainly to get the youngsters started, a 'ready-mix' would help, but not to keep relying on them.

Plenty of ads in the trade mag showing different cake decorations. Anything from roll-out-icing, to edible flowers to 'shimmer-spray. Yes, in the past have myself bought fancy candles, chocolate buttons, hundreds and thousands, and marzipan, but as one well-known brand leader believes "that with home-baking now so popular, people are willing to pay to get the right ingredients and decorations". In an ideal world and given enough money, we probably would be willing to pay. But in this time of recession? It just doesn't seem ethical to keep luring us to spend money of things of such little importance.

While I remember - read last week about bantam eggs now becoming sold in some supermarkets. It is said the yolks are nearly as big as a hen's egg (but have less white) and retailing at £1.49p for six. Well, I pay that for 15 eggs (also from the supermarket - one of which was double-yolked, and there may be more). Another way to get us pay more for less (both in number and weight).

Late last night watched back-to-back repeats of the two episodes of a programme called 'The Street', in which the residents of a cul-de-sac lost all their council privileges for six weeks, and in return had their council tax returned to them each week. This was quite enlightening. For a start they had all their wheelie bins removed and had to get rid of their own rubbish, also the street lights were turned out. They couldn't use the bottle banks at supermarkets or any other communal refuse collection point as these were council run. All removal of rubbish had to be paid for. They actually had more than enough money to do this (as they initially pooled the returned money), but they didn't get themselves organised properly. The free school meals, school bus and after school activities were also removed plus the loss of housing benefits and more besides and the community didn't seem to want to dig into the pooled money to help pay for them. Mainly because some people ended up being given more support than others. So it 'wasn't fair'. Luckily there was no need to call the police or the fire-engine for these too are council paid. And if the road developed a deep pot-hole, no-one to repair that either.
It certainly proved that most of us do get extremely good return for our council tax, although admittedly some more than others. So from now on will stop moaning about having to put the wheelie bins out each week - not that we do for B takes everything (already sorted) directly to the council tip. Mainly because neither of us can remember what things go in each of the two wheelies and three other containers the council asks us to use. Oh for the old days when everything used to go in one dustbin, and the refuse collectors would collect it from the back of our house, empty it and put it back again.
In those day of course we didn't have nearly as much rubbish. Today most of our 'chuck-outs' is plastic food wrappers/trays, plastic bags, tins and bottles. In the old days bottles used to be returned and we got a penny back. We ate less canned food, and waste food was usually put into bins to be collected to feed pigs. Food came wrapped in paper or card that could be burnt on the fire. How did we manage without plastic (and this includes the credit cards)?

At the back of the trade mag there are pages of jobs available. One at a well-known discount store is "Graduate Buying Opportunities", salary £33,000 - £55,000. Spending time working in a store and Regional distribution centre to familiarise yourself with our full product range and gain and understanding of our business operations."

Just love this one: "Graduates wanted for Sales Roles. Sales experience not necessary. Being the right person is essential. All the training needed provided by us. The package: £25k plus bonus, plus car, benefits, training and a fantastic environment. Location North West, office based with some UK travel".
Plenty of good jobs in the retail food industry it seems. Managerial postions pay a salary well in advance of £50k plus car, bonuses, and other benefits. That's around £1,000 a WEEK! And I bet they get free food samples as well. Who needs a university degree these days when there are jobs like that around?

But am not envious, me bein a happy bunny when there are only a few coppers in my purse. No money at all makes me even more joyous (just as long as there is enough state pension to cover the running costs of our house).
At the moment the garden is now providing half of what we need. The courgettes are ripening, with quite a few at a time growing on each of our numerous plants (both green and yellow ones). There are tomatoes ripening each day, the Mixed Salad Leaves and the oak-leaf cut-and-come-again lettuce providing a regular supply of salads (to which I add a mixture of chopped mint, parsley and basil leaves to add extra flavour). The Romanesco am hoping will survive the caterpillars and produce something later this year. With mange-tout, beetroot, and French beans to come, plus potatoes, not to mention the apples and pears, we are at least managing to save quite a bit of money eating the home-grown, and hopefully next year will sow and grow even more.

Having given the tomatoes a drink last night, see now it is raining, so won't have to water the many flowering containers today, so that gives me time to spend in the kitchen, possibly making more ice-cream and maybe doing some more baking.

The spell-check has an 'internal Server Error' again, so apologies for any mistakes, just can't be bothered to do the job that blogger is supposed to do for me.
Hopefully, tomorrow will be more my normal self, and come up with some new ideas, and maybe cookery 'experiences'. Certainly Gill's 'freebies' are worth taking a second look at to see if they will bear fruit.

Myself tried the 'mini-challenge' of spending half an hour each day 'doing something deliberately', in my case sowing a pot or box of seeds each day (some already showing the green shoots), and/or making a dessert. Did suggest that readers used the 'free time' gained last week (by not having my blog to read) with which to make/do', so am hoping to hear that some of you actually did take up the challenge. Will be disappointed if you didn't.

Looking forward to hearing from you, and (blog permitting) will be back again tomorrow. See you then.