Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Look Forward, Look Back

It's a funny old world. Yesterday was glorious sunshine and hot with it, so instead of scooting out decided to sit and sun-bathe again in the garden instead - which was very pleasant. This morning woke to a wet and windy world that the forecasters say is set for a few days. Despite the gloom, for some reason feel more perky this morning than usual.
Although my normal hair day, Norma had to change the appointment which I was pleased as it saved me the money - I wasn't going anywhere special anyway. Never do. But led Norma to believe another day wasn't convenient as didn't wish to appear miserly - which I am!) so have this morning 'free'. Beloved will be out at the RNLI shop, although that may shut early as few people call in there in bad weather. He is also out this afternoon. Having a day to myself always cheers me up.

Was a bit annoyed yesterday when I went to water the tomatoes and found one on the 'bush' toms had fallen from the shelf, taking the long shoots of the upright tomatoes close by down with it. Managed to untangle all without any coming to obvious harm, but despite feeding with Tomorite, there is a heck of a lot of foliage and not a lot of 'fruit'. Only one of my six plants, the 'Tumbler' has been - and still looks like being - the most prolific. One bush plant has given me the first large plum tomato, with at least one more visible amongst the jungle of growth. The rest very miserly when it comes to their fruits. Unless they do a U turn soon, it might have been cheaper to buy the tomatoes rather than the plants.

Other years - but in a larger greenhouse - my tomatoes cropped magnificently. Perhaps this half-depth greenhouse IS too small. Or maybe the weather has been too cold most of this year. Having already bought a couple of packs of tomato seeds (different varieties) will next year be 'growing my own' and not buying any plants at all. Even if only ending up with a small crop at least these will should paid their way.

Despite taking the utmost precautions, the slugs seemed to have managed to creep their way into the courgette containers and all my yellow courgettes have now been eaten with, most of the plants have been eaten right back to the main stem, and only two look as though they will give me any crops. So that's the hoped-for supply for the butcher now a fond memory. But am not going to let it bother me because life's like that. Next year will make darn sure I find a way to beat the slugs. Maybe keep ducks?

Somehow feel this garden is not right for growing vegetables. On the other hand the soft and hard fruits seem to be cropping well, so perhaps will concentrate on those next year. As many are now classed as 'super-foods' and extremely expensive to buy the berries over the counter this makes some sense. At least yesterday did find the first ripe autumn raspberries ready to pick, but admit to eating them on the spot. They always taste so good while the warmth of the sun is still on them. Why let B have all the treats?

Not sure whether B's supper yesterday is even worth a mention. Had a heck of a job with it. My idea was to use the lamb scraps that had been saved (and frozen) after stripping from the free bones that had been used to make stock. Decided they would make a good Shepherd's Pie, so first fried an onion, then added the thawed lamb. Had a taste and did not like that 'lamb fat' flavour the meat still seemed to have (even though the fat had been drained off). Added some frozen peas and cooked it further. Still yucky. In the end it was a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly and a dessertspoon of mint sauce (both from a jar) that gave the mixture a flavour that was - to some extent - acceptable.
Topped the meat mixture with some made 'instant' mash (which B hates anyway), but made with full-fat UHT milk, butter and more mint and a bit of salt and lots of pepper in the hope he wouldn't notice. This passed muster, and B ate the lot (although dare not ask him if he liked it). As I felt very guilty about giving B a below-par meal, decided to make him a syllabub for his dessert. First time I'd made one and surprised how easy it was. Meant to feed two, there was enough to over-fill B's big Knickerbocker Glory glass so of course he ate the lot. After scraping the bowl to sample 'for research purposes' can say it is certainly a good dessert to give to guests when entertaining. Here is the recipe:

Syllabub: serves 2
3 tblsp white wine
1 tblsp caster sugar
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
fruit puree/coulis (opt)
Put the wine, sugar and lemon juice/zest into a bowl and leave to stand for 30 or so minutes. Give a stir occasionally to help dissolve the sugar. Then pour in the cream and whip until thick - not too thick, but the peaks should stand up when the beaters are lifted. Then spoon into individual glasses. If you wish decorate the top by drizzling over some fruit coulis/puree. Can be served immediately or chilled in the fridge to serve later.

Of course it is the riots that are on our mind at the moment, and when I said month's ago that technology was helping to add to tddays problems (Twitter, Blackberry etc - allowing for easy and instant communication between yobs and terrorists) was firmly slapped down by readers who felt differently. Now I hear Blackberry (whatever that is) will close down this route for that very reason. There is good and bad with most things, but sometimes it might be wise to give up certain advantages to keep the wolves at bay.

Watching the yobbos/thugs (call them what you will), as with the football hooligans, almost certainly it is just a few who take advantage of the above communications systems to get gullible youngsters to join in. Almost certainly the ring-leaders are not in the middle of the action at all, just watching at a distance, enjoying the power they have to stir things up (like many terrorists leaders who stay safely hidden and 'groom' all the youngsters to do the damage and blow themselves up at the same time). What has happened to those days when the king rode out and led his army into battle? "Cry God for Harry, England and St. George" and all that.

Young men are by nature 'pack animals', and many can also be very vulnerable. Every pack has to have a leader, and get the wrong one and all hell breaks loose. On a larger scale history proves this. During the war it was Hitler and his followers that nearly ground us down. It was Churchill - our great leader - who kept us proud to be British, stand up for ourselves and never give in. We have never had a leader like him since, although Margaret Thatcher was almost as good. But then she was a woman and the male members of the government didn't like that. So she had to go.
Our country needs another strong leader and at present we haven't got one. Or likely to have one in the near future. Only when (or more likely 'if') we do will things get back to near normal.

After the last war - because of the atom bomb (and later the hydrogen bomb) - youngsters felt there was little point in working for the morrow. Live for the day, for that might be all we might get. So go out, go mad and enjoy yourself. We had the hippie people keeping themselves happy with drugs and loud music (loud music - like drink and drugs - can help to block the mind of unpleasant thoughts even if it does make you deaf). At that time felt myself there was little future and feared for my children, but did join Civil Defence in the hope that I'd learn enough to be able to save them if the worst happened. .

Men seem to HAVE to fight someone. If it isn't the opposing football fans, then we have to get involved in someone else's war. It would probably take a full-blown workd war to bring our country back to working together, but instead we have to put up with terrorists and now riots. Fewer jobs, less money coming in, prices rising. Strikes. Our nation under the thumb of the EU, so we can't now do what we always did. All this leading to a nation of unhappy people who have nothing to look forward to anymore. No wonder so many hit back in the only way they know how.

All it needs is for someone to take a stand. If Jamie Oliver can change school meals for the better, and Hugh F.W. gets the farmers to improve the living conditions of hens, then each of us should have enough power to our elbow to at least bring domestic life back to 'how it used to be' (aka 'as a good way to live'). As mentioned the other day, eating good food does lead to a feeling of well-being. A family that sits and eats together tends to stay together. We could begin with that. Yes I know readers are already doing this, but what we need is for everyone to pass the word on, invite folks round to eat, spread the word, give good examples. Proof of the pudding etc!!

It does seem that too many parents today do seem to want to do their own thing, have their own leisure time, and push their children out of sight - maybe up in their bedroom using the computer, or out on the streets doing goodness knows what. Many parents can not be bothered to even cook for them, just buying foods that are quick and easy to serve and 'junky' enough to keep the kids quiet. Snack foods come to mind (so you can see how incensed I get when I read the trade mag and see more and more of them about to arrive on the shelves). Perhaps time now to dump the computer games and bring children back down from their bedrooms so the family can play together, walk together, breath in more fresh air. Also have only mobiles that hold only numbers needed to contact in an emergency etc. Start writing letters again instead of this constant texting (or even Twittering). The longer it takes to contact anyone the less chance of mob rule, riots and terrorism.

Due to the recent events, a major football match has had to be cancelled (that'll teach 'em - pity it wasn't the Cup Final), and concern is now being felt for security for next year's Olympics. Why, why tells us that, for it's ust what the 'ring-leaders' need to hear. How lovely for someone (have you noticed how a ring-leader always needs a pack of yobbos behind him to feel safe and do his dirty work - get them on their own and they are a quivering wreck) to feel that as his recent misdeeds have been the cause of bringing back government leaders back from holiday, just think what havoc he could cause next year. Thank you Blackberry. Thank you Twitter. Thank you technology and thanks to the government for reducing the police force. And while the riots in city centres take all the attention of the police, no doubt the suburbs are being burgled like there is no tomorrow. Will we never learn?

'Spare the rod and spoil the child' comes from the Holy Bible, and perhaps the banning of chastisement of children when they have been naughty might also be one of the root causes for the misbehaving of children today. My Beloved went to a grammar school where a whack with a cane was given as punishment, and B had says it worked like a charm! When our young children did something wrong, and were verbally admonished, they then got a slap on the wrist if they did it again. Because they were young and didn't enjoy having a slap on the wrist, they very quickly learned right from wrong.

Some years back another thing changed. We were told we should let our do exactly what they wished 'as this would help to develop their personality and independence'. So then children began going to infant school and hardly got any discipline (other than the 'teachers' breaking up fights between those who wanted to play with the same toy). Competitiveness was also discouraged. So sports days and certain games were then discontinued. Cookery classes (and other skills) too. Why bother when we can buy what we want.

Well, excuse me, but children like discipline. They need to have boundaries for this makes them feel secure. It is in our nature to break a few rules now, remember doing this myself when young. At my school the teachers (in their wisdom) knew we all needed to break a rule now and then, but by making petty rules, we had the pleasure of breaking these. Given detention and order marks or writing 100 lines was enough to stop ourselves breaking rules that were more imporant. Think that knowing one of our classmates had been expelled because she was rude to a teacher showed us how careful we had to be (she was allowed back because her parents had just divorced and this had made her act 'out of character' - divorce being something that rarely happened in those days. Allow too much freedom to do what we will, and youngsters then have to turn to worse things to break.

The other day was watching one of my favourite films: 'Goodbye Mr. Chips' (played by Martin Clunes). Have always liked Martin C, but this is the first time I'd seen him as a straight actor - and he was so good in the part he should have had an Oscar. B agreed with me on this. This film gave a good account of the way discipline works in a boys school in the days before the first World war - and not so very different in B's school days although his was only a grammar school), and how discipline can work both ways.
Personally think the rot set in when schools went comprehensive. There will always be a time when youngsters find sharing a classroom with the opposite sex will take their mind off the subject taught and more onto 'other more natural things'. Didn't I read somewhere that sex education is now being started in primary school? Haven't they anything better to learn? Like being taught how to behave and how to cook?

Well, I've said my piece, so perhaps had better get on with offering a few more recipes to help ease the purse. Today am suggesting a few ideas for 'the lunch-box' (work-place or school). Despite 'the trade' desperately trying to provide all the necessary so we don't have to lift a finger, it really isn't that difficult to make a sarnie is it?

When at Barrow recently, chose to have an egg mayonnaise sarnie to feed my face whilst sitting in the cafe waiting for B and Gill to wander round the Museum. This arrived as two slices of brown bread with a rather meagre filling of egg mayo, and had been cut into the usual two triangles. The price charged was £2.25p and as I had time on my hands worked out exactly how much it would cost me to make the same thing. Exactly 25p (using a 10p egg which I can readily buy from the supermarket. Makers of commercially sold sarnies would be able to buy their ingredients at wholesale price, so make even more profit). So anyone who buys a lunchtime sarnie each working day of the week will be spend at least £10 more than they need to (other sarnies were dearer). Looking at the wider picture, that could be up to and more than £500 a working year. Or at least £25,000 over a working life, and much more as prices continue to rise.
Make your lunch yourself and bank the money saved to go on a 'free' world cruise when you retire. Or help to pay for fuel and food as by the pensions paid will not afford.

One way to save a little more money (even a little soon adds up), is not to butter the bread. Because this is normally done to keep a dampish filling from soaking through to the bread, we can save on butter by taking just the bread in one bag, the filling in a container, then fitting the two together when at work.
If there is a microwave at work, during the colder months we could take a meal to work to reheat. Otherwise heat to boiling at home and take in a wide-mouthed thermos.

When having no butter/marg on the bread, it is best to steer away from dry ingredients and let something like mayo give the 'mouth appeal', and although something like an egg mayo sarnie or tuna, sweetcorn and mayo sarnies can be made up in advance, they do eat better if the bread and filling are kept separate and put together when ready to eat.
Here are a few suggestions for sarnies to put together at work.
Cheese and Veggie:
2 tblsp grated Cheddar (or other chosen) cheese
2 tblsp grated carrot
2 tblsp grated celery
1 tblsp creme fraiche, sour cream or yogurt
2 slices wholemeal bread
Combine first four ingredients. Put into a container and spread between the two slices of bread.

Cream Cheese, Pea and Salad Leaves:
2 tblsp cream cheese
2 tblsp frozen peas cooked, drained and mashed
1 tblsp lemon juice
1 tblsp finely chopped fresh mint
mixed salad leaves (rocket, spinach etc)
4 slices brown bread
Combine first four ingredients then take to work in a container, the bread and leaves each kept separately, and then when ready to eat spread the filling onto two slices of bread, top with the salad leaves and cover with remaining bread.

This next sarnie filling uses hummous, but no need to use the traditional one made with chickpeas. Instead make up another with beetroot,, broad beans etc.
Hummous and Cucumber:
1 tblsp hummous of your choice (see above)
6 - 8 thin slices of cucumber
2 slices granary bread
Take each ingredient to work in a separate container, then when ready to eat lunch, spread the hummous onto one slice of bread, top with the cucumber and then the final slice of bread.

This next is a one-box chicken lunch with not a slice of bread in sight. The least expensive way to make this is to use canned peaches (some own-brands can be very cheap) and shreds of cold chicken that have been picked from a carcase after making stock. Use either crispy iceberg lettuce or shreds of Chinese cabbage for the salad part.
Chicken Salad with Peaches:
3 oz (75g) cooked chicken 'shreds'
half pint measure of shredded crisp lettuce
1 - 2 tblsp finely chopped fresh mint
1 small fresh peach (or 4 slices canned peaches)
2 tblsp lime juice
1 tsp olive oil
Combine the chicken, lettuce and mint and place in a container. Take the fresh peach to work and peel/slice it there, or take the sliced canned peaches in another container. Put the oil and lime juice in a small lidded container, and when ready to eat, add the peaches to the salad and sprinkle over the dressing, tossing it through with a fork before eating.

Final lunch-box recipe is also a good one to make at home as a lunch dish. You will need a microwave at work to 'cook' the ingredients as this is a healthy version of a 'pot noodle'. Goes without saying you will be using one of those 10p packs of noodles that Tesco (and probably other stores) sell. The chicken stock will be home-made (better than using the chicken seasoning that comes with the noodles, but if no stock then might as well make use of it with water). The chicken OF COURSE will be that picked from the cooked carcase, and in this instance use the largest pieces you have (or use sliced cold chicken). Altogether could work out to be a very cheap meal that also does you good.
Thai Chicken Noodle Soup:
2 tblsp (or more) cooked chicken
1 tsp Thai red curry paste
175g pack quick-cook noodles (see above)
13 fl oz (375ml) chicken stock
1 tblsp chopped fresh coriander (opt)
1 spring onion, finely chopped
Mix together the chicken with the curry paste then place in a lidded container. Take this and the rest of the ingredients to work then when ready to cook, rinse the noodles with hot water, place in a micro-safe bowl with the chicken/curry paste and stock and microwave on High for about 2 minutes until hot. Sprinkle with coriander and onion, eat and enjoy.

Am going to throw out a challenge to you. Will also be attempting it myself. What I'd like readers to do is choose an item they see on the shelves (no need to buy, just take down details of weight, amount, price etc), and then work out how much cheaper it could be to make the same thing at home (at this moment in time we don't have to actually MAKE, working out the cost will be enough). It could be a pack of sarnies, a loaf of bread, a soup, a muffin, jar of jam/marmalade or even a ready-meal. The more variety we can come up with the more we will realise how much we could save and hopefully THEN we will feel inspired to have a go at making them all ourselves.
Another useful comparison of costs would be giving the saving made when we grow our own against the price of the same produce sold over the counter. Then maybe more of us will grow our own.

This is not just a showing the way we can save, it is also a means of preventing the supermarkets and food manufactures from continually pulling our strings. Over more than a generation now these giants have made it oh so simple for us to do absolutely nothing in the way of home-co0king, making out it is to help those who are strapped for time (by working to pay for it all), whilst all they are after is a way to line their own pockets at our expense. Time to give them a run for their money, and bring back good home-c00king (and eating) once and for all.

Catching the end of Daily Cook's Challenge yesterday, belly pork was being cooked, and AWT said (and how that although it is a cheap cut (which it still is), it will shortly rocket in price now that all chef's are using it. It's a gorgeous cut of meat to eat when cooked properly, worth every penny, so if you have a freezer, worth buying some now and freezing it away to eat in a few month's time.
Not sure of the price over the country, but my butcher is selling it for £1.51 per lb (not sure what this makes the price per kg), so would be interested to hear of prices for this cut elsewhere.

That's it for this miserable day, not that I feel sad (although ought to with the rain pelting down). Maybe because yesterday was a 'comfort eating' day (which cheered me up). Luckily haven't gained weight because of it, but had perhaps better be better behaved today. Only a month to go before I have my next 'weigh-in' and half-yearly check of the rest of me.

Beloved has just returned, shop now closed due to no custom. This shop is sited at the lifeboat station, not that close to the main road, so no passing trade. In good weather the shop does well, but not today.

Enjoy your day whatever the weather. Hope all readers have not been involved in any of the recent riots (by this I mean disturbed, not taking part), and look forward to hearing from you tomorrow. A thanks to Deb and Woozy and Les for their comments. With no queries, will leave it at that. Until tomorrow with the hope we will all meet up again.