Friday, August 12, 2011

We Get What We Deserve

Life is full of "if I hadn't done that, this wouldn't have happened" - which can be for the good or bad. Often the bad can lead to good if we take in the lessons learned. So when we are feeling down, remember the roller-coaster that life is, and the 'up' will soon be back again, either personally, nationally or worldly.

SO sorry not to have replied to comments yesterday, think I was so tied up with the riots that I let my thoughts take over (AGAIN!!).
Susan G. Did get your short comment about blogger needing you to verify a longer one (that then went missing). From what others readers have said, seems that blogger doesn't like long comments (like it doesn't like my long blogs - so wipes off the early ones of each month - leaving only the last three or four), so perhaps this is the reason. Perhaps worth sending a few short comments on the one day instead to cover all you wanted to say. Do try again, it would be sad if you got fed up with us and moved on.

You certainly seemed to have been deluged in rain in Scotland Urbanfarmgirl. We are due for more rain today and this morning my humidity gauge (in our bedroom which is dry enough as the gas boiler - for some reason - is situated in there) is reading 79% Could it ever be 100%! Perhaps in the days of dense fog - which we don't seem to get any more - it would be close. It's a wonder we don't all grow gills or fins as 100 deg would mean the same as water? We think of our atmosphere as just 'air' but really is is quite dense. When the wind blows it around fiercely enough we can just about lean on it.
Pleased you like the idea about comparing costs, will be giving a few discoveries later in this blog.

Had heard about trimming away the tomato leaves Sairy, by doing this it gives more light to the fruit and also means less leaves mean that the water goes mainly to the fruits. Unfortunately, the plants that have very few fruits are the bush varieties (Tumbler being the only one that is happy with its lot), the uprights have had the side shoots pinched out, and these are fruiting but taking their time to turn red. However, will remove many of the bush plant leaves because they are no use whatsoever, and doubt it will stop the plant producing fruits. Thanks for the tip.

Oh Kathryn, do hope you are feeling less stressed. It sounds as though your Ma is residing with you at the moment which am sure does not help. You will feel much better when she has returned home. My mother was strict enough and had very high standards, she always made me very depressed when visiting her (which was almost every day when she moved to a house about 50 yards away from where we lived in Leeds), myself always left her house feeling so stressed after she had reminded me (constantly) about the dreadful life she had when younger etc, etc, and the waved me goodbye with a huge beam on her face saying "oh, I feel so much better now you've called" - while I went home and had to have a stiff drink to top shaking. Suppose - like this blog, or an ordinary diary - talking and writing about things gets them out of our system.

Get your point about teachers always being pin-pointed when involved in something they shouldn't Kathryn. Beloved tells me that an 'ambassador for the Olympics' (think the job was to host visitors) was also one of the rioters and was shopped by his mother. Good for her. No doubt other professions will crawl out of the woodwork as more and more looters are discovered.
Was watching a special edition of Question Time last night, and it is so true what was said - we gave no role models to look up to. If we get government ministers putting in fake expenses (in other words 'stealing the money'), then where does it end? To hear that after-school activities, youth clubs and sports centres etc are having to close down due to lack of funds, that will give youngsters even less chance of finding something 'useful' to do.

Suppose, in a way, training for life begins at home. We have only to see the parents of some of the children being 'interviewed' and them mouthing off at the reporters. Yet - some families do try to bring their children up 'properly' and sadly there are some offspring that just cannot be controlled in any way whatsoever. Possibly this is genetic. If you are born a psychopath (see no harm in lying, have no compassion, if you want something, then just take it. Take a delight in other's misfortunes etc...) not a lot you can do about it. Other children are deep-down good hearted, but unfortunately - easily led.

You'll never believe this - but yesterday, being that it is now a good month since I last sent in my grocery order and - at the time - telling you I was planning to last on this until Christmas! Well, sent in another one yesterday. Was planning to have it delivered next week, but as many of the really good offers (on things that were regularly in my larder) decided to have it delivered today so that I could take advantage.
When I get depressed it seems that only retail therapy cheers me up, and my retail therapy has to be limited to shopping for food. Oh the days when I could afford to buy new clothes, new books, a lipstick! Even afford to go on holiday.
Even with quite a large order sent in, seems I am still spending less than my 'set budget' for the month - all due to the offers.

At least Beloved will be eating well for the next year (or so!). Yesterday he had the chilli con carne (which he managed to heat up himself with a pack of 2 minute rice). Followed by a lovely chocolate pudding with a caramel sauce. This was made from a piece of a very large oblong chocolate cake I made yesterday, fitting it into a matching sized dish and pouring the hot butter/sugar/cream sauce over the top. A bit like Sticky Toffee Pudding I suppose. Enough for two portions, so B can eat the rest today.
The remaining cake will be made into a Black Forest Gateau, and also a Rigo Janski (this being a layer of chocolate sponge with a layer of 'ganache' on top, with a final layer of melted chocolate poured over. Once set this can be cut into individual portions. For the BFG the cake with be sandwiched together with whipped cream and part of a tin of black cherry pie filling.

Noticed when on the grocery shopping site that Hartley's do a 'ready to eat jelly' retailing at 40p for 125g (or 4 for £1.50p). This presumably would be bought to be taken to school in the lunch-box. A pack of the same flavour Hartley's jelly is only 30p for 135g. Add water to this and you can make up four pots for the price of just one jelly. A saving of £1.20 on offer price. So that's my first comparison.

Another comparison is seeing that two chocolate eclairs were boxed up to retail at 84p. Although not have compared the price against the home-made, do know that you can make a huge amount of eclairs from one batch of choux pastry, and these with the cream/chocolate to fill two would be well under the cost of the ones on sale. Checked in my data base and there is a photo/recipe for choux pastry on 26th May 2007, and am sure I managed to bring this back when editing past postings.

Another photo worth looking at (but haven't as yet checked the date) is one that shows just how much sliced ham can be got from a supermarket gammon cooked at home. The savings with any meat cooked at home, once weighed and sliced runs into tens of pounds compared to the pre-packed sliced meats sold in the supermarket, which savings enabled me to buy an electric slicer which has paid for itself many, many times over.
For this reason have ordered another 'turkey roast' (£2.50) which cooked beautifully when Gill was here, but as most of it was eaten as a 'turkey dinner', the rest being eaten with one of my Cold Meat Platters, have yet to work out how many slices of the cooked meat can be got from the whole 'roast' - and the savings compared to buying sliced cooked turkey (or chicken) in a pack.

As the title of today's blog proves - we get what we deserve. If we can be bothered to take the time to cook/made things ourselves, then we deserve the savings we make. It's up to us then to decide whether we spend the money buying a labour-saving/fuel saving kitchen appliance, or spend it on better quality foods (as I usually do when good meat is 'on offer'). Maybe (as I also do) stock up with foods with a long shelf-life that are - of course - on offer, or save the money to put towards the rising fuel (and other) costs.

The memory has just come to mind of a money-box that I had when we first set up home. It was one of those black ones with a gold metallic trim (small ones still on sale today) with a lock and key. But this one was different. It was a very long oblong box and with at least six compartments in it, each having its own slot at the top. When Beloved used to give me my 'housekeeping money' each week (in cash of course), the money would be divided between the slots. One would be for the gas bill, another for the electricity, another for food, another for insurance, another for the 'catalogue money' paid each week, and think one might have been for 'savings' (this hardly ever having anything put into it). This worked quite well, but did sometimes have to rob Peter to pay Paul. Suppose, by paying off all our utility bills by direct debit, the current account in the bank does much the same purpose, the food money being paid by credit card - this amount being repaid in total each month by another 'direct debit' (usually five weeks after the food has been delivered) as this saves me having to pay for a stamp to send a cheque back to the credit card company, and ensures no interest will be paid. So it is the balance shown on my monthly statement that tells me whether we need to reduce the amount we pay on food during the coming month, or can spend a little more.
Next month's statement will be the one to fear for the hiked fuel prices will have begun to bite. So perhaps wise to make this my last 'major shop' for groceries until I see how the land lies.

Last month B pleaded with me not to buy any more food for a month (he was unloading the grocery deliver at the time). At least I have obeyed him (just!), and not spent as much as last time, but have a feeling will end up with more. The plan was that B will be going to the gym this afternoon, so have timed the delivery so he will not be here when it comes - just in case. At least was able to throw open the fridge door yesterday and show him two empty shelves and an almost empty 'veggie drawer' so he could see we were running short of fresh produce. Even the freezer side of Boris had space to put at least a couple of tubs of ice-cream, so he can't say we haven't been eating (will rephrase that to 'B hasn't been eating') what I've bought. Beloved can eat for England, that's all I can say. If I joined in eating the meals he is served my bank balance would ebb faster than the tide in Morecambe Bay - which is saying something as there the tide can flows in and out at the speed of walking pace.

Have ordered more flour (because it was on offer) as there is talk of rising wheat prices, and when it come to th winter months, more flour is used as it is a 'warming carbohydrate'. Steamed puddings, suet puddings, dumplings, cakes of all kinds, biscuits, scones, all will grace the table during the dark days (and noticed yesterday how the nights are drawing in fast - possibly more noticeable when cloudy).
Did order sliced bread to freeze and also some more of those frozen mixed summer fruits (still on offer) so that the blackberries can be removed and kept frozen separately (B loves Apple and Blackberry Pie, and hope to get a reasonable crop of apples from our tree). May also remove some of the blackcurrants to store separately. My intention then is to use at least some blackcurrants, the redcurrants and the raspberries - with some of the bread - to make Summer Puddings as these freeze well and would give a lovely taste of summer on a warmer winter's day.

Our pear tree - the second year after planting - seems to have held all its fruit and we can see around 20 pears in varying sizes hanging from its branches. The larger ones are almost full size, but still very hard, so the pears should grow even larger - especially after all this rain, which they badly needed. They are 'Conference', one of B's favourites (myself rarely eat pears, preferring other fruits - and the tree was planted for B. Think perhaps this autumn will plant a tree - or three - for myself, probably a Golden Gage, Victoria Plum and a cherry tree.
Must also plant a couple of blackcurrant bushes - the redcurrant we have is doing so well don't really need another. Not sure about blueberries or gooseberries. We had both these in Leeds and neither cropped well.

Our rhubarb is now thriving, and although really too late to be of much use as a 'fruit', some will be picked to make a pie or two and allow new growth to form. The blackberries now also thriving but the new growth came too late to give the flowers that produce the fruit. Roll on next year when I hope all our soft fruit will come from the garden and not over the counter.

Few more recipes today - the idea being mainly to use up what we have, so feel free to substitute a similar ingredient for another. Because this next recipe is cooked in the microwave it is mega-speedy and also saves fuel. A simple but filling lunch or supper dish.
Savoury Bread and Butter Pudding: serves 4
1 oz (25g) butter, softened
6 slices white bread (pref day old or older)
3 large eggs, beaten
4 fl oz (100ml) milk
2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tblsp Dijon mustard
1 oz (25g0 Cheddar cheese, grated
Spread the butter thinly on one side of each of the slices of bread, then cut into triangles. Arrange, overlapping, in a 2.75 pint (1.5ltr) microwave dish.
Beat the eggs, milk, mustard together and fold in the Parmesan then pour this over the bread. Leave to stand for at least 10 minutes to allow the bread to soak up the savoury 'custard'. Microwave on High for 5 minutes then sprinkle the Cheddar cheese on top and pop under a hot grill for 2 - 3 minutes.
Serve with tomatoes and a green salad.

Next recipe is a mixture of fruit and salad leaves. Mixed salad leaves work better than plain ice-berg, but if that's all you have, then use this instead. Myself love to include fruit with a salad, sometimes adding sliced banana and kiwi fruit to mine, blueberries and pomegranate also go well. Canned drained peach slices also eat well with a salad. Watercress with just segments of orange is a classic.
As celery is not my most favourite veg - not sure why, normally only use this diced when cooking the 'Holy Trinity': celery, carrots and onions - as a base for soups, spag bol sauce etc. Having read that two ribs/sticks of celery eaten every day help to reduce blood pressure (or is it cholesterol) now try to eat small chunks of celery with the curvy bit filled with low-fat cream cheese. Makes a good 'snack' (if you'll excuse the expression). The meal itself would make a good 'packed lunch', but take the dressing separately in a jam jar so it can be shaken well to combine together again, and then toss with the salad when ready to eat.

Use this recipe as a guide, then change the salad leaves, fruit according to what you have. Goes without saying we don't discard the orange peel. This can be dried to add to casseroles to give flavour, or added to a pot pourri help to give more 'aroma'. Fresh peel can be turned into candied peel or cut into strips, blanched to remove bitterness, dried then dipped into melted chocolate to make Orange Twiglets.
Celery and Orange Salad: serves 4
2 large oranges
1 small head celery, any strings removed, then sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
8 oz (225g) cherry tomatoes, halved
3 oz (75g) lamb's lettuce
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tblsp chopped fresh mint
5 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
Remove peel and pith from oranges (see above), then remove segments from the membrane. Do this over a plate or jug to catch any juices, and also squeeze the empty membrane to extract the last of its juices.
Place the orange segments into a serving bowl and add the prepared celery, onion, tomato and lamb's lettuce.
Make the dressing by whisking together the reserved orange juice, garlic, chopped fresh mint, and balsamic vinegar until well combined, add seasoning to taste then pour over the salad and toss before serving.

Pasta can often be bought when 'on offer' and have recently seen packs sold as 'buy one get TWO free', so always worth using for a meal when funds are low. The protein content is not high, and with this next dish no meat or eggs or cheese take part, so this is more a 'light meal' than a truly nourishing one. Bacon always goes with with cauliflower and its cousins, also with pasta, so could be an additional 'extra' to this dish. Cook the bacon crisp to crumble and add to the walnut mixture when ready to serve.
The walnut mixture will keep well in an airtight container for a couple of days, so worth making some ahead. Just reheat it in a dry pan when ready to use. Although spaghetti is used in this dish, no reason why the flatter 'noodles', or pasta shapes could not be used instead. Mind you, the effect is better when spag is used.
Walnut oil is expensive and does not have a long shelf life once opened. By crushing a few walnuts, then heating them in hot oil, removing from heat and leaving to infuse until cool, after draining this could then take the place of walnut oil. Don't make more than you need as I doubt this will store for any length of time.
Walnut, Cauli and Broccoli Pasta: serves 4
12 oz (350g) spaghetti
4 oz (100g) broccoli florets
4 oz (100g) cauliflower florets
4 tblsp olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 oz (50g) walnut pieces, chopped
2 oz (50g) fresh white breadcrumbs
pinch dried chilli flake (opt)
1 tblsp walnut oil
Cook the pasta in lightly salted boiling water for 5 minutes, then add the broccoli and cauli and cook for a further 5 minutes until tender.
While these are cooking, heat HALF the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion until softened, stirring in the garlic towards the end, then add the walnuts, breadcrumbs, chilli flakes and walnut oil and stir-fry until the crumbs are golden and crisp. The contents of the pan can then be stored in an airtight container and kept in the fridge for up to two days if you wish, but re-heat in a dry pan when ready to use.
Drain the pasta and veggies and return to the pan with the remaining oil. Stir gently to combine. Divide between four serving bowls, scattering the warm breadcrumb mixture over the top.

Could go on, but having got up late for some reason (although had a great dream so sorry to waken from that), time has fast caught up with me, so again have to take my leave with the usual 'hope you can join me again tomorrow'.
Let's all pool our happy thoughts and send them winging across the country to Kathryn so she can absorb them. We wish you well K and hope you soon feel better.