Monday, November 07, 2011

Freeze for Ease

Back again, but for how long? You wouldn't believe the messes I got into trying to sort out the various wires (all tangled together in a very dark corner of the floor under my desk) that plugged into the hard drive and screen. All had to be checked. Because some of the wires are short, this meant a couple were dislodged as I had to pull out the hard drive box to check all connections. Took me nearly two days to sort out one problem after another - and, would you believe - the Internet connection failure was nothing to do with my computer at all!! Apparently BT are 'updating' their 'lines' region by region, and this was almost certainly the reason for the 'no dial tone' that kept appearing on screen (the phone was OK but did keep cutting out during calls now and again and had to be re-dialled). When everything seemed back to normal, and was able to get emails, then the Internet would fail again, so am hoping it stays on long enough for me to get today's blog published. At least am keeping an eye on 'draft' so that whatever is written is saved and can be retrieved if necessary.

Firstly, thanks to all for your messages (also to Stevan who talked me through what do - not easy with a phone in one hand, torch in the other, and needed a third hand to fit in the plugs once I had found the right socket (and that wasn't easy - took me all of half an hour to find the right one) and to Eileen who was able to let you know via the comment box that I had problems (again!).
Several readers also seem to have husbands like mine. For the younger readers, let me assure you that my Beloved is not as bad as I (probably) make out. He is pretty normal for his age, for in our day women married men 'for better, for worse....etc', and while men took over the responsibility of earning the money to provide for themselves, wives and any children that came along (this alone could be stressful - no credit cards in those days), the wife's job was to care for the husband, do all the housework, and bring up the children on the allowance provided by the husband. In those days the man was the master of the house, and it was expected he would be obeyed. Working class wages (paid by the week, in cash) was normally given by husbands (still in the sealed pay packet) to their wives to pay for rent, food etc, and she would give him back a few pence (and it was pence in those days) for him to buy a pint of beer, a packet of cigarettes.
Salaried men were paid once a month and normally the husband paid all the running costs of the house (mortgage, insurance, fuel bills etc), a set amount paid to the wife as 'housekeeping' to buy food etc, and any left over belonged to the husband.

Once children were born, it was not normal for a woman to go back to work - she had to stay at home and - believe me - there was enough work to do with shopping for food, cooking, cleaning etc. And, unlike men (who generally are a bit self-centred), a wife and mother's job was to care more about the welfare of her family than herself. Of course, the more children in the family, the more it cost to keep them. Wages did not go up because a child was born, and in my day we did not receive family allowance for the first child.

When women decided to burn their bras and demand 'equality' with men, the problems started. Women regained their identity, yet - by doing so - lost a lot of respect they had in the past, and by wishing to return to work, even shortly after children were born, they found they still had the 'domestic duties' to do when they got home. There never has been any 'equality'. To make things easier, no wonder that many women how go out to work have stopped cooking and begun to use convenience foods and 'ready-meals'.
Possibly today there are some men who are ready to share all household chores - and I do mean 'share'. Not just 'occasionally' run the hoover over a carpet, or do the washing up, or throw some clothes into the washing machine. With some families it can work if the mother goes out to work whilst the father stays at home to look after the children. Generally though a man seems to always feel he is the more dominant one, and the women 'have to take their place' (which to me is a rightful one when done properly and no 'equality' is sought. After all, man and woman are quite different in their outlook and capabilities. Good at some things, not so good at others. How many men can multi-task for instance? Yet women can do at least seven things at the same time almost with their eyes shut.

Once women had moved back out into the world where they were treated as a person, not just as 'mum', this felt good, and when 'chatted up' by some male or other, life felt as good as it was before marriage. Going home to a sulky spouse who was annoyed because his meal wasn't ready when he wanted highlights how different life could be. Not surprising that divorce rates shot up once the grass was now seen to be greener on the other side of the matrimonial fence.

Have lost count of the number of marriages that have lasted but a year. Whilst most or all of B's friends and mine have stayed married, many of their offspring have not. With the young it now always seems that thousands have to be spent on a wedding - often abroad - but once the honeymoon period was over, and responsibilities kicked in, it wasn't 'fun' any more. So why carry on? They divorce, and probably start all over again, and maybe again. It is doubtful the 'old ways' of the wife and mother putting the needs of the husband and children first will ever reappear again, seems now that it is far more important for her to 'have her own life come what may', but when anyone feels that their happiness comes first - even when others are hurt in the process - then my advice is never get married. Being selfish does not make a good marriage (maybe men will learn that one day).

B and I understand each other very well. He has always had to fight for what he wants, and rarely managed to achieve any of it, so cannot quite 'control' himself when opportunities (such as sailing holidays and big tins of sweets (!) land on his lap. Myself was brought up to always 'share' and 'give' as much as possible, so we are just two sides of the same coin I suppose. Knew what B was like when I married him, just made the mistake of thinking it would be easy to change him and mould him into the person I wished him to be. But then he wouldn't be my Beloved, would he? If he goes too far, and treats me like a skivvy, then I let him know, really give him a tongue-lashing. More often than not vent my spleen pouring it onto your shoulders. Makes me feel better, and B continues in his own annoying way. But he could be a LOT worse. For which I give thanks.

Plenty of comments re pumpkins. Thankfully we can use these in place of butternut squash which we are more used to ) or vice versa. Does seem they have bigger pumpkings in the USA than we are used to. Ones on sale over here are about the size of a football, anything larger grown mainly for horticultural competitions.
What's a 'boo-baby', Lisa?

Noticed Hugh F.W. last night made a tempura batter that is similar to my 'batter' mentioned on this blog the other day. Difference being tempura is made with plain flour, cornflour, baking powder, salt, and 'sparkling water', mine uses only self-raising flour, bicarbonate of soda and lemonade (any sparkling drink could be used, even lager), so I like to think cheaper and eaiser to make. Those of you who showed an interest I hope will try it and so please let us know if it worked for you.

Because yesterday the 'no dial tone' came up again after an initial good connection, this prevented me writing to you, and as it was such a lovely day, we decided to go out for a drive ended up at Kirby Lonsdale. Despite all the leaves falling from all the chestnut trees in our road (several weeks ago), the trees in the countryside still had their leaves and there was a most wonderful display of autumnal colour. We drove 'the scenic route' to our destination, and passed through some beautiful little villages. Kirby Lonsdale itself was incredible. A very small 'market town', where we stopped to buy a loaf of bread (had decided I didn't want to be bothered with baking one). Went into the shop on the square - part cake shop mainly tea-rooms - and asked them if they sold bread. They had to ask the chef who was out at the time but returned almost immediately. Yes, they sold bread £3 a loaf! Bit pricey I thought, so asked to see a loaf. They brought in a small one (must have weighed no more than 1 lb), and I said I wouldn't pay £3 for that - although might have done if it was a full size large loaf. "but" they said "the bread is baked on the premises". That didn't wash with me I'm afraid. Decided it would be much more sensible to bake a loaf on our return home, which is what I did - ending up with a 2 lb loaf that looked identical (but twice the size) of the one in the shop, and cost me only 60p.

When Gill phoned me yesterday, she - having been given a second-hand bread machine - told me she had bought three packs of bread mix from Tesco that week on a 'buy any three and get the cheapest free' offer. So the 2 lb loaf that she made from one pack of the mix cost her no more than 40p if she divided the total cost by three, or cost her nothing if she priced it as the 'freeebie'. Proof that making our own bread is very much cheaper than buying any 'artisan' bread.

Yesterday decided to cook a small piece of belly pork. Scored the rind, rubbed in plenty of sea salt (might have been rock salt), then put it in a roasting dish, covered with foil and put in a very slow oven (100C) to bake for hours. This prior to us going out mid-morning.
After returning and when the bread needed baking, took out the belly pork and raised the oven heat, then - as the bread baked - removed the rind from the pork, cut the rind into strips and put these on a metal plate in the oven on the bottom shelf to crisp up at the higher heat. Took only half an out before the pork 'crackling' was just as it should be - crispy and not so hard that there was a danger of breaking (old teeth) when crunched.

Once the bread was baked, returned the (covered) pork to the oven, reduced heat down again to 140C this time and continued slow-cooking. Half an hour before serving, brought out the pork, raised the heat back to 200C before spreading the top of the pork (still with a thin layer of fat) with some honey and mustard and put back in the oven to crisp up a bit and colour. Served the pork with potatoes, roasted butternut squash, and the 'crackling'. Lovely gravy from the juices in the pan (to which had been added the honey and mustard that dripped from the pork) and B said the meal was lovely and "could I have it again". So - all in all - quite a satisfactory day.

The trade mag this week is a mite disappointing. Much space is given over to the 'store wars' and their slightly different ways to get custom.
The headline "Turkey shoots up as suppliers struggle against grain prices" caught my eye. The article goes on to say "The dearest food on the traditional Christmas menu - the turkey - could become even more expensive this year"...but "Not all input cost increases will be passed on to consumers, but some will inevitably have to be".

In the Daily Mail this week there was a feature about the "£2.89p Christmas dinner". Apparently it is still possible to serve turkey with all the trimmings for as little as that 'per head', and the Good Housekeeping Institute has put together a shopping list for the trad. dinner that it claims will serve eight for just £23.08p. We are shown a photo of all the food, and the snag is that to make the meal for that price we would need to purchase the ingredients from at least five different supermarkets. Even then the list is not complete. No sausages are mentioned, or bacon rolls, or bread/onions/milk, and what is turkey without sausages, bacon rolls and bread sauce? Also Christmas cake and mince pies are not normally served with the dinner.

For interest here is the list (and suppliers), and it might be wise to buy the turkey now - before they are sold out (at that price).
sprouts: Lidl 1 kg bag....99p
2 x Christmas puddings: Tesco Value...£2 total.
2 x pks 6 mince pies: Sainsbury's Basic...£1.26 total
Christmas Cake: Morrisons... £3.49p
Cranberry Sauce: Tesco... 50p
Brandy butter: Sainsbury's... £1.40p
2 x packs stuffing: Tesco Value... 30p total
Carrots: Sainsbury's 1.5kg bag Basics...75p
TURKEY: Lidl Glenfell frozen 3.8-4.4kg...£9.99p
2 x 500g bags Parsnips: Morrison's...£1.00 total
Potatoes: Asda 2 kg bag King Edwards...£1.40p

For those who wish to buy the lot from one supermarket, the GHI have done some research and found that Morrison's offer the best value on the complete 11 item list, with the entire basket costing £28.24p or £3.53 per head.

The trade mag gives a mention to Higgidy's "handmade Christmassy Turkey Pie with Bacon stuffing" rsp £3.49/250g. The pastry case filled with free-range turkey, smoked bacon lardons, creamy leek sauce and free-range pork sausagemeat stuffing with apricots, sage and onion. This goes into Sainsbury's, Ocado and Booths this month and will be stocked for about 8 weeks.
If you live on your own could be an easy way to serve yourself Christmas dinner without the hassle of all the preparation that goes into the traditional meal.

Tesco have begun selling super-sized Torres avocados that are three times the size of the conventional medium-sized fruit, and can weigh as much as 1kg. Priced at £1.50 each, probably the cheapest way to buy avocados. On sale in Tesco until December, so don't leave it too long if you wish to try them.

Salmon prices are dropping due to temporary oversupply, but - as ever - if demands exceeds supply, this will then push prices up again. Make the most of the lower prices while we have them.

Apparently its been a good year for sales of bacon and sausages. Don't know quite why this is, but certainly the Goode kitchen has been serving up more of both. Mind you we have our favourite brands and B prefers plain pork sausages, although my mouth begins watering when I read about the new salsa-flavoured sausages, the Spanish chorizo, the French merguez and Italian fennel and garlic. Another 'newbie' is the chipoltle and lime sausage. Sainsbury's have been selling duck and apple sausages since September (£3 for a 350g pack).

Profit margin with bacon is obviously good as a 'highlighted' comment is visible on one page of the mag. This reads "Bacon is a real cash cow, with margins of between 40% and 50% so there is little incentive to invest in NPD (whatever that is)".

A 'Heston from Waitrose' bacon comes in three different varients: vanilla spice unsmoked back rashers; stout and golden syrup smoked streaky rashers; and tomato ketchup cured unsmoked back rashers (priced between £2.99 and £3.29 for a 200g pack). These follow the Heston (Blumenthal) range of unusual sausage flavours, including duck and sour cherry, and South African boerewors.
Maybe all too expensive for readers to treat themselves, but suppose we could ask someone to buy one (or more) and give them to us as a Christmas gift. One way to get 'free food' that's a little bit special.

As I look through the window in front of me see the lawn is covered with a layer of frost. Possibly the first time this autumn. Certainly the weather has turned much colder, but with the sun shining, still enjoyable to be out. There is nothing quite like the English autumn when the sun is shining. Am intending to go out for a 'scoot' with Norris this morning - haven't been out with him for seemingly months (well, certainly several weeks). Want to buy some more belly pork to put in the freezer (one of the cheapest cuts of meat on the market at the moment, and VERY good to eat when cooked slowly). Forecast said cloudy today and rain from tomorrow, but so far we have nothing but clear blue sky and hope it will last until noon, when I will be back home in time to watch my favourite progs. Several new cookery one starting this week, although not sure whether I'll be watching all of them. Have now to plan suppers that can either look after themselves or be quick to make so that B doesn't have to be kept waiting (why do they put cookery progs on when most people are preparing supper? Not everyone has a TV in the kitchen.

The title of today's blog may seem strange, but it occurred to me yesterday how useful ice-cube trays are (must buy some more), for these can hold small amounts of so many 'useful' things that we use regularly. In my trays I freeze tomato puree/paste, wine (red, white or port), egg whites, concentrated chicken/beef/fish stock, chopped herbs and even freeze cubes of surplus curry sauce/chill con carne sauce which - when added to a soup (home-made or bought) can really 'lift' the flavour.

Yesterday - after heated up a can of Mulligatawny soup for my supper and realised (when eating it) how the many ingredients were there only in small amounts, so by freezing 'cubes' of the same when next making a meal that used these ingredients (who is going to miss a teaspoonful) this soup could easily be 'thrown together' by putting assorted 'cubes' into a pan with a little water.
The ingredients listed on the can (in order - most of the first then the rest in descending order) is as follows (all can be frozen as 'cubes' or used straight from a jar) and I would use a 'cube' of each or to taste): tomato puree, beef (6% - suggest cooked minced beef frozen in a cube), apples (apple sauce?), tomatoes (from a can of chopped), rice (cooked, chilled and frozen in a cube), mango chutney (from a jar), curry powder (personally I'd freeze 'cubes' of curry sauce saved from a jar when next making curry). Presumably water to make up to a can 'serving'.
Mulligatawny is a lovely soup for a cold day, and depending upon the amount of rice/beef, also can be quite substantial (although the canned soup didn't have much of either).

So another tip to make things easy for ourselves is to 'advance prepare' by freezing the necessary in 'cubes', then you can be sure of having what you need, when you need - at speed!

Tomorrow am not sure what time I'll be writing my blog as Norma has changed this week's hair appointment to Tuesday (normally Wednesday), and at the new time of 9.00am so depending on what else I have to do tomorrow, there might be only time to do a short blog, and - if BT is playing up again - maybe none at all. But at least it's good to be back with you all again.

Have to admit that this week was just about ready to pack up my blog for good. Love writing it, but can't stand the hassle when things go wrong. Am not computer literate so it's like diving in the deep end when you can't swim. I panic, and then begin to wonder whether I need (or can even cope with) all that stress. But - as ever - after a few days breather and things go back to normal, then find myself happily sitting in my chair chatting to you again. Have to say though that if the comp breaks down for good, just might not bother to get another one. But that's in the future. Fingers crossed, this comp may outlive me.

Sometime tomorrow hope to find time to write something - at very least reply to any comments sent it, it would be discourteous of me not to. Apologies to those who have sent in comments and not had a one-to-one reply this time. But I have read them all, and appreciate all who write - with particular thanks to the newest readers who I hope will keep on writing.

With Hallow'een and Bonfire Night now passed, we have Christmas to prepare for. Don't leave it until the last minute, but while the weather is good - make the most of the sunshine. We can always leave baking for a rainy day (and we'll get plenty of these within the next few weeks). Enjoy your day. TTFN.