Thursday, December 15, 2011

And Now It Begins...!

Was sitting (yes, sitting! I have a chair in there) in my larder yesterday, carefully 'stock-taking, and also moving cans and packets around. Decided - that as I have to have one more order delivered before Christmas - oranges, bananas, milk, butter, eggs etc - might as well include a few cans of foods that are running 'short' (with me short is anything less than three), then never buy another thing until March at the earliest. Well that's the intention. Today will be checking the fridge to make sure I will have enough carrots, celery etc (order those too if necessary), and must get some more onions and potatoes (although I have enough to last until new year, the idea is to buy now to avoid buying anything once Christmas is over).
Both freezers are full-ish, so will 'stock-take' the contents of those today in the hope of being able to make a little more room for what I hope to be making/freezing after Christmas is over. You will - of course - get a blow by blow account of my 'making do'. This may even begin this week as I have start sometime, it doesn't HAVE to be after Christmas. Any day, any week, any month will always be the right time to start our frugal life.

Hope that you all managed to watch 'Superscrimpers Christmas' yesterday evening. It was quite good. Loved the bit about the woman who had previously spent loadsa money to feed her family of 8 Christmas Dinner. She was given a budget of £50 and had to 'make do' on that - which of course she was able to do. Was a bit shocked to see that after the meal, quite a few plates had food left on them. With me that would mean the food wasn't fit to eat. I like to see a cleared plate, but perhaps that is a wartime thing. An 'uppercrust' bridge friend of mine once said it was bad manners to clear the plate, some food should always be left on it. Well, in my house forget th manners, eat it all up. Or else!

Not sure that I agree about claiming back money 'in credit' that is shown on our fuel bills. This is probably money saved by using less gas during the warmer months, and is needed to cover the higher prices as we use more fuel during the winter. In any case, we get credit over £100, more often than not the following monthly direct debits are then reduced accordingly, so its not as though the money is 'unused', by the end of the 'fuel-year', it usually works out with little credit, or (maybe) not much more than a pound or two owing.

Was shocked, stunned, gobsmacked when I watched the bit about the lady demonstrating how to use up the turkey left over. Seems some people have half the bird left THEN THROW IT AWAY!!! Some good dishes shown making use of the remaining cooked flesh, but was a bit disappointed when there was no mention of picking remaining flesh from the carcase once it had been cooked to make stock as there appeared to be quite a lot of scraps still left on the bones.

If I remember (there was a lot to remember), the lady (who had the £50 budget) was asked to check the back of her kitchen cupboards to see if there was anything there she could use to leave more money for the 'essentials', and seemed there was plenty. This is the trouble with cupboards - too much room, so things get pushed to the back and if not seen, then forgotten about. My larder shelves are various widths, but nothing too deep. The lowest ones only just wide enough to hold one (depth) row of cans/jars. Upper ones hold two rows - usually lined up so the contents are the same in front as the back.
Wider shelves hold bags of flour/sugar etc, laid on their backs, so still only one layer, also hold the larger storage containers - still one depth. Nothing has a chance to be hidden.

The kitchen cupboards are more difficult to 'control', but at least am able to store larger bottles (coffee etc) and packets of pasta/rice etc that are more easily visible. Even then a smaller packet of 'special' rice might get hidden, but not for long. It is so important to keep all foods that have a long-shelf life still easily seen, for some - like dried beans - do need using up within a year, even though they will keep for longer (the older they are the longer they take to cook, and too old will never soften at all).

Loved the idea of making Christmas cards by cutting the letters out from magazines etc. My thought was how much would the blank card cost? Sometimes these seem more expensive than buying a box of cheap cards. Also we need envelopes. Having said that I seem to have amassed quite a collection of assorted sized white envelopes that must have once held cards. Trick is to make cards to fit each envelope.

When we haven't the right sized envelope - or need a larger one - these are fairly easy to make using A4 typing paper, folded to the right shape. It's possible to buy a special 'glue' that can be spread on paper that dries, then when wetted (like the borders of a flap of an envelope) will stick down onto paper it touches. Saw a tube of this in my drawer the other month. Why do I buy things and never use them? Next year maybe will see me cutting out letters, saving all white card, and making envelopes. Now who has the first birthday? Why wait for Christmas?

The 'Scrimping' programme (believe this series returns in the new year), was followed by Jamie Oliver's Christmas. As every he is very watchable, although not everything he makes I can afford. His use of a griddle pan to make a type of 'waffle' got my grey cells working again. Wondered if a thin sheet of bread dough could be cooked on my ridged griddle pan, to make a type of 'pannini'. Also a flattish circle of (initially raised then knocked back) bread dough could be cooked in a frying pan, then topped with whatever you put on a pizza, then finished off under the grill. A bit like my 'pan-fry' pizza but using a proper dough base this time. Who needs an oven?

Also loved Jamie's way of making gravy in advance. Pleased to see how he used chicken wings - for these are even better than a chicken carcase, as they have so much flavour and still plenty of meat that can be pulled off after the stock has been made.

Replies to comments coming up....
Spring onions are always called 'scallions' in the US Jo, but it sounds as though the Irish scallion is thinner and greener than the ones we see sold at the greengrocers/supermarkets. In recent years there have been some bunches of 'spring onions' sold that have quite large 'bulbs', more like small onions-with-shoots.

With youngsters today Lisa, they do like to follow fashion, and hooded jackets seem to be one of these. Unfortunately for some these have also been a good way to keep faces hidden, so they use them as disguise. Are these 'hoodies' worn all year round, or only in the colder months (when they would be good at keeping heads warm)? The part of Morecambe we live being mainly a retirement area. we rarely - if ever - see anyone wearing a 'hoodie' although possibly they might when walking on the sea-front in a howling wind.
In my youth it seemed that balaclava helmets were worn to protect us from the severest of cold weather (and very good protection they made). Now these seem only worn by crooks, robbers and terrorists.

What you do Lisa, is something I think we should all do. Not believe that every 'hoodie' is a bad guy, but treat all (good and bad alike) the same. Give them a smile, they probably don't get many of those - even at home. Perhaps never at home. All they want is someone to love and care for them. True, there are some who are genetically programmed to always find enjoyment from hurting others and doing wrong, and these probably tend to control the weaker, more gullible who themselves are really good beneath all the hoods and swagger. But even they respond to a smile. Or at least hope they do.

Think certain foods (incl. herbs, spices) have always been eaten as a way to cure an illness. Possibly nature provides a cure for everything - if only we can find the right one at the right time. Many of the drugs of today can still be made from plant extracts (digitalis from foxglove, aspirin from willow etc), but now normally made 'chemically' (as most things 'natural' are chemically based - this is acceptable I suppose). It was the mould on bread that eventually led to penicillin.

With thousands (could be millions) of years of 'genetic memory', it's not surprising that our bodies crave' certain foods when an illness is about to erupt (usually virus based). Have read that when we eat a 'new' food (usually one from another area of the globe) our bodies 'extract' its 'chemical data', and store this in our memory, so that in future our brain knows that particular food could help as a 'cure'. This could be the reason why I once craved fresh pineapple and natural yogurt when extremely feverish during a bad bout of flu (not at that time liking either)but B went and bought me some and I ate loads (still not really liking it), then immediately fell asleep and when I woke my fever had gone and - although very weak - was on the mend.

Not sure whether garlic has ever been superseded by a chemical, but certainly garlic is known to be one of the best foods to help protect us against most winter colds, flu etc. The spice turmeric also said to help protect us.

Thanks Lynn for putting me right re the 'Money' programme. I did seem to get my facts a bit mixed up, but even allowing for the 'Maldives' family using credit cards (and eating take-aways) they still seemed to be able to afford the extra expense of both within that £40,000 budget.
With so many different families shown in that same income bracket, I should have had my note-book an written down what was said, rather than trying to remember.

Scribbled a note in my book by the comp re penicillin and turmeric when reading your comment minimiser deb, and think comments re this have already been given to Lisa, as she too commented on eating certain foods to help cure an illness. Hope you both take what I said as a reply to yourself personally.

Have no problem with any reader wishing to chat to another via the comment box (a request by Alison). Giving an email address helps if you wish to make personal/private contact, but be aware that this could be read by anyone 'mischievous' and who could end up being a nuisance. Although probably there is a way to block unwanted emails from continuing.

Forgot to mention that Beloved thoroughly enjoyed his steak and kidney Pukka Pie - this was served with a few (left-over) parsnips, potatoes, carrots and onions from a previous days casserole and fried in a little butter to heat up and glaze. Also fried some left over Brussels sprouts in a little bacon fat (after frying a rasher of streaky until crisp). B had seen Gordon Ramsey serving sprouts with bacon and chestnuts (for the Christmas meal), and asked if his sprouts could have bacon too. And not yet even Christmas!

The Pukka Pie cooked beautifully, and after eating it, B said the flavour took him right back 50 years when he first began eating them, and it was as good then as it is now.. As I mentioned, the young man he knew had that time just started making the pies, selling them just in pubs and chippies, but they were so good the business just grew and grew. I looked on the web-site and see that the company has remained independent and that Trevor is still the chairman. It is good to see that from small beginnings this company now sells 60 million pies a year and still remains in the family.
If anyone is interested, B says these pies (at least three different fillings) are 'on offer' at £1 each at Sainsbury's, but for how long I don't know. The foil 'pie dishes' will be kept as they are the perfect size to make a suet puddings for one or a steamed dessert pudding that could feed two.

Apparently the Isle of Man had a fall of snow yesterday, but of course none in Morecambe. On our local TV weather map it showed our area as being 3 deg. higher than the rest of the country, due to the warmth from the sea (the Gulf stream curls past Ireland and the western areas of the British Isles). Not that it feels warm. The 'wind-chill' keeps us feeling cold. Not sure where the wind has gone, it certainly has disappeared for the moment, can't see one tree/leaf in motion as I peer through the window. Perhaps we are in the eye of the storm. Seems the south will be getting it worst during the next few days, so those of you who live there, better batten down your hatches?

When I get up each morning, look out of my bedroom window in the hope of seeing white roofs, but none so far. We don't even seem to have had enough frost for the lawns to be covered with a sift of white. Suppose we should count ourselves lucky, but have to say I do love to see the snow, and always feel 'warmer' when the snow is on the ground than I do when it is just cold and damp.

Soup is always comforting in cold weather and, with so many different recipes, we could eat a different soup (hot or cold) every day of the year if we so wish.
Today's recipe is for a winter 'substantial' soup, and although originally made with cooked Polish sausage, any cooked sausage (spicy or otherwise) could be used. As brown rice is used, this makes the soup even more satisfying.
Kale has great food value, but shredded white or green cabbage (or even Chinese leaves) could be used instead. The garlic (amount used depending on personal taste) helps wards off winter colds, and if you use home-made beef stock, altogether a very tasty and healthy dish.

Sausage Soup: serves 4
2 large onions, sliced
2 tblsp olive oil
1 - 3 cloves garlic crushed
8 oz (225g) Polish (or other) cooked sausage, chopped
1 tsp sweet or smoked Paprika
4 oz (100g) brown rice (pref basmati)
1 tblsp chopped fresh thyme
3.5 pints (2 ltrs) beef stock
3 carrots, sliced
salt and pepper
4 oz (100g) kale or cabbage, shredded
Put the onions in a pan with the oil and fry for five minutes until softened and just turning golden, then stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute. Add the sausage, paprika, rice and thyme and stir until combined.
Pour in the stock, bring to the boil, then add the carrots and seasoning to taste, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes (or until the rice is cooked and carrots are tender). Stir in the chosen 'greens' and continue cooking for 8 minutes, then serve. Good eaten with crusty (pref granary) bread.

Swede is normally thought of as a veg that is included (often reluctantly) in a winter casserole. Most people prefer to use the smaller, whiter turnips. Nevertheless, with swedes being one of the cheaper 'roots', it is useful to find another dish where it can be used in its own right. Here is one that can be served instead of a dish of potatoes.
Even if not fond of garlic, unpeeled cloves - after roasting - can be easily squeezed/popped out of their skins and taste incredibly sweet with the barest hint of any garlic flavour. But still do us good.
Roasted Swede 'n Cheese: serves 4
1 large swede (about 1 lb 8 oz/700g)
1 tblsp olive oil
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 tblsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
2 - 3 (to taste) whole cloves garlic
Peel the swede and cut the flesh into wedge-shaped 'chips'. Put these 'chips' into a bowl with the oil, most of the Parmesan (keep back a tablespoonful) and the rosemary, toss everything together then tip into a shallow roasting tin, spreading to keep it all at on layer. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, drizzle over the melted butter, and push in the garlic cloves.
Place in a pre-heated oven (220C, 425F, gas 7) and roast for 30 or so minutes until crisp and golden, turning halfway after 15 minutes of cooking. Serve as a side dish as you would potatoes.

That's it for today. Am getting quite excited with the thought of Christmas coming up. It will be the first time for ages that B will be here (previously this has been the time he chose for his sailing trips on the Tall Ships in the Canaries). We will be having lunch on The Day at our daughter's, house and will myself cook the traditional dinner here sometime the following week (or maybe on New Year's Day). After that it is 'live only on what we already have', and HOW I am looking forward to the challenge. Yes, truly. There is nothing as much fun as making do, then discovering how enjoyable it can all be.

Hope to meet up with you all again tomorrow. See you then.