Monday, October 31, 2011



Unfortunately Shirley is currently ill. As such she won't be posting to the blog for a couple of days while she gets better.

She should be back by the end of the week.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

More Ups than Downs...

Have to say after a few bad days (weeks for that matter) suddenly life is looking much brighter. Not that much has changed, but 'little things mean a lot'.
As discovered the problem with the washing machine seemed to be the dial had stuck (as it turned, each cycle started and finished), so stayed on 'start', doing what it had to, and I had then manually turn it to another letter/cycle. This worked well enough, but meant me practically standing over the washing machine turning the dial every couple of minutes.
Yesterday decided to give the dial a spray of WD40 - in the hope it would seep through the fitting to the back, and although the dial still stuck at 'start', when moved to the next marker (these are marked in minutes), it then carried on perfectly all by itself through to the end, which was 'spin' where it again stuck. No problem, just pushed the handle back in to stop it and the washing was complete. Saved having an engineer round who no doubtedly would say he couldn't fit new parts as the machine was too old (well over 20 years), and even if I could get a secondhand replacement (free through the insurance) prefer to stick with something I know and love (like B for instance!!!).

Beloved is now better - at least enough to eat 'proper' meals again, although his throat is bad, not store, but he has almost lost his voice. Yesterday didn't know what to make for his supper, but as I still can't find the piece of uncooked gammon I KNOW is in Boris or Maurice's drawers, decided in the end to use up the last of the King Edwards (just beginning to sprout), cook the spuds in the microwave and scoop out the flesh to make mashed potatoes. To this I added butter and mustard, pepper and a pinch of salt.
Decided to finely slice a very large white onion, and slow-cooked this in a little butter in a covered frying pan. Kept the heat to a simmer, even using a heat-diffuser under the pan once it had heated up enough. Cooked the onions for over an hour, turning them once (they had begun to colour underneath), then finally added a little demerara sugar to help them caramelise/sweeten/brown even more. Served these with hot sausages, also browning the spuds in the pan (B doesn't really like 'mash') and B - who normally doesn't like onions (likes the flavour they give but not the 'bits') commented that the onions were really tasty. Had some myself with a couple of sausages and its true - they were!

Also yesterday made a batch of oat biscuits as found an old recipe that needed a tablespoon of golden syrup, and hoped that by warming the 'empty' syrup tin (mentioned the other day) there would be enough left to use. This too worked a treat - think ended up with about 2 tblsp but used the lot, which meant the end dough was a bit softer than it should, so added more flour until I thought it felt right. This meant I ended up with 2 dozen biscuits instead of 18, and they cooked perfectly. As biscuits continue cooking when removed from the oven and if left on the hot baking sheet, they tend to be a bit soft, then harden as they cool. Wasn't sure about the oaty ones, so place foil over the tops to prevent them browning more, and turned the oven out and left them in for a further 5 minutes before removing, and they were then perfect. Well, maybe a bit firm after cooling, but as the air in our kitchen is always a bit 'damp', left for an hour or two they will soften slightly again. Left longer they can turn very soft.

This morning woke after a really great dream, not without its trauma, but extremely interesting. Sorry to have woken up, but in a 'good place' where I was about to leave, but now glad I hadn't.
Realised it was after 8.00am, and annoyed with myself as Gill will be phoning at 9.00 (for an hour), and wasn't sure whether to start this blog or wait until after - then, when I sat down to look at the time, realised my bedside clock had not been put back an hour (the comp. clock resets itself), so now have plenty of time to 'blog'. Life gets better and better.

Replying now to your comments:
Susan G, when making marmalade using Mamade (either orange or the lemon) I always use 1 pint of water and 2 bags of sugar (slightly more of each than suggested on the tin) as find this still works well and makes an extra jar. To the lemon I add the zest and rind of two or three limes to the Lemon MaMade in the pan (usually depending upon how many I have or their size - three gives a stronger flavour) and also the lime juice that has been squeezed out. Then I add the sugar and water and cook on as per can instructions. Normally I don't alter the above mentioned (extra) amount of water or sugar used - the lime juice adding more pectin, so am sure of a good set.
Your mention of making up a jelly with lemonade is a good one. Have myself only made an adult version of this using sparkling Babycham with a strawberry jelly, or alcoholic ginger beer with a pineapple jelly. It is true, when the fizzies are added to a jelly (best cold enough to almost setting point), the bubbles stay and burst in the mouth when being eaten. Great fun for young and old.

Wendy is a name new to us - so welcome and hugs from us all. So pleased you enjoyed the Pumpkin risotto. It is always good to know when a reader has been satisified with a recipe given on this site as then others may be more likely to give it a try.

We do have those 'Subway' shops over here Lisa. Quite a lot of criticism written about them in the past for their 'fresh cooked meats' are not as we expect them to be (sliced from a joint), but the meat has been formed into slabs. Anything unnaturally 'formed' we call 'processed' or 'pre-formed'. The 'subs' themselves are too filling (having tried something similar but smaller myself), too much bread and not enough content. But nevertheless the 'Subway' shops seem to do a good trade. Much prefer the name 'hoagie', perhaps because this reminds me of Hoagie Carmichael, a singer from my youth (wonder if this was his true name or if not, why he called himself that).
Your party (venue at a mall?) is also something I don't think we would be allowed to do here. Dare say people can sit on any seats available and eat their own sarnies and drinks as it's an 'open area', but normally most places that allow family parties, will not allow any food to be brought (other than a home-made birthday cake) It all has to be provided by the venue chosen.
bought at the venue.
We do have some ethnic restaurants where their religion forbids alcohol, but allows customers freedom to drink if they bring it themselves. Some other eateries just don't have a drinks licence so the same applies - these are usually called B.Y.O's (aka Bring Your Own) but in most cases a 'corkage' charge is made (the waiter then drawing the cork from 'your' bottle, or unscrewing the cap into glasses they have provided.

Ssh! is another new name (?). He/she seems to have approved of my returning from the depths of misery to a lighter approach to life. A warm welcome to Ssh! but hope if writing again a proper name will be given. Don't hide behind a whisper.

Trade mag was a bit disappointing yesterday. Quite a lot written about how all the stores are trying to compete against each other, with Tesco coming out on top at the moment with its recent price drops.

More discussions about the amount of calories we should be eating (so presumably more info given to this on all the foods we buy. It was interesting to read that the estimated calorie count for men keeps being changed as scientifically established in 2009.... changes then seeming to being made "from 2,550 (the original), 2,900 (the correct figure), or 2,605 (the new figure), almost irrelevant because we none of us know how many calories we're consuming each day.
An experiment at a Trade Federation dinner a few years ago demonstrated this brilliantly: asked to estimate the number of calories in the meal on one table alone the discrepancy between estimates was over 2,800 calories, and almost everyone massively underestimated the alarmingly high total (3,700 calories NOT including drink). Even the head of nutrition at the Food Standards Agency was out by around 2,000 calories."

Indirectly, this almost enforces the problem we have with child obesity. They may not always appear to eat a lot, but obviously what they do eat has too many 'bad' calories. The young generation of today is far more likely to stay indoors (because it isn't now safe to pay outside), and sit in front of the TV or play computer games. Apart from their diet, this is now proving to cause other problems, for more and more children are getting rickets - caused by lack of sunshine (and Vit. D).
However much we feel that all this advancement in technology is great, there now seems side-effects we can do without. Too much loud music drumming in our ears from iPods will make us deaf, constant use of mobile phones pressed to our ears will cause brain tumours, and not playing out in God's good fresh air (although the 'fresh' is debatable) now causes rickets. Haven't even mentioned the harm that could come from all the additives and preservatives in processed foods.

Pages are given over in the trade mag to pet foods this week. There has been a decline in sales, believed to be because we can now not afford to feed ourselves as well as our animals, so the pets are not replace once they have gone to the great kennel in the sky. More and more of the 'luxury' end of the pet food is feeling the pinch, and to bring back sales, it seems that pet owners feel 'guilty' (if not there will probably be some pressure from companies to make them feel that way) if their little darlings are missing out on the 'good stuff'. So new varieties are being offered as pet food such as canned duck. What's wrong with good old tripe I say?

Each week in the trade mag a new product is criticised by (a) a consumer, (b) an expert, and (c) by a retailer). Normally don't give these a mention as the product is of little interest to readers of this column, but this week was interesting just because of the differing opinions.
The product cooked and tasted by all three this week was Aunt Bessie's Special Roast Potatoes cooked in Duck Fat (rsp: £2.50 for 700g).
The consumer sampled some with home-prepared roast potatoes (done the normal way) and "felt that while his potatoes were more crisp, Aunt Bessie's had more flavour". Gave four stars out of five.
The expert said "they had a tempting aroma, crisp and golden in appearance, crispy on the outside and fluffy inside. A real treat for the family". Four stars out of five.
The retailer..."found the product didn't have as much flavour as expected, and given that they found the product didn't have as much flavour as expected, and given that they cost a lot more than the brand's standard roast potatoes feel that repeat purchases may suffer as a result". Three stars out of five.

To enable me to publish this before Gill phones (in five minutes) will wind up for today. Any further trade news of interest will be given tomorrow. Am aiming to do more baking today (to make the most of my free hour) and also do more sorting of my larder and fridge/freezer. Already am getting a few empty shelves in the latter, and for once this is making me feel good. Wonder why?
With almost everything in life coming in waves, be it sound, light or just the seasons, seems natural that we humans should also experience this and to expect the highs and lows. At present seem to be coming up from a 'low', so am going to enjoy every minute of it while it lasts.
Back with you again tomorrow and hope you can join me then - meanwhile off to change the clocks that don't change themselves....

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cutting Costs Can be Fun!

Many thanks for your comments. Reading them really lifts my spirits - a good start to my day.

Interesting that your husband Lisa, is about the only one (of your family and friends) who prefers to BUY socks, rather than wear the home-knitted. Mind you, many socks (not wool) can be bought cheaply these days. Doubt I could be bothered to knit socks for B (unless of course he was very appreciative - and he doesn't know the meaning of the word!).
Your family birthday 'festivities' sounds fun, but what is a 'hoagie lunch'?

Urbanfarmgirl too is having a go at knitting socks. Again wonder if it is worth the trouble in today's world, but when I read the brochures that come through the door, it does seem that pure wool anything (including socks, hats, scarves, gloves) cost more than their weight in gold. So 'home-knitteds' like 'home-cooked cakes, preserves' etc., are now something only the wealthy can afford to buy. Note 'to buy'. We lucky ones can (hopefully) make all these ourselves for the same price (or less) than the cheapest, tacky stuff on sale.

Incidentally, not being very conversant with 'computer-speak', what do all initials used stand for? DI, DS, etc. Sometimes do shorten my family's names to S.I.L (son in law), and suppose M.D. could mean 'middle daughter'. At least do know that O.H. means 'other half'.

Growing up in a thrifty family seems to have worked for you gillibob. Yet being brought up in a similar way has made your husband more aware of what he has missed. Perhaps this ia a 'man thing'. Myself was lucky enough to grow up 'comfortably', with enough 'pocket money' to be able to buy clothes I wanted. Initially did not go out to work, so spent a lot of time playing tennis and riding horses. Completely spoilt some would (rightly) say.
However, having money did not make my mother and father happy, there were often arguing which then led to days/weeks of them not speaking (I had to go back and forth passing messages from each to the other), and - perhaps luckily - have found that true happiness comes not from having what I want on a platter so to speak, but actually working hard to keep my head above water - which is what happened once I married a man who earned very little money, and we had three children born within three years!

Suppose the way we view our life is much to do with attitude. My mother (however much she had) would see her glass as always less than half-empty, whilst my life (once leaving home) seemed (at times) to be more than half-full. I've always been an optimist. It is true, sometimes I do get a bit fed up, but this never lasts long.

Good to know there are instructions 'out there' for knitting socks on two pins Rachel. Believe only experienced knitters can handle the four-pin method. Circular needles aren't much good for socks as these are meant for holding many stitches that are not necessarily knitted 'in the round' but could also be knitted in the normal way - from side to side.
As you say, most men seem to be grumpy, and quite honestly have found that when I've met 'cheerful' men, feel they are a bit lightweight. Possibly make good companions when wishing for a good time, but not necessarily 'husband material'. Maybe I just go for the wrong kind.

Do remember Dorothy Sleightholm ("Farmhouse Kitchen") Susan G. There used to be several cookery programmes (also sewing and painting progs) presented by 'unknown' ladies, who have now disappeared from our screens (and probably memories - and I'm almost certainly on that list).
Despite my new 'challenge' of working through my present stores, will certainly be re-stocking before the New Year. Am just hoping that if I can hold out until then, Tesco will be offering m loadsa money vouchers to encourage me to start buying from them again. This has happened before (when I've held off a few months - mainly due to a 'challenge'), and see no reason why it can't happen again.

Sairy, your mention of Hardup Hester's grandma keeping three of everything is very similar to my (initial) approach. My aim always was (and still is) to have 'one in use', 'one in store', and 'one back-up'. So when the first was used up, the one in store was brought out to use, and the back-up would then be the last on the shelf.
Nowadays, with many products being sold in 'four-pack', do tend to buy these (and sometimes more when on offer) so end up with as many as 12 cans of baked beans on the larder shelf.
Generally though, as soon as my stocks run down to two (or - horrors - one) of something, then I replace a.s.a.p. At the moment will probably allow myself to run out of something, but only because I will have something similar to take its place. Canned fish can be sardines, pilchards, salmon, tuna.... so as long as I have only one can of 'fish' left, it doesn't matter which it is.

We have a new reader who left no name (not even an Anonymous), but a big welcome and group hugs to you, whoever you are. Next time you write (and I hope you do) please give us a name, then I can reply to you personally.
Am sorry you have mobility problems (having them myself do realise how limiting this can be), and also appreciate the financial difficulties you must have providing meals for two grown up sons who live with you (as well as visiting family). All the recipes on this site are (unless otherwise stated) economical, and when meat is used I do aim to use as little as possible to make it go further.

Another new name, so a welcome to Campfire. Perhaps you were thinking of 'Pebble Mill at One' (Midland TV you mentioned), for I did appear on this regularly as a cost-cutting-cook. Being a 'live' show, this was always fun to do, for there was always a chance things could go wrong, or because the previous person on the show 'over-ran' and I had less time to cook that was originally allowed (but still had to make whatever it was from start to finish and edible!).
Another programme filmed in the Midlands (at the OU studios at Milton Keynes) was 'Bazaar', where I also was a regular cook-presenter (along with others) for several years.

With so many blogs now running (thousands on the thrifty way of life), starting a new one probably needs a good title to get it onto the 'right' lists. Myself feel that 'Taste the Goode Life' gives no indication that cookery is involved, which is why I'm starting another in the New Year that is more 'professional' and will deal only with food (cost-cutting recipes, hints and tips). This blog will stay much as it still is, but the other will give more useful money and time-saving 'info' with each recipe, and each will have a photo of the dish as made in my kitchen.

That's the comments now replied to. Beloved has just brought me the trade mag for this week, and this will be closely read today and commented on tomorrow.

Yesterday decided to start working my way through my 'stores', and decided to make myself a chilli-con-carne from 'Beanfeast' (a veggies version of chilli - made with TVP). Used to make this years ago, and only recently found this was still on sale at Morrisons. Although not done yesterday, adding a little 'real' beef mince steak when making the meal gives it more 'mouth appeal' to meat-eaters, for with chilli, it is not the meat we taste but the spices, and so by adding more 'texture' tougher meat, we can make ourselves believe it is made with all meat. Certainly a much cheaper way to make the dish than by using all meat.
Although the Beanfeast chilli does include red beans, there are not that many, so added another can of (drained) beans when making it up, and then was able to freeze the surplus to eat at other meals.

Decided to eat the chilli with pasta (to make the dish more substantial), and discovered a - so far unopened - pack of Farfalline in the cupboard over the kitchen units (packs of pasta are kept in the kitchen rather than in the larder). Farfalline is/are tiny ovals of pasta that have been nipped in the middle to look like teeny weeny bows. They take only 4 - 5 minutes cooking time, and perfect for adding to home-made soups etc. Having cooked some yesterday, after draining and adding a knob of butter then tossing with a handful of grated Parmesan, ended up folding them into the chilli as they were not really 'substantial' enough to serve on their own as would pasta penne, or fusilli, or other large pasta shapes and ribbons.

As Beloved is beginning to improve, today am making a type of cassoulet. Already have some home-baked beans, and to these will add some sausages, chicken breast, and a piece of gammon if I can find it (its in the freezer somewhere).

This weekend must also start making some biscuits, flapjack etc to hand out to the Trick or Treaters on Monday evening. American muffins will be made on Monday afternoon as they need to be eaten as fresh as possible.

Weather has been lovely over the past few days. So good yesterday that B tottered into the living room, weakly (and huskily) asking me if I'd like to go out for a drive as the weather was so nice, but I declined as it didn't seem fair to 'use him' in this way when he was obviously so poorly. But seemingly not that ill, for he suddenly improved early evening when he decided - after all - he was well enough to go to the sailing club social, although he did return home earlier than he normally does (which is usually after midnight). This morning he said he is 'improving slowly', so hope he is now on the mend.
All I hope is that I don't come down with what he had. If I do, it will be this afternoon, for it normally takes exactly 3 days to the hour after catching a bug for the symptoms to arrive, and B arrived home mid-afternoon on Wednesday. He probably picked up the bug mid-Sunday afternoon when he stopped at a service station en route to Bristol.

Normally, when 'about' to be ill, almost always feel particularly well beforehand. This I believe is due to my body already priming its immune system to fight the 'invader', and as I don't feel any different at the moment, and hoping nothing untoward has entered my system. Just have to wait and see.
This has reminded me of something a friend once told me. She said she never ate oranges, because always the day after eating one she would come down with a cold. What she didn't realise was that she already had the cold 'germs', and the reason she wanted to eat an orange was because her body was 'asking' for her to eat it as this fruit contain Vit C - which would help fight the virus.
In much the same way I get a craving to eat raw and very strong onions (which I normally would never do) when I have just started with a cold and especially a sore throat. Anyone who has done this in similar circumstances will know that very rapidly after eating onions, this 'loosens' the cough/cold and a box of tissues should be placed close to hand as our sinuses clear themselves out within minutes. The sore throat also seems to be helped. Due I believe to the sulphur in the onions. Nature seems to provide almost everything we need to cure our simple illnesses, or at least ease them, and although our ancestors seemed to know this by trial and error, it is only recently that we have been able to prove this scientifically.

Just noticed on the cover of the trade mag: "as petfood sales fall for the first time, how cash-strapped Brits re doing without their dogs". Will read the article(s) later today, but even these few words are enough to make me/us realise how far we have gone since my parent's day when cats were fed on fish heads/trimmings, and dogs on horsemeat, tripe or meat not fit for human consumption. Despite being on our beam ends regarding income, we did have a dog (and a very hungry Labrador at that), and it was never a problem to feed her (she would eat anything - even apple fallings from the tree, and any apple cores our children left around she would also eat), and give her free huge knuckle bones from the butcher (which were either left whole or halves, and she would gnaw down and remove/eat all the marrow), free meat scraps from the same source to add to the cheapest canned dog food, plus any 'leavings' from the children's plates. Even made the dog biscuits occasionally.

Unlike most humans, dogs are not that fussy about the food given them (but of course it has to be meat. What many non-meaters (who prefer their pets also to be vegan) don't realise is that the animal's body has been genetically engineered for eating meat. We omnivores can deal with either vegetables or meat or both. To deprive a carnivore of meat is downright cruelty.
When it comes to cats (also carnivores) it does seem - from comments sent - that cats are extremely picky. All I can say is - like children - when it comes to cats and dogs, start as you mean to go on. What they have never had, they should never miss. Give 'em a treat and then that's what they start to demand. And this can prove costly.

When it comes to human food, how lucky we are that we are happy with almost any on our plate - as long as it tastes good. Even luckier that many ingredients that - when put together give us pleasure - are NOT expensive at all. So no reason why we can't eat well and keep our purses padlocked at the same time.

It's not easy to give recipes that fit into a really frugal life-style, but whenever possible give recipe that work our really cheaply AS LONG AS WE HAVE THE INGREDIENTS IN THE FIRST PLACE. Sounds more expensive than it may be, for am thinking about using up the odds and ends that we might have bought, and otherwise might chuck in the bin. Here are some examples.

This first recipe is for those who might have a few mushrooms left they wish to find a use for. Ideally use chestnut mushrooms (they are firmer and more 'meatier') and also always worth having a pack of dried porcini mushrooms in the larder, for a few of these also will improve the flavour. Otherwise just use the normal 'white' mushrooms.
Other advantages of this recipe is that it is a vegetarian 'pate' and can be made in advance to keep in the fridge for a few days. Useful to make to serve either for family as a snack, or to guests as a starter. A good one to consider for Christmas when we like to offer something a bit different.
Mushroom Pate: serves 8
9 oz (250g) butter, softened
1 onion, very finely chopped
1 - 3 cloves garlic (to taste) crushed
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 oz (25g) dried porcini mushrooms, soaked
8 oz (225g) chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tblsp brandy
juice of 1 small lemon
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
Melt 2 oz (50g) of the butter in a pan over low heat and saute the onion until very soft, then stir in the garlic and thyme and fry for a further minutes. Drain the soaked porcini mushrooms and chop finely, then add these - together with the chestnut mushrooms - to the pan, tossing so that everything becomes coated in the butter. Raise the heat and cook for about 7 minutes until the mushrooms are soft, the add the brandy and lemon juice and simmer for a couple or so minutes until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and add the parsley and seasoning to taste. Remove the sprig of thyme, and leave the mixture to cool.
When cooled, work in the remaining softened butter, then divide between several small ramekins, cover with cling-film and place in the fridge where it will keep for a couple of days.
Serve spread on hot toasted bread, with a side dish of crispy mixed salad leaves.

Bread sauce is traditionally served with turkey on Christmas day, but it can also be served with roast chicken at any time of the year, and a good way to 'bulk' out a meal. Even one chicken breast, wrapped in bacon and roasted, served with one sausage, a spoon of cranberry sauce and a dollop of bread sauce plus some Brussels sprouts, a scoop of mashed spuds and a couple of roast potatoes (roasted with the chicken) is as near enough to a Christmas dinner to make it work making just for one (or two).
Worth now crumbing up stale bread to freeze for later making bread sauce (or use for other dishes), or make the bread sauce now and freeze it ready to thaw in the fridge on Christmas eve to heat up on 'the day'.
Tip: spread fresh crumbs out onto a baking sheet and leave at room temperature during the day to 'dry out' slightly. This way they will absorb more of the liquid and you end up with a thicker 'sauce'.
Another tip: when infusing the onion in the milk, after removing the onion, chop this finely and add to the stuffing (this could be home-made or a bought packet of 'dry'), or use in another dish such as soup, casserole etc.
Bread Sauce: serves 8
1 large onion
6 whole cloves OR...
...2 blades of mace
6 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves (opt)
half pint (300ml) milk
4 oz (100g) fresh white breadcrumbs
1 oz (25g) butter
salt and pepper
nutmeg (opt)
If using cloves, stick these into the onion. Place the onion into a saucepan with the peppercorns (and mace if not using cloves), bay leaves and milk. Bring up to the simmer (just about to boil), then turn out the heat and leave to infuse for at least an hour, then remove the onion, spices, bay leaves etc (sieving is the easy way to do this).
Put the 'flavoured' milk into a saucepan, stir in the breadcrumbs and bring to the simmer. Add the butter, seasoning to taste and a wee grind of nutmeg if you wish. Depending on how thick you want your sauce to be, you may wish to add more milk (or more breadcrumbs ). Serve as soon as made in a bowl for everyone to help themselves, or it can be cooled and stored overnight in the fridge to reheat in the microwave OR can be chilled and then frozen in a container and stored for a few weeks until needed.

Here is another dish that also uses breadcrumbs and almost a savoury version of 'treacle tart'. This recipe is very adaptable as there are many seasonal vegetables that can be used at this time of the year. Use the ones suggested, or replace one (or more) with turnip, sweet potatoes, carrots etc.
This is another dish that can be prepared ahead and either chilled in the fridge to bake the following day (or even a day later), and part or all can be frozen for up to a month (defrosted before baking).
Root Vegetable Bake: serves 8
1 lb (500g) swede, peeled and cut into chunks
1 lb (500g) parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 oz (25g) butter
4 tblsp golden syrup
8 oz (225g) fresh breadcrumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper
1 tblsp light olive oil plus 1 tblsp melted butter
Cook the swede in plenty of boiling water for 3 minutes, then add the parsnips, and cook for a further 12 minutes or until tender (if using other root veggies, cook those that take the longest first, and add others according to the time they need so they all end up cooked through at the same time).
Drain the vegetables and leave in the colander to steam off the surplus moisture before putting into a bowl. Mash with the butter then stir in the syrup, 6 oz (175g) of the breadcrumbs and the eggs. Season generously then spoon into a baking dish, levelling the surface.
Toss the remaining breadcrumbs with the oil and melted butter then scatter this on top of the mashed roots. (At this point the dish can be chilled for up to 48 hours before baking, or can be frozen for up to a month. Defrost before baking).
To bake/serve: bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for approx 40 minutes or until very hot and the top is crispy and golden.

All too often we stick with familiar recipes when we bake cakes or desserts, and miss the chance of using what I call 'jig-saw' cookery, this is where part of one ingredient is kept to use in another dish, instead of it all in the one 'making'. Eggs are a perfect example. Yolks in one dish, whites in another.
Very often, when frying eggs (especially when large), we can break one egg into the pan then add only the yolk of the next egg to the white already in there (always enough white to hold two yolks). This saves an egg white which can be used to whip up and fold into a dessert, or to make meringues, soft-scoop ice-cream etc. As egg whites can be frozen, then why not save one any time we can?

Here is a recipe for a dessert that uses only egg whites. The yolks could be used alone (or with whole eggs, to make quiches, omelettes, lemon curd, scrambled eggs etc, so almost two for the price of one. Easy enough to make a smaller amount - just halve the ingredients. Please note the mixture can be made (then chilled) for up to 2 days before being baked.
Spiced Friands: makes 10
7 oz (200g) butter, pref unsalted
6 egg whites
3 oz (75g) plain flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
half tsp ground ginger
7 oz (200g) icing sugar
5 oz (140g) ground almonds
First clarify the butter by melting in a saucepan, then heating until frothing and just beginning to brown. Pour through a sieve into a small bowl, and discard the 'solids'. Then - using a little of the melted butter - grease 10 holes of a muffin tin.
Whisk the egg whites until just frothy, then sift the flour, cinnamon, ginger and icing sugar together into the egg whites, folding this in with the ground almonds and the remaining melted butter. Mix until smooth and there are no lumps. (At this point the mixture can be chilled to keep for up to 2 days before baking).
Divide the mixture between the muffin tins, then bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 8 - 10 minutes until risen and golden. They should spring back when the top is lightly pressed. Cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the tin. Eat whilst still warm (siften with icing sugar and served with a dollop of cream), or cool on a wire rack. Best eaten day of making.

There are days when I feel I could write recipes forever - this being one of them, but time has moved on relentlessly so had better take my leave or you will be fed up waiting. Will return again tomorrow and hope you will also. If so - see you then.
Enjoy your weekend and don't forget to put the clocks back tonight.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Funny Old Life....

It's good to know that many husbands are like my Beloved. Not sure whether it was the fault of their mothers (who always seem to have a soft spot for sons and let them get away with murder...) or just the way men are. My B was the youngest of a large family (five boys and one girl) so think this has much to do with his need for always 'wanting something better', for as a child probably always ended up clothed in 'hand-me-downs' and what's left to eat after the bigger boys had helped themselves' (made worse because it was during war-time rationing).

However, B seems to be improving, but is very 'snappy' when I say anything to him which makes me think something happened whilst he was away that didn't please him. Maybe he got done for speeding or something. I don't know, but something has made him very stroppy, and as I am his 'kicking dog', no doubt this will continue until he feels better. On reflection he has regular mood swings, from everything being fine, to nothing is going his way, so nothing has really changed. Thank goodness I'm not like that. Or am I? Beginning to wonder.

Good that simple dishes such as (left-over) ginger cake and custard, and rice and custard are still enjoyed minimiser deb. Think today we all tend to veer towards the 'new and different' rather than remembering that the old dishes are often the best. Yesterday Beloved had some ginger cake (recently made) heated in the microwave with his favourite (double cream) poured over. Not sure if he should as he is still not quite well, but his decision as he didn't want 'just toast'.

Pleased that you like the recipes I post up on this site gillibob (and sympathise that you have a clone of my spouse - maybe those of us who have this cross to bear will mean our next life will me much improved in this department - we can but hope).

Don't apologise for not writing in each day Lisa. For one thing you always sound so busy, and do appreciate you finding time to even read this blog, let alone write back. Your mention of starting the heel of a sock brought back memories of my mum knitting socks using four steel knitting pins. In my youth all-wool socks for men were often knitted by their wives and mothers, who then later spent hours darning the wear that appeared in the toes and heels. Nowadays men wear man-made fibre socks and when a hole appears they throw them away.
Remember myself knitting gloves, these weren't easy - all those fingers and thumbs.

Pleased you had something to celebrate Lisa, but sad that your stepmother managed to bring you back down with a bump. Some people seem to enjoy upsetting others, almost do it deliberately. So don't let them get away with it.

This reminded me of one of the last comments from Kathryn who was not enjoying a visit from her mother. If you read this Kathryn, let us know you are alright and managed to 'recover' once your life was back to normal.
Am always sad when regular readers suddenly stop writing in. We have had several readers from Canada and also different states in America, as well as many in this country, who have suddenly 'disappeared'. And we miss hearing from them.

Many readers may feel they haven't anything worth commenting about, so don't write in. Everyone's life is different to anothers, so as 'one mans rubbish is another man's needs', our own (often to us - boring) life has great interest to others. Personally, Lisa's comments are showing me that her life is completely different to many who live in this country. It's as good as reading a book.
We all have a different approach to doing things, so the more we can our experiences, the more inspired we can become. So, dear readers, keep on commenting, for it's not only me, but all of you who enjoy reading them.

Yesterday, because I felt down in the dumps, decided to have some retail therapy and wrote up a grocery order on-line to be delivered this morning. This done because my larder shelves have some big gaps now, and this alarms me somewhat.
Anyway, realised that I'd forgotten to include something, so went back to add it to the order, then read through the completed order noting that each item had a little symbol to show these were 'offers', so was well pleased. Must have saved quite an amount of money.
Then - for some reason - sat and took another look. Asked myself "did I really need any of what had been ordered?" The answer was a resounding "NO!" Well, certainly not this week. So cancelled the lot. Easy as that!

Now I feel quite good (downright smug if truth be told) that I was capable of doing this. Up till then I'd felt pleased because my regular (once a month) orders had begun to cost less (and less), but these have still been 'regular' (unless I had set myself some sort of challenge to prevent me shopping for a while). Yesterday's 'non-order' was a week too early anyway, mainly because I needed to cheer myself up. But now I've discovered I've had more pleasure from cancelling it than that had it been delivered (also enjoy unpacking and storing it). Probably do that again.

Now I seem to be doing a 'U-turn' and want to clear as much space on my shelves as possible, for it also occurred to me that it's all too easy to explain how to manage on little money when there is a lot of food already in store, what would be more use to readers is to verbally 'demonstrate' (and maybe also by photos), how the basics/or what's left in the cupboard can turn into something worthwhile.

Over the last few days - on the Alan Titchmarsh show (ITV 3.00pm) - have seen several demonstrations re 'home-skills' that we could be (should be) tackling. Kirstie Allsopp was on one of those days, and yesterday a mention of Alan's new book about country ways (forgotten title, but a lot of it was to do with self-sufficiency 'The Good Life' style) was shown. Seems the whole country is now taking up these old skills again (due to the recession - so at least this gives us some reason to be thankful for it) and enjoying doing so. Long may it continue.

Recipes today have be chosen as they can use various 'levels' of quality ingredients, As ever, the idea is to use what we have or what we can afford. Also many ingredients can be substituted for others, on a like-for-like basis.

The first recipe is a tasty vegetable dish that would normally be a side-dish (so plenty of choice of which meat/fish to serve with it). There are many varietes of cabbage (white, Savoy, Spring cabbage) we could use, or other 'greens' such as Chinese leaves, kale, spinach, chard leaves, shredded Brussels sprouts plenty of choice there. Bacon can be from an economy pack of 'bacon pieces/offcuts', or we could chop up standard smoked or streaky bacon rashers (or even even use ham, chorizo sausage/black pudding if that is what we need to use up). The onions could be any of that family (leeks, shallots, red onions, white onions, sweet onions.....but not garlic unless a garlic lover and only use a bit). Within reason, use up what you have. Think you get my drift.
Greens with Onions and Bacon: serves 4
1 onion, sliced
1 oz (25g) butter
6 oz (175g) diced bacon (see above)
1 small cabbage (see above) shredded
5 fl oz (150ml) water
salt and pepper
Put the onion in a frying pan with the butter and fry over medium heat for 3 - 4 minutes until beginning to soften, then stir in the bacon and cook for a few minutes longer until the bacon is just beginning to colour. Add the cabbage and the water and cook for a couple of minutes until the 'greens' are beginning to wilt (according to the one chosen, this may take more or less time). Cover the pan and cook for a further 4 - 5 minutes then remove lid and give the pan contents a stir. Increase the heat to boil off any excess liquid, season to taste and serve.

Next dish is a variation of an Italian 'soup', not quite a minestrone, but similar. Basically, it is a mixture of various vegetables (of course you can choose different ones according to what you have), with sausages for protein. You can omit the sausages, or use chorizo, or chicken wings, or, or, or.... .
The idea is to keep the vegetable large enough to be 'attractively visible', so keep them the same size. Instead of broad beans, sugar snap or mange tout peas could be used. Sliced leeks would also look good. In a way it is a clear 'soup' with lots of colourful veggies floating in it - and of course the sausage. Just use this recipe as a guide then do your own thing.
Roman Soup in a Pot: serves 4
2 tblsp light olive oil
4 - 8 sausages (flavour of your choice)
4 pints (2.2 litres) hot chicken stock
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
4 oz (100g) pasta penne (or other shape)
4 oz (100g) broad beans
4 oz (100g) white cabbage, shredded
salt and pepper
2 tblsp chopped parsley (opt)
Put the oil in a large pan over medium heat and fry the sausages until browned all over (but not cooked through). remove the sausages with a slotted spoon, add the carrots, onions and celery to the pan and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Return sausages to pan, add the stock and pasta, bring to the simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes, then add the beans and cabbage. Cook for 5 minutes (by which time the pasta should be cooked). Season to taste. Stir in the parsley (if using) and serve in individual bowls, each person getting their share of the sausages.

Another recipe that is very adaptable is the following 'risotto dish'. You can choose whether to use risotto rice, pearl barley, quinoa, or spelt as the grain (remembering that depending upon the one used, the cooking time will be shorter or longer - so make allowances). Being the right time of the year, pumpkin is used for this dish, but another squash (such as butternut) could be used instead (or maybe parsnip, or similar root veg). Instead of cooking raw beetroot, we could use cooked beetroot from a vacuum pack.
Shallots or onions, we use what we have, and the herbs could also be of our choice. Here again a recipe to use as a guide. Nothing here is set in stone, the cook (and that's YOU) should always make the final choice of ingredients, especially when wishing (or needing) to economise
Pumpkin Risotto: serves 4
2 medium beetroot (cooked) cut into quarters
1 lump pumpkin (about size of a butternut squash)
1 tblsp sunflower oil
2 sprigs rosemary
2 springs thyme
salt and pepper
18 fl oz (800m) vegetable stock, boiling
4 shallots, or 1 onion, finely diced
9 oz (250g) chosen grain (see above)
5 fl oz (150ml) white wine
2 oz (50g) butter, diced
3 tblsp cream cheese (Philly type)
2 oz (50g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Remove skin and seeds from chosen squash and dice. Put into a roasting tin with the herbs and drizzle with oil. Add seasoning to taste. Roast at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 minutes, than add the beetroot. Cook for 5 - 10 minutes longer or until the squash is tender. Turn out oven, cover roasting tin and leave the veggies in the residual heat in the oven to keep warm whilst cooking the grain.
Have ready a saucepan of boiling stock and keep this to a simmer whilst frying the shallots or onion in a large frying pan with a tblsp of olive oil. Fry over low heat for five or so minutes until the shallots/onions are very soft but not coloured, then stir in the chosen grain and make sure this is completely coated with the oil before adding the wine. Keep stirring, and when the wine has been taken up by the grain (or evaporated) start adding the stock - a ladle at a time. Keep on stirring, making sure the grains do not stick to the pan and burn, and keep adding a further ladle of stock when the last one has been absorbed - but don't let the grain dry out completely.
After 15 minutes, test the grain to see if it is almost tender (some require longer cooking times than others - which means they may take in more or less stock accordingly), when ready it should be tender but still with a bit of 'bite' (aka 'al dente'). When ready, remove from the heat and beat in the butter, and when this has melted, beat in the cream cheese. The mixture should be fairly loose and creamy. Finally stir in the grated cheese and serve with the roasted squash and beetroot (roasted herbs are delightfully crunchy, so you can eat these too).

Final recipe is for those who are wishing to find a use for the last of their home-grown tomatoes. Although these have a short-shelf life (about 10 days in the fridge) would expect they would freeze well so could be stored frozen for longer. No need to remove seeds from tomatoes, but you can if you wish.
Not quite sun-dried tomatoes: fills 1 large jar
2 lbs (1kg) small ripe tomatoes, halved
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried oregano/marjoram
olive oil
Place the halved tomatoes on a baking tray, cut side up. Season generously with salt and pepper, and sprinkle over the dried herbs then drizzle with a little oil.
Roast at 140C, 275F, gas 1 for 4 plus hours or until the tomatoes are semi-dried and chewy. Tightly pack into a sterilised jar, and add oil to cover (tap the jar to get rid of trapped air bubbles). Cover and store in the fridge where they will keep for up to 10 days.

Will now trot off into the kitchen and see if I can get make something from whats left on my shelves. This could turn out to be fun. Beloved is still having problems with his 'inner pipes', so obviously should not have had the ginger 'pudding' yesterday evening (or the ice-cream afterwards - although he kept that secret from me, but I found out). Has to be toast or nothing today. He is moaning he has lost 7 lbs, and coming from one who was always complaining he needed to lose weight, would think he would be ecstatic. Can never please some people.

At least, now that I am back to eating just two (small) meals a day and given up my comfort eating, my weight is now returning to what it was a couple of weeks ago. At least I'm pleased. Despite enough things going on in the world to be miserable about, we should always be able to find something to be glad about. Perhaps my name should have been Pollyanna!

The hour goes back this coming weekend, so we can either stay another hour in bed, or get up in the normal way. Now here's a challenge for you. Just how much can we make/do in those sixty 'free' minutes (at least in this country, not sure whether America/elsewhere puts the clocks forward and back)? Anyone care to write in and let us know if they have been able to put to good use this gift of time?

But even before then there are a couple of days to go, and with Hallow'een at the beginning of next week (and Guy Fawkes the following weekend), looks we might be even busier than normal from this minute onwards. So don't let me stop you. Only send in comments if you find the time. But hope you do. TTFN.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Wanderer Returns

My Beloved is home again, and not happy. He didn't feel well and wanted to go straight to bed. So many times he has been like this when something has happened that didn't suit him. Am sure he really does (think) he is ill, but once things are back to normal always he has a very sudden recovery. So perhaps psychosomatic?
When we were first married, B was for ever going to the doctors because he didn't feel well (didn't like his job, or my parents were nagging him - we lived with them for the first couple of years and he really wasn't a very happy bunny), and even after we moved to our own home still had 'bad days' when work wasn't going as well as he wished. He once brought out his medical card which had three pieces of paper in it with every pill written down he had been described in the previous 2 years - and showed it to a friend (who happened to have medical training unknown to B) and who later told me that my husband was obviously a medical friend "a hypochondriac" (had to look that up in the dictionary, and think he was right).

When we moved to Leeds things got better, but when I went to hospital with cellulitis, he really was 'ill' from the very first day until I returned home. My daughter who had come to look after things, said she had got very cross with him as every time she wanted him to do something he took to his bed. Yet - when I returned home, he was 'suddenly' as right as rain again. But still not prepared to do more than he absolutely had to.

So - yesterday - once back home, he let me know how ill he was "feel my forehead, I've got a high temperature" (it was quite cool!!!!), and "don't get me any supper", don't want to eat anything today.... My spirits sank the moment he walked through the door as there was no "glad to be home, I've missed your cooking". A couple of hours later he rose saying he felt "a bit better" and began slicing the bread baked that day. Was so miffed with his 'man flu' attitude let him get his own supper (scrambled eggs on toast). Later he ate something else, then said he wanted some ice-cream so went out to the shop to buy some.
Suggested to B he went to bed at 9.00pm (which he often does anyway) as he was 'poorly', and he said he probably would, but then realised he wanted to watch some TV at that time, so stayed up until later. Myself didn't even go to bed at all (having nodded off more than once in front of the TV after that), so that at least has given me an early start to today (it is now just after 6.30am).

Am pretty sure B will be fine once he gets up, has his coffee/breakfast, read the newspaper, done 'his' crossword (and hope he doesn't do mine as well which he sometimes does), but probably he will not be well enough to do the washing up - but there isn't much of that anyway as I cleared most of it up yesterday (except B's supper plates).
Yes I know I'm grumbling (again) about the man I love dearly, but he really does irritate me, for most of the time I feel either like his servant,his mother, or his nurse (all I suppose are much the same thing). I want to feel like a wife that is loved. But then B has admitted he doesn't really know what love is (other than the 'conditional' kind). And I doubt he ever will.

Was looking forward to having a heap of comments from my 'virtual friends' to bring light into my gloomy morning, and there was only one!!! Have to remember life is not all about me (so in some ways perhaps I'm as bad as B re this). Other people have other things to do than keep writing comments.

Anyway, enough of the moans. Thank you minimiser deb for writing. Many people do believe that a curry is always 'hot', and so often avoid eating them. Very few are (or need be), and there are many really fragrant and creamy curry recipes that have little heat (if any) at all. Could give several recipes for these, but as they have lengthy ingredient lists (which I always try to avoid as these can be off putting) myself tend to use a branded (named) curry sauce of a flavour and strength we like. There are some really lovely ones on the market at the moment (and often on offer).

Yesterday gave a recipe for the puffy 'chapatis' (pooris/puris), and there is also a sweet version (more a pancake batter than a dough) that could be served as a dessert (and not necessarily after a curry). It's one of those desserts (English translation given as: 'sweet, crisp, crunchies'), that is made with very basic ingredients, yet turns out as something 'different and special'. Fennel seeds are best, but use ground if that is all you have. If you haven't the fennel/cardamom, you could substitute as 'sweeter' spice such as cinnamon, or allspice
Malpuri: serves 4
10 oz (300g) self-raising flour
3 tblsp semolina
5 fl oz (150ml) yogurt
half tsp bicarbonate of soda
water to mix
butter/ghee as needed
5 oz (150g) sugar
5 fl oz (150ml) water
1 tsp fennel (seeds or ground)
1 tsp ground cardamom
4 tblsp double cream
Mix together the flour, semolina and bicarb, adding a little water to make a thick batter. Cover and leave in a warm place for a couple of hours.
Meanwhile, put the sugar, the 5 fl oz water and fennel seeds into a pan over low heat. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes until slightly syrupy. Remove from heat and stir in the cardamom. Set aside but use warm, so reheat if necessary.
To cook the 'pancakes', heat some butter/ghee in a deep frying pan or wok (enough to shallow fry). When it begins to smoke (don't let it burn), lower the heat and pour in a ladleful of the batter. Fry, turning once until golden on both sides. The discs should be spongy in the centre and crispy round the sides. Drain on kitchen paper and arrange on a warm plate.
When all have been fried, pour over the warm fennel syrup, drizzling over a spoonful of double cream over each serving.

One of my favourite recipes for colder days is 'Cassoulet'. A French peasant dish that used small amounts of meat that might be to hand, so a pork hock (or piece of gammon or bacon) would be included, maybe some chicken joints (or just chicken wings), certainly sausages (Toulouse being the traditional ones), beef meatballs would cook well in this dish or even some rabbit... Think about it - a bit of bacon, one sausage, one chicken wing and one meat ball (maybe even half a sausage and half a meat-ball) would make one very substantial portion because of all the other ingredients which are vegetables, beans (pulses not green beans) and tomatoes plus a few others. The crusty topping is a traditional part of the dish, not essential but really improves it.
So here is a very basic recipe to use as a guide, and then - if you have small amounts of the meats suggested above, you could include one or more of these. Otherwise leave out and make do with just sausages.
Myself find my home-made baked beans (thawed from the freezer) really give this dish a 'lift', possibly due to the treacle or brown sugar used when making them. But most cooked/canned beans could be used (cannellini, haricot, borlotti, butter beans, but not red kidney beans - the colour doesn't work with this dish and these are best used with a mixed bean dish or chilli con carne). If including meat, then reduce the amount of sausages with this recipe. If you wish you could sliced the part-cooked sausages and stir them into the bean mixture and put the lot in a casserole dish instead of layering. If using an assortment of meats these could also be mixed in to allow the flavours to combine.
Economy Cassoulet: serves 4 - 6
2 tblsp light olive oil (or sunflower)
2 onions, thickly sliced
2 carrots, chopped
1 - 3 cloves garlic (to taste) crushed
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 tblsp chopped fresh herbs (parsley, thyme)
2 x 400g cans any 'white' beans (drained)
half pint (300ml) chicken stock
5 fl oz (150ml) water
salt and pepper
12 pork sausages (pref Toulouse)
3 slices stale bread, crumbed
1 oz (25g) melted butter (or oil)
Put 1 tblsp of the oil in a large pan and fry the onion and carrots for a few minutes, then stir in the garlic, bay leaves and herbs. Cook for a further minute then stir in the beans, stock, and water. Bring to the boil, simmer for five minutes then add seasoning to taste.
Meanwhile, put the remaining oil into a frying pan over medium heat and fry the sausages until they are browned all over.
Take a casserole dish and spoon in some of the bean mixture (remove the bay leaves), arrange half the sausages on top, cover these with more beans, add the rest of the sausages, and finish with a layer of beans. Place on lid (or cover with foil) and cook in the oven at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 35 minutes (or longer depending upon what meat is used). Stir the melted butter and breadcrumbs together, then remove the lid/foil from the casserole and spread half the breadcrumbs on top, and bake for a further 20 minutes, then break up the crusty top and stir it into the top part of the Cassoulet, then cover with remaining crumbs and continue cooking until the crumbs are golden and really crisp. This makes for a really thick and crunchy top layer.

Did I mention yesterday that for once I baked the bread on a baking sheet and not in a loaf tin? this caused it to spread both sideways and upwards, but still make a lovely crusty loaf. Having used half milk/half water instead of all water, the crumb was a slightly softer texture and it made wonderful toast (even though each slice was too wide to fit in the toaster so had to be cut in half). Mind you I toasted a whole slice under the grill - just enough to 'toast' to very light gold (if that) on both sides before being lightly spread with butter on one side, then topped with sliced tomatoes and on top of that sliced cheese, then popped back under the grill to cook until the cheese was melting down the sides and bubbling on top. That was my supper and I LOVED it. The bread certainly was gorgeous. Think I might make it this way again but form the bread into two 'baguettes' in the hope they don't spread so wide and a slice will fit in the toaster without further 'trimming'.

The gingerbread/cake made also turned out well, but more a 'cake' than gingerbread as it rose in the middle. I trimmed the sides and ate these (for research purposes of course) and was surprised - considering the amount of golden syrup used - it didn't taste overly sweet. Apart from eating as a cake, slabs of the gingerbread can also be heated in the microwave with some syrup/butter/cream (also heated to make a sauce) poured over it.

The idea of the sauce came to mind after seeing the 'empty' tin still had syrup coating all the inside surfaces, so today will put a little water in the tin, then place the tin in a pan with a heavy weight on top (the 2lb weight from my balance scales), then pour hot water round and place over a low heat so the syrup then softens and collects together (and can then be more easily be poured from the tin). However little there is, can't waste a drop of it. Not in my nature.

Beloved has just tottered in. Says he has an upset tum (had to get up three times in the night), so spending the day in bed. He thinks it might have been a Chinese meal he ate whilst away, but more likely it is a bug that is going around. So now I feel mean about thinking there wasn't much the matter with him. But - having said that - it does seem that he (and probably most men) seem unable to be ill without making a song and dance about it. When we women feel ill, most of the time we keep our mouths shut, and struggle on coping with what has to be done.

Will shortly have to prepare something for B to eat - he is (in a very weak voice) requesting food, and my suggestion of plenty of fluids (to replace those lost) and dry toast to 'bind things together' has not gone down well. He wants something 'cooked'. Well, he'll have to want. For once feel that 'Mum knows best'. It's toast or nothing until he has begun to feel better. Poor B, bet everyone is feeling sorry for him being married to a bully like me. Almost feeling sorry for him myself because of it. Just because I'm me, don't have to like myself as can be a bit of a shrew at times (B would say most of the time). Ah, well...

Just as well I began this blog early, as although it is now nearly 8.30am it looks like I'll be needing to role-play nurse as well as cook, wife and bottle-washer. So need to plan my day, find out where the insurance is for the washing machine is (once B is awake again), phone the company to arrange for a repair man to call, and make sure all the domestic work (culinary or otherwise) is done.

Looks like being a lovely day (well the forecast is good) so - if B is feeling better - might just nip out with Norris for a scoot as am sure this would cheer me up. Otherwise - life as normal.

Back again tomorrow in the hope that things have improved. See you then? Hope so.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Having an early hair appointment is changing my routine considerably. Today weighed out all the ingredients ready to make a gingerbread, and also put the yeast and flour in the bread machine. After my hair was done, added the liquid to the bread mix, put into the machine and switched to 'dough'. Switched the oven on and mixed the ingredients for the gingerbread - put this in the prepared tin and into the oven. Set the timer to remind me when they would be ready (the dough 5 mins before the cake but the cake needs checking then anyway (which means I'll have to nip out in the middle of writing today's blog to check).

Managed to do another wash in the machine yesterday, but the towels were very rough so feel it is not changing the water/rinsing as it should. But things do become clean. The spin cycle won't switch off which is quite good for if I leave it a minute longer than the usual cycle the contents come out with even less water than normal.

Can smell the gingerbread, is that a good sign? Perhaps I should check to see if it needs the top protecting with foil (shiny side up to reflect the heat). Will leave it until I've replied to comments, then nip out and see....

Boycotting supermarkets is a brave move Sue15cat, for 'local' shops always do charge more for the same items. Even so - if sticking to a budget - this should make us more aware of what we buy and then buy only what is necessary at the time, for all too often we buy more in an attempt to keep our larder shelves full.

Thanks Stephanie T (who I believe is not the same Stephanie who has also sent a comment so welcome) for the info on the stores that stock gooseberry jam.

Reading your comment Lisa you have proved that very often we don't need to go out to work to 'earn' more money, as almost all the wage goes on buying convenience foods etc, because we then have no time (or energy) to cook the foods at home. Just as long as we can all cover our overheads and live comfortably enough, we really don't need more money (even though it can be useful at times).
My Beloved is often envious of those who have larger cars, bigger boats, and it doesn't seem to matter what he has (which is quite a lot by some standards) he always wants more. Yet I am the opposite. When I see people driving in large cars, wearing costly clothes, and who choose to dine out in expensive restaurants, I actually feel sorry for them (in truth feel sorry for B that he has this greedy side to his nature). Everyone who can afford to pay for what they want misses out so much on life. All the pleasures that you and I experience purely because of our own efforts. Worth more than gold!
Bleepers gone for the dough, so must just nip out and put it onto a baking sheet to prove.....
,,,,,,that didn't take long, less than 5 minutes. Gingerbread was ready too, so that is now out of the oven. Bread dough proving so that leaves me at least 45 minutes before I need to check. By then my blog may have been completed.

Returning to Lisa's comment (sorry I had to stop in the middle). Did try the self-checkout a couple of times, but unlike you who had kind thoughts about putting a check-out girl out of a job, myself felt a bit bitter as I realised that I was doing work that someone else would have been paid to do. In other words, the supermarket was 'using me'. Suppose it ends up the same thing, but my thoughts were more selfish than yours.
Anyway, much prefer to go through a 'normal' checkout, for at least it is good to have someone there to 'pass the time of day', even if only time for a few words. This from someone who hardly ever sees anyone other than B (who hardly ever talks to me anyway).

Regarding Cauliflower Cheese Cheesepare, myself tend to steam the cauli in the microwave, meanwhile making a cheese sauce (grated cheese already to hand from the freezer), then put the cauli into a bowl, pour the sauce on top, sprinkle over more grated cheese and then pop under the grill. This way the meal can be made in 15 minutes from 'raw' to 'serving'.
Alternatively, put the cold cooked cauli in a dish, cover with cold cheese sauce, then reheat in the microwave, sprinkle grated cheese on top and finish under the grill.

Interesting what you said Stephanie about not illegal to sell our own 'stuff'. With produce (whether home-grown or home-cooked) there always seems to be a retailer who gets the hump and then contacts Trading Standards. As you say, with garden produce, as long as scales are used and they are correct, then no problem. But then not everything is sold by weight, so what happens then?
Home-cooked food has even higher standards, kitchens have to be checked by 'elf and safety and hygiene, and '0ld style' kitchens (such as mine) would never pass their high standards, although I have been allowed to sell marmalade and jam due to the extreme heat used (no bacteria then able to survive), but even the rules for this may have changed.

Your mention of home-crafts and having to 'register' when selling such things is another annoyance. Seems that even if we are on our beam ends, when we begin to earn even a few pennies someone has to be told and (if enough earned after deductions) tax then has to be paid. Think the one good thing (if we profess ignorance) is that when we have done something 'illegal' we are first given a warning, and if we continue ignoring the rules, then we get prosecuted. Personally I'd go for barter rather than sell for money, they (hopefully) we can avoid the problems above.

In today's recession you would think that the government would prefer us to earn money in whatever which way we can, rather than claim extra benefits. Seems this is not the case. We have to do what they want ALL THE TIME, and very rarely allowed freedom to find ways to cope with our problems without them shoving one rule after another in front of us to tell us we shouldn't be doing any of it.
Possibly the only thing we can do legally (and this is debatable) is to 'pull up our drawbridge' and care for our own families within our 'castle' boundaries. Step beyond that and we could be in for trouble.

With B away am able to watch more 'interesting' TV, and last night enjoyed seeing Gok Wan's prog where he showed how we can get an expensive look but at much lower cost. Really admired the gorgeous ear-rings he had made from Christmas tree decorations (not that I would have worn them myself, but they were lovely.
A new Jamie Oliver series began last night, but not yet sure about it. Supposed to be about British food, but he began with an oriental filled bun (street food). Then went on to show four different ways to serve oysters (does he think we can afford to buy these?). Later something more like a McDonalds (burger in a bun), but cooked at another street-food venue. Agree that many of our dishes did originate from abroad, but would prefer to see something a bit more 'English' (and affordable). Maybe I'm just too picky.

Was (almost) criticising Gino d'Acampos afternoon 'There's No Taste Like Home' yesterday when one of the contestants made a chilled Kedgeree. Even though this particular recipe wa supposed to originate in India, it appeared to have no curry flavouring AT ALL, and to my mind was more like a chilled fish risotto. Gino suggested serving it with chapatis, so that was as near an Indian dish as it got.

But at least the simplicity of making chapatis led my mind to contemplating trying different versions of this 'flat-bread'. Chapatis/chappatis are not a million miles away from the Mexican tortillas, and if different grains (ground rice, cornmeal, wholewheat flour, plain white flour etc....) were used, and also different flavourings added (dried mixed herbs, curry powder, chilli powder, Cajun seasoning etc....) then a very wide variety of 'flat breads' could be made, each having a suitable dish to go with.

With that thought in mind, here is the traditional recipe to make Chapatis (a chapati is sometimes called a Roti - and also known as 'everyday bread' as it is made 'to order').
Although white flour can be used to make these, it tends to produce a sticky and leathery dough, so wholewheat is more popular (or we could use a blend of both).
Chapatis: serves 4
1 lb (450g) wholewheat flour
2 tsp sunflower oil
warm water as needed
clarified butter if desired
Blend together the flour and the oil, then mix in just enough water to bind to a pliable dough. Knead for 5 minutes (the longer you knead the softer the chapatis).
Divide the dough in portions the size of a tennis ball. Roll lightly in flour then shape into a round in the palm of your hand and flatten slightly.
Roll each ball into flat discs, fairly thinly into the width you want (at least 4"/10cm dia), if necessary flouring the board to prevent the dough sticking.
Dry heat a griddle or large frying pan, then place a dough-disc onto the base and heat until the underside is beginning to brown (the topside will also start 'bubbling'). Turn and press down with a clean cloth so the disc cooks evenly on the underside and brown spots appear. Remove and serve warm (or reheat under a hot grill (making sure they do not burn) and they can be served spread with ghee/clarified butter if you wish. Mostly they are served 'dry', and usually with curry but could make at alternative 'wrap' (around a filling) instead of using a tortilla.

A very similar recipe is for 'puffy bread', normally fried and served instead of chapatis with curry.
Pooris/Puris: serves 4
1 lb (450g) wholewheat flour
1 tblsp sunflower oil
scant half pint (22ml) warm water
oil for deep frying
Using your fingers, mix the flour with the tblsp oil, aim to bind to a stiff dough by adding water a bit at a time. You may not need all the water, or you may need a bit more depending upon the flour used.
Divide dough into small, equal sized balls. Smear the palms of your hands with some oil to help shape each ball smoothlly, then - on a lightly floured board - roll out each ball into a disc about 1" (3cm) in diameter.
Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer (or saucepan) until hot enough to make a tiny bit of dough dropped in immediately float to the surface, then gently lower each disc into the hot oil and press down with a slotted spoon. The disc will only puff up if the oil is hot enough and the dough is submerged.
As soon as puffed, turn over and fry for a further minute, then lift out with the slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat, cooking all the puris in the same way. Serve warm.

Because of the late start, see we have now reached noon (and beyond) so time for me to say farewell for today and hope you will be joining me again tomorrow.
Have just had a text to say that B will be returning this afternoon - a day earlier than expected, so will now have to think about his supper. Having just nipped out to put the bread in to bake, that's just about all my 'chores' for today (other than doing the washing up) so had better go on with that. It's lovely weather here at the moment, so hope you all have this too and managed to enjoy it. TTFN.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More Thoughts

With Beloved away am now free to let my thoughts flow without any interruption, and yesterday (of course) a lot came to mind about why many today don't cook any meals at all. We (that's most of my readers I expect) can't understand why, but then going back through history, suppose practically everything was made by hand, either in our own homes or by someone else.
It could be that people grew their own wheat, ground it themselves, then baked the flour to make bread. Or kept sheep, sheared the lambs, spun the wool and knitted garments.

Pigs would be kept, slaughtered in the back yard and every bit (except the squeal as they say) was used as food or fat (for frying). Maybe the skin would also be treated to make 'leather' (belts, bags, shoes).

Some people were better at some skills than others, so they would then 'specialise' and make only certain things. Other folk would do the same they they would barter their wares. As we became more civilised and especially after the industrial revolution, bartering stopped and we were paid in 'tokens' (aka money) for work done, which could be exchanged for anything made by someone else.

Certainly in the last hundred years we have turned from using our own skills to purchasing what we are still capable of doing, but now never seem to. Its perfectly acceptable now to buy ready-made clothes, machine- knitted jumpers/sweaters, shoes..... Not to mention cleaning products. Even I do this.
Buying ready-prepared foods/meals is just the next step and probably more noticeable because it is the last 'change' from home-made to bought that has been done. So why do we think it is wrong to do this? Perhaps - if we could afford to buy the best quality foods/meals, then we might as well do so. Use the time saved to better advantage.

Thing is - although we seem perfectly satisfied with buying cheap clothes, and furnishing our house with 'flat-pack' furniture, wonder why we do this? There is much quite old, solid wood furniture that can be bought at auction sales for only a few pounds. And in perfect condition. We can also now buy quality clothes that have been given to charity shops (again in good condition and sold for a very little money). When it comes to food - we now seem to be satisfied with the cheapest. Quality has flown out of the window, and the reasons why we eat at all have been quite forgotten.

Luckily - due to the recession - we have the chance to have a rethink, and begin to realise that when a lot of love and care goes into things 'hand-made', this really does filter through to whoever ends up with the product. You can't say the same about anything made/prepared by machine/robots.
This is why - certainly when it comes to home-cooking, a 'skill' such as this really proves to our family how much we care. This 'nurturing' can also spread further afield to visiting guests, friends.... Surely this makes for a happier family life. Can't see why not. So go for it.

Sorry, Cheesepare, missed replying to your query yesterday re pearl barley. Almost certainly the reason why it ended up like 'cattle cake' was that you had used too much barley and not enough liquid. Myself make barley risotto using the dry grain, and it does absorb more liquid than rice, and also takes longer to cook. Pre-soaking the barley can cut down the cooking time.
Have another go and see if there is any improvement.

Also forgot to come back to minimiser deb re her comment on a neighbour selling his surplus produce (to eke out his pension). To everyone this would be a brilliant idea, but unfortunately the laws of this country do not allow people to sell their 'gluts'. So as long as it is done on the quiet, then fine. My suggestion (and a very naughty one) is for the neighbour to have a charity tin close to the door - with money in it (or even a few pebbles) so that if someone 'on high' knocks on the door to find out what he is doing, he can rattle the tin to 'prove' the money he gets from selling his produce goes to charity, for he would be allowed to sell as long as he doesn't' himself reap the rewards.
There are all sorts of ways of getting round 'legalities'. We can't collect seeds from the flowers/veg in our gardens and then sell the seeds, but we can give them away. On the other hand, if we bought some really cheap ball-point pens (say 10p each), then sold these for a £1, each purchaser being given a 'free' pack of seeds, we are allowed to do this. But sell the seeds with a 'free' pen, and this is illegal.

Sorry Stephanie, don't know of anywhere that sells gooseberry jam other than perhaps a Farmer's Market or a W.I. stall. It just might be that some of the better quality jam manufacturers do sell it - but probably not at low price as found in supermarkets. Can any reader help re this query?

Thanks Lisa for your info re the American states. As one comment mentioned, we can find out almost everything we need to know via the Internet, but somehow it is more interesting hearing it from someone such as yourself, or even reading books.
Incidentally Yorkshire (where we used to live) is our largest county, and Wensleydale is part of Yorkshire, not a county in its own right. There are many 'dales' in Yorkshire (these being the areas below the many hills, often named after the rivers that flows through them. Airedale for instance (river Aire). Don't know whether everyone knows this, but there is a river Crimple in Yorkshire, and the fabric 'crimplene' was so called because is was first made in the local factory there.

Some of the areas of our country have very strange names. There is a moor in Yorkshire called 'Blubberhouses', a village called 'Stanks', and another called 'Wetwang'. Some names are quite long and have been shortened or are pronounced in a different way to the spelling. Never did learn how to pronounce many names in Yorkshire.
In other parts of the country Warwick is 'Warrick', Leicester is 'Lester', Beaulieu is 'Bewly', and the same goes for surnames. Mainwaring is 'Mannering', Cholmondley is 'Chumly', and St.John is 'Sinjun'.
Depending upon whether we come from the north or south, Newcastle is pronounced 'Newcassle' or 'Newcarsel'. Bath is 'Bath' (the 'a' as in 'bat') or 'Barth'. Myself used always to pronounce words the 'south' way, but since living 'up north' now find have changed to the local way.

Know what you mean Susan G about traffic on the motorways when travelling, especially at holiday times. But we have enough 'scenic' routes to get from A to B in this country without touching the main roads (other than crossing a few from time to time). When we lived in Leicester we used to travel down to Bristol on the old Fosse Way. We hardly ever met any traffic, and perhaps this was because we set off early in the day (arriving at Bristol about 10.00am), but no-body bothers with these roads any more, always preferring to put up with heavy traffic on the motorways. When I used to visit Leicester from Leeds, would go down the A1 as far as Clumber Park, then drive down another Roman Road to 'the Six Hills', and again hardly every meet any other traffic. Beloved would drive to Leicester down the M1, and having done this myself, found it saved only about 15 minutes and was a horrendous experience (I hate traffic).
The A6 (possibly part of this is an old Roman Road) I've seen signposted at Carnforth (close to Morecambe) and do know this ran through Leicester right down to London. Again an easier route (for me to take if I still drove cars) than B's way of travelling down the motorway.
Never myself do see the point of trying to save an hour's travelling time, if doing this can cause stress - let alone the pollution in the air given off by the other vehicles on the same road. With me it's change the route to 'scenic' and start an hour earlier and enjoy the countryside whilst driving through.

Now for 'trade secrets'. Seems that one week before one supermarket slashed its retail milk prices, it reduced the premium paid to its dairy farmers. We may be pleased that we can now buy even cheaper milk, but this isn't fair to our farmers who need every penny to cover the rising costs of animal feed.

The Co-operative group - who already have a home-delivery service for customers who spend over £25 in store - are planning to launch an on-line grocery service within the next year.

Iceland is bringing back its frozen sandwich platters this Christmas 'due to popular demand'. For those who are interested in comparison costings (bought v home-made) "a £5 platter will contain 30 frozen sandwich quarters that have been blast frozen".
The sandwiches come in cheese and onion, tuna and sweetcorn, and ham and mayonnaise flavours. "These take away the hassle and time-consuming need to make them at home".
Just remember that 30 frozen sandwich quarters is really 7 and a half 'rounds' before cutting, so easy enough to work out the price for the same if 'home-made'. Is it worth buy them? You tell me.

Students who rely on the almost-instants for their 'meal of the day' will be pleased to know that there will be a limited edition Christmas dinner-flavoured pot noodle snack. "The festive version of Golden Wonder: The Nation's Noodle - which even comes with a sachet of cranberry sauce - has a turkey flavoured sauce and contains vegetables including carrot, cabbage and broccoli. And forget the effort associated with Christmas - the produce requires only boiling water and five minutes of the consumer's time".
Rolling out to stores over the next couple of weeks in a 90g version (rsp 95p) that will be stocked by Morrisons, and a 115g 'Normous' pot (98g) to be sold in Asda.
Have to say, if B is away again at Christmas this year (he usually is), myself might even consider feasting on the above 'Normous' pot noodle (because it appears we get 25g extra for just 3p more! A feast indeed.

Am sure I remember several readers saying they had a bumper crop of blackcurrants this year. But the trade mag says that "fresh blackcurrants and products such as blackcurrant cordials and jams could become more expensive following poor harvests in Europe and New Zealand.
The price of blackcurrant concentrate - used in processed products - has more than doubled since the beginning of 2011".
Possibly worth growing our own in future. And if already, plant another bush (or take cuttings from one you already have).

New ranges of meat products are being launched to help retailers offer competitively priced lamb and beef, even though global prices are soaring. So look forward to new named 'cuts' such as 'lamb rosette', 'lamb chunky', and 'Victoria roast'. With beef seek out alternative cuts such as 'flat-iron' and 'Denver steak'.

Quite a thought-provoking article about shop-lifting in the trade mag. Seems that its now not just the usual common or garden thieves, but "include people who - in a bid to maintain lifestyles they can no longer afford - are resorting to stealing everyday items such as cheese, which now has the highest 'shrink-rate' (stolen) of any grocery product.
Retailers are now placing security tags on all sorts of food (normally not tagged) such as cheese, and even bars of chocolate.
The article goes on to say "More people are stealing and they are stealing more. The problems with the economy, society, politicians, and the banking industry have led many people to say 'its' alright to steal. I've got to look after myself because everybody else is looking after themselves'.". And "It's no longer just the hard-up that are shop-lifting. You might have a good income and lifestyle and want to maintain it.... There's no typical shoplifter anymore".

This gives me the feeling that people will just not give up their 'luxuries' (which they consider to be the norm), and so resort to crime to keep their status quo. What's so wrong with tightening our belts and having a little less, or even a lot less. We all have had too much for too long anyway.

Blogger has pulled up an error. Think it's Ok now so will hope to publish while I can. Please remember tomorrow is early hair day so this blog won't be started until late morning. Hope you will join me then.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What Next?

Think the gods are ganging up on me. Not been the best few days, although it was lovely to see my grandson (and partner) again. Beloved wanted him to update 'his' side of the computer, and when I went back onto my side (I have two), Yahoo came up instead of Google, and I could find out how to read emails or even (horrors!) get onto my blog and sign in.
Luckily, Steve was still here and sorted it out for me - it's still not like it used to be (having been 'updated') and it is a bit of a nuisance - somewhat like trying to speed-shop in the supermarket when - over the weekend - they changed the products to different shelves (as they do). But so far so good.

Add to that our washing machine seems to be breaking down (it is over 20 years old, so shouldn't grumble). Put it on the washing at the end of last week, switched on, and 2 hours later went to get the washing out to put on the airer and it was still on the first 'cycle'. Fortunately discovered that I can manually switch to other cycles (mainly rinse, drain, spin etc) and it does what it should, but the 'clock' part which moves the switch round seems to have stopped working. So - for the moment - it's 'manual-working' the machine.
Will inform the insurance this week and they will send a man round. If it can't be repaired - because it's been insured all the time I've had it, they'll either give me a reconditioned one or even a new one for no charge.

When I came into this room this morning was so pleased to find it was warmish. Then realised I'd left the gas fire on all night!! Had thought I'd turned it off, but think I should have pushed the switch in to do that and as I hadn't, it must have turned it to Low. Very low, cor couldn't even see a flame, just felt the warmth when I put my hand in front, and then a flame flickered (probably dust in the air burning as i walked past). So at least am comfortable whilst writing this.

Then - because I've been eating more to keep warm (and therefore not put the central heating on) found this morning I've gained back nearly a stone in weight!!! My fault for partly comfort eating as well, and NOT weighing myself every day as I used to formerly, so this week will now have to go back to eating very little, and what I do eat must be protein and no more carbs (have been eating a lot of carbs recently).

Was sitting in front of the TV last night and had (fortunately) nodded off but still able to listen to the programme. Went to switch off the TV set and it wouldn't. I even removed the plugs from the wall sockets, but still it wouldn't switch off. Pressed the central button on the set and it just pushed in and collapsed so would switch off. Thankfully, this was a dream and WAS able to turn it off when I woke up almost immediately. So what disasters await me today. With B being away, will have to deal with them on my own. So fingers crossed the gods will start smiling again.

Decided to make a beef casserole for our guests main meal (apple and blackberry pie with cream for dessert), then - when I went in the freezer to thaw out the already slow-cooked shin beef, found only one box, although was sure I had more (but couldn't find them). As this was really only enough meat for B (he eats enough for two), decided the only thing to do was thaw out a dozen D.R. meatballs and add these to the casserole - which I have to say worked a treat. They really absorbed the lovely gravy and will certainly do this again.

Decided yesterday to sort out my frozen meat (as need freezer space for puddings and other product, remember Christmas needs preparing for). So removed three packs of diced beef steak, and one brisket. Once thawed, unwrapped and put the brisket in the middle of the pot of my slow-cooker, and surrounded it by the diced beef, pouring over enough water to just cover (which filled the pot to the top). Set it on Low and cooked overnight. This morning the meat is perfect, removed from the gravy and cooling as I write. LOADS of lovely stock/gravy, which will also be frozen (some with the meat, some separately). The meat will then be boxed up to use for later casseroles, curries, chilli con carne etc.
Will be interesting to see how the brisket turns out. Normally I cook this slowing in a conventional oven, where - once cold - it is easy to slice thinly (for sarnies and Cold Meat Platter), but if not as good for this purpose when cooked in liquid, it can always be used for more casseroles or even served in thick slices with gravy as 'roast beef'.
Still have one frozen brisket in the freezer that can be cooked in the normal way.

Loads of comments to reply to, and begin with Urbanfarmgirl who also had washing machine problems (which she managed to sort out herself). The knitted blanket sounds a good idea.

We too love N.Norfolk Susan G. Lucky girl to have visited there recently. As a child (pre-war) my parents always took me to Hemsby (near Great Yarmouth - although it is not the lovely place it used to be), and years later my parents rented a house in Sheringham for three weeks holday during the summer - for several years - where we all (including B, myself and our four children), and we visited Blakeney, Cley, Wells-next-the-Sea many times.
Made me smile a bit when you said it was so far from Dorset Susan, and suppose it is to us Brits, but people from America, Australia, think that anything less than 500 miles away from home is almost 'on our doorstep'.
B drove from Morecambe/Lancaster to Bristol on Saturday, stopping for refreshments half way and think arrived at the destination about 6 hours after leaving here. Obviously distances such as this require an over-night stay if the surrounding area needs to be 'looked at'. Think the other countries (such as the US) are more likely to drive away from the larger cities for 'long-weekends' than us. Problem today is the cost of the fuel it takes to drive from A to B.

Oh dear. There was me thinking Missouri was 'just' a river Lisa. Didn't know it was a US state. Probably got the name mixed up with the Mississipi river (or is that a state also?). Just shows how much I know about America. Not sure that the Brits do know much about American states. Recently learned more after watching Stephen Fry's series where he visited American states, and more recently Billy Connelly - who drive the length of Route 66. But there seems an awful lot of 'country', between the small townships, not to mention the big cities.
We do have a very large AA roadmap of America which shows all the main highways over the whole of the US - many seem to be very straight as they run across the plains. At least this map does show the small townships and many farms and individual settlements. Should have looked more closely and then maybe would have realised Missouri was a state (somewhere down south on the left?).
But then expect the Americans don't know very much about our English 'counties', which - perhaps like the US states) are as different from one another as they can be - each with a different style of architecture, traditional dishes, and dialects. Each country having its own 'county town' which governs the region. Usually this is one of the oldest towns, not necessarily the largest.
Any town with ending with 'caster', 'cester' etc., always have Roman origins and probably some Roman remains unearthed and now on display (mosaic 'carpets' etc). Other towns - such as York, and Bath - are also 'Roman' but were given a different name at that time. Looking at a road map of England it's fairly easy to find the old Roman roads as these normally were built in straight lines, from one Roman town to another. We still have 'The Fosse Way', 'Ermine Street', Watling Street', to name but a few, and although many are still used, some parts are not, but always easily discovered as the tree-lined old roads are visible across (now) ploughed fields.
Villages (esp in the Midlands where I used to live) that ended with '', were of Viking origin.
We don't have that many new towns, can only recall 'Welwyn Garden City' and - more recently - Milton Keynes (there must be a few others). Generally though, our country is steeped in history, and many of the old buildings still remain, and will continue to do so as our heritage is very important to us.

Loved hearing about your children's friends being entranced by your crafts Lisa. What seems 'normal' to us (such as knitting, sewing and cooking) seems alien to youngsters who probably have never seen anyone use these skills before. But the memories of seeing these 'in action' will remain with them far more vividly than if just reading about them in a book. Might even get them having a go themselves. The younger they start, the more likely they are to continue.

Polly hit the nail on the head when she explained she was retired, needed to be thrifty, but has no expensive needs. Expect most of us who are - let's say 'mature' - have already bought most things we REALLY wanted. Trouble is - with continually rising prices of almost everything - can we still afford to pay for the things we NEED now? Thankfully, the older we are the more experience we have with the frugal side of life (which - in the past- was how everyone lived. Even the wealthy knew they had to count every penny. It's the 'nouveau riche' that began the 'spend, spend, spend' way of life, that everyone younger now seems to think is the normal way to live.

Sairy, you too have 'got it right'. Teaching your children necessary skills, and let us hope they will continue passing these on generation after generation.

The one thing that came across in your comment Stephanie was the pleasure you got from the bargains you found at Tesco and Waitrose. As much pleasure (and possibly even more) than someone else who had managed to buy a 'designer' handbag from a charity shop. Which I think proves that being thrifty and hunting for bargains is almost as much fun as any other 'game'. All to do with attitude. If there are any readers that feel it shameful to 'have to make do' (after a life of luxury), is not the way - look on 'cutting down' as a change of style, becoming more aware of what we can do for ourselves rather than rely on someone else (which to me is a bit 'shameful' in the first place). Hold our heads up high and be proud of our achievements.

Minimiser Deb asks if we can freeze carrot cake, and yes it can be. Lisa has sent a comment to say the same (good to know this from more than one source as I'm not always right).

Think Alison's comment to Julie re classes (in other words 'go for it'), think relates to her wishing to learn knitting. Whatever new skill we wish to know more about, then always worth getting some tuition. If classes are too expensive, if a card was put in the local post-office/newsagent window asking for tuition, am pretty sure there are older folk around who would be happy to teach in return for just the company, or maybe a home-made cake. There is nothing we older folk enjoy more than feeling 'useful' again.

Your comment saddened me Cumbrian. How true it is that children today are continually being given new things almost every week. Don't suppose they even think of these as 'gifts', just something they now expect - all the time. For them 'gifts' will be those very expensive ones given at Christmas or for birthdays. And by expensive - I mean EXPENSIVE.
The worst thing about all this is the way children have been deprived of looking forward to be given a 'gift' ONLY on those special days. Goodness me, this expectation of not knowing what we would be given was as much fun as receiving it. And it didn't need to cost a lot.

Children that have too much given too often never seem to appreciate what they have. More often than not they don't look after their 'gifts', doesn't matter if it gets broken, for they then demand a replacement (and usually get it). The only way we can get children to respect their belongings is to get them to save their pocket money and spend this on buying many of the items that they want. Believe me - once their own money has bought an item, they will look after it very carefully indeed.

With the recession, it's a good time now to have a 'family conference' where everyone sits round a table and the situation is put in front of them. No more will 'gifts' be bought throughout the year, but only given on anniversaries, and a ceiling price put on those. Anything else wanted has to be saved for using pocket money. If necessary, extra pocket money can be earned by taking on a few (more?) domestic chores.
Surprisingly, this approach often works, as children then begin to feel more 'grown-up' when they learn they can 'earn' more money by 'working', and also have the freedom to buy what they want with their 'wage'. Learning from any mistakes made as they happen.

This blog has been a reasonable length already, so have decided to pass on the 'trade secrets' tomorrow instead of (as planned) today or this posting will continue for hours.

Any 'enjoyment' you are finding re the cost-cutting/thrift approach to life you are experiencing we would love to hear about, for it will encourage others, believe me. So keep those comments coming.
Hope you can join me tomorrow, if so - see you then.