Thursday, January 19, 2012

What's Gratitude?

Believe it or not it is now after 9.00am, and only just sat down to first read the comments, and then begin to write. I blame the lavender 'room spray' that I discovered when spending time tidying my wardrobe when the phone line was down. Each night since I've been spraying my pillow pillow with some and this means I drop of to sleep very rapidly and have the most wonderful dreams!
Beloved has still not yet risen, so it might be an idea if we reduce the time the central heating is on as it switches itself off at 9.00am. No-one up to appreciate it, although once we do get up the 'house' (I like to call it that even if it is still only the bottom half of one), has warmed up enough for us to be comfortable.
So with time pressing on had better begin today's 'chat'.

Thanks to all who told me not to bother about my 'non-appreciative' family. My daughter is also very canny when she shops, just think the other day she felt (perhaps because of her not-so recent and continuing illness) that it is better to enjoy rather than limit.
Her illness has not yet been fully diagnosed, she still has further visits to consultants etc before she can get some written confirmation that she is unfit for work, and until then cannot claim any allowance/benefit for this. However - on the good side - it does seem (so far) that she doesn't have M.S. (all her many symptoms were pointing in that direction - and these still haven't gone away).

When it comes to my 'challenge' My Beloved seems unaware of what I am aiming to do - blog-wise. Perhaps because, being a man, he is more concerned about his life than others, and as long as he is well fed, doesn't really care much about the cost. Often he really doesn't seem to appreciate the quality of some of the meals made for him. Perhaps he has just got too used to them. Gratitude for anything is not in his genes, so I ought not to be surprised, but it would have been good to hear him say how much he liked his supper yesterday. This 'thrown' together after the freezer had been defrosted, when I began using up some fish (of which I seem to have plenty.)

His meal was a 'sea-food' risotto (of sorts). It really did taste good as I sampled a little just prior to serving. This time I thawed a pack of 'Fish Pie Mix' (and the amount in this seems now to be far less than it used to be). Cooked this off (more sauteed than fried) in butter, then removed from pan and tipped half a pack of Basmati and Thai Rice (microwave type) in the pan, added a little white wine and brought it to the simmer, threw in a few frozen peas, and then some thawed small cooked prawns, and then put back the fish. There were three large scallops I also found, so had thawed these out (eat with its coral coloured roe) and left these for B to quickly cook as they needed to be 'perfect', and he says he knows how to cook them (having caught them when on one of his scuba-dive holiday, bring back a dozen or so (free) and cook and eat them.

Other than the scallops, there was less amount of a 'fish risotto' that would previously have been served to B when he was not trying to lose weight, due this time to possibly making the meal with only half the rice normally served (the rest of the pack now in the freezer). When he came into the living room I asked him how the scallops were. "OK, but didn't have much taste" he said. "Pity I said, they alone cost over £5! In fact the fish served in your meal came to a total of £8.60p and that's not counting the butter, rice, wine an lemon to squeeze over, hoped you enjoyed it". He looked grumpy "it was too much" he replied "had difficulty eating it all!" I said he didn't have to eat it all, he could have left some and I could either have eaten the left-overs myself or made the remainder into a Koulibiac, or even a fish cake or two. Maybe it was because he had it served on one of the ordinary dinner plates instead of his previous 'meat platter' it just looked more than it was. Have to say even I could have downed the amount made (but not the scallops, don't care for those). Maybe he was just in a bad mood.

Mind you, whenever I've suggested he needn't eat all I've cooked for him, as "I can eat any leftover myself, but you can have it all if you want", he often then eats it all or just leaves a little (like a tablespoon) in the pan. He often leaves just a bare teaspoon of jam or marmalade in the bottom of a jar "as I know you don't like me eating things up without letting you know". Well, why doesn't he just eat up and let me know? So many times I find jars in the fridge with not enough redcurrant jelly or mint sauce left in the pots to serve a flea let alone me. Think a lot of men can be like that. My B is only one of millions. Why did God invent two sexes? Life would be so much simpler with only one. Other creatures manage to reproduce without the complexities of needing another sex. Next time think I'll come back as a snail.

Just as well I don't - at the moment - budget the costs for each meal served, it would have been cheaper to serve B sea bass yesterday than what was eventually made.
But however much B did not seem to appreciate his supper (well at least not as much as I hoped he would), it does prove that when using up what I've got, a really good 'restaurant-type' meal can be still be served. And so hope this will continue for some time as I've found there is still plenty of meat/fish in the small freezer, and several more 'to use up' in the freezer side of Boris.

Much of course depends on 'what I've got', and probably far more than others might have, so I'll
give a run-down of what is now in the small freezer (having written a list), and before you are all disgusted at the amount, do remember that much of the meat was bought on-line WHEN ON OFFER, and as this has a much longer storage life than any bought from the supermarket, some has been there a year - and purchased from money DELIBERATELY saved because I was then doing my 'use up what I've got' month. So like to think of it as almost 'free' meat.
The lamb shanks come from Tesco. These are only (only?) £5 for two, but pre-cooked and with gravy, and just need reheating for 1 hr. 10 minutes. The same bought 'raw' from the butcher would be dearer and take three times as long to cook. Chicken livers also from Tesco - again cheaper than elsewhere. So this way saves both money and fuel.
Some of the beef mince was a bulk buy from Barton Grange, as were the chicken breasts. Fresh (farmed) salmon bought from the Smokehouse at Glasson where they sometimes do sell who fresh salmon very cheaply indeed, and let us know when it is available. Filleted by them, and cut into chunks by me once brought home, tightly wrapped in foil, it freezes very well indeed.

Shirley's frozen 'selection':
Chicken: 2 packs chicken livers; 8 chicken breasts; 1 quarter chicken; 7 chicken winglets.
Beef: 3 packs x 12 meatballs; 3 packs diced steak; 3 packs minced beef; 1 pack 4 mini-burgers; 1 pack ox liver.
(In 'Boris', are several packs of sliced cooked brisket, with and without gravy, also several packs of cooked stewing steak in gravy).
Pork/Ham: 3 pork chops; two chunks uncooked gammon (cut from a larger joint bought for ham); 10 sausages; and - in Boris - 8 packs sliced cooked ham.
Lamb: 5 lamb shanks, 1 pack diced stewing lamb.
Fish: 2 x 520g packs white fish fillets, one pack of smoked haddock; 1 pack small cooked peeled prawns; 2 packs Jumbo prawns; six chunks of fresh salmon, one big pack of fresh salmon 'pieces', one large pack of whitebait.
Vegetables/fruit: I large pack each garden peas and string beans. Three containers of cooked butter beans; one bag of oven chips. One bag of blackberries.
Other: two packs each of shortcrust and puff pastry.

Apart from the meats/berries (which I wrap to the number or weight I need at any one time) everything else is in unopened packs.
'Boris' frozen section is packed full, mainly cooked meats to reheat or eat cold, lots more fruit, grated cheese, desserts, a few home-made 'ready-meals', opened bags of veggies and chips, more pastry, lots of different stocks, 'cubes' of tomato puree, wine, herbs etc. And lots more. Well - think today I should have a sort of these and make yet another list.

Now to your comments.
Did you find the black beans had a different flavour than other canned beans (which I feel taste almost the same) Susan G? Lisa has mentioned using these, and I think a variety is called black 'turtle beans', these maybe having a slightly different flavour.

Coming now to Lisa's reply, myself forgot to mention goose and turkey in my list of 'meat's' sold here. Traditionally, these were cooked and eaten for Christmas (one or t'other, not both for the same meal), but nowadays minced turkey and sliced raw turkey breast' (aka 'escalopes') are on sale as an alternative to chicken, often cheaper than chicken.
Have tried beef 'jerky' and cannot say found it enjoyable. Far too 'chewy' for me (have never liked chewing gum for the same reason, chew, chew, chew and it's still there!!). Perhaps, in the old days, dried beef 'jerky', could be used in a similar way to dried fish - soak to soften it, and then cook where it then should end up like cooked raw 'fresh' beef.

An inn near Glasson is run by a South African, and on the menu he has several S.A. dishes, one salad served with Biltong, which is very similar to 'jerky' and that I found most unpleasant to eat. But that's just me. Perhaps - if younger and my teeth were stronger - I could cope with all that chewing. Not these days.

If anyone does have access to plenty of 'free' fruit and veg, then dehydrating the produce seems a very good idea. Have myself dried mushrooms, and then ground them up to a powder to add to casseroles etc, and this does help to give a very good flavour and also take up far less storage room than when dried 'sliced' or even fresh.
Making our own dried fruits also an excellent idea and possibly (once the dehydrator has been bought) would work out cheaper than bought dried fruits. Over time the 'appliance' should pay for itself.

Les has answered your query re cooking 'sous-vide' in a slow cooker minimiser deb. Knew he'd have the answer. Other than the cost of fuel, wonder if it is possible to 'sous-vide' by filling a casserole with water, bringing it to the right temperature in a very slow oven (say 60C) and then immersing the vacuum packed meat in this to cook on for hours.
Incidentally, have seen many cooks very tightly clingwrap the meat they have chosen to cook, then twisting the ends to get rid of all the air, knot it and then immerse the meat in the water-bath, so maybe a 'proper' vacuum sealed bag is not needed after all.

Myself have found the easiest way to remove air from a bag is to gather the top tightly, then put it to my lips and suck out the air, then immediately twist and then tie the top. Sounds -and possibly is - unhygienic, but no air is blown in, and the squeamish could just stick a drinking straw into the back, gather the top as tightly as possible without squashing the straw and then suck the air out of that. Also have gadget, a bit like a large icing syringe, where the point of that is stuck into the bag, the end pulled out and this also sucks out the air. Somewhat like a bicycle pump - this I suppose could also be used!

Loved the sound of your crocheted rug/throw Eileen. Have to say the one made for my by my daughter is far cosier than any 'throw' bought for me. Also loved hearing about your pirate 'treasure hunt' that proves yet again we don't have to spend much money (if any) to give children a real fun experience.
Don't know whether it is done so much these days, but when our children were young, on Easter Sunday we used to hide quite small Easter Eggs in the garden, and they would have to hunt for them. Only allowed one each, so everyone got their fair share.

By the way, an easier way of making curd cheese is not to sieve it. Instead freeze a tub of cottage cheese, as during freezing this breaks up the lumps and when thawed and mixed together with a fork ends up exactly like curd cheese, and can be used as such.
When cottage cheese is close to its use-by date it is very much reduced in price. This is the time to buy and freeze, then you will always have curd cheese when you need it.

Thanks to Alison for her comment, and also to everyone who has let me know they find my hints and tips useful. Which reminds me the new 'Superscrimpers' will be back on TV, starting next Monday at 8.00pm Channel 4.

Seems that in both America and Canada 'Groundhog Day' is Feb. 2nd. (thanks to Margie and Lisa for commenting on this tradition). It sounds as though the film was about a true and to some extent factual event, set in the town of that strange name (was that the real town in the film, if so it was very attractive?). No doubt it will be repeated again this year, on Feb. 2nd! In which case I will watch it again (and again when it is repeated).

Going back to an earlier comment by Lisa, can't now remember who followed Troy in Midsomer Murders, but think that Barnaby had three 'side-kicks' during the series. The last one is still in the most recent series, where Barnaby - having retired - is now replaced by his 'screen cousin', another Barnaby, who is not (to me) nearly as good as John Nettles, being much slower-paced, and so now don't watch it any more, but still watch the old repeats where every episode is well worth watching.

There are times where the location is not filmed in the Midsomer series 'vicinity', although often supposed to be. Generally it is, but occasionally they have done an episode where the architecture is more east coast (houses with flint stone walls and different shaped roof tiles etc) instead of the more timber and plaster, thatched roof and brick walls that are over to the central and south west where Midsomer area is supposed to be. Mind you, England is relatively small (compared to America), believe you can fit 12 of us into the area taken by Texas, so what difference does 100 miles take? In real life, Barnaby would not step into an area controlled by another police section (called a 'manor' I believe), although they do work together when solving major crimes such as a killing.

Regarding B paying for his own 'treats' Margie. When it comes to 'snacks' such as crisps, lemonade, the occasional fruit loaf, bars of chocolate, tubs of ice-cream, normally he doesn't ask me to pay. However, with this current challenge of mine, food such as cheese, meat pies and the like count as 'proper food', so have to be included in any money paid out for food used as part of a meal, as then this leaves stored goods that would nave normally been used still intact. Perhaps I am too concerned, for the more left in store the longer it will last, it's just that I did hope to last out as long as possible and pay very little to 'top up', and it irks me when money is paid for food I deem 'unnecessary' - at this time. Not that a lot of money HAS been paid out so far, maybe I am just being too strict with myself. After three months THEN it will be interesting to find out just how much topping up HAS needed to be done. Easy enough to make two lists - one for the necessary need-to-buy food and one for B's unable-to-control-himself purchases. Could let him have a bit of a free rein after all and let him prove to everyone how men are unable to stick to a budget and women can.

Lovely day today, sun is shining, a light breeze, and seemingly not quite as cold as before. We still expect colder weather this weekend, but as long as the sun shines, who cares? Me, I'm staying indoors, sorting out the frozen side of Boris, hope also to make a fruit loaf, and maybe some cake.

Last night was allowed to watch only a very few minutes of Heston's cookery prog, (due to a footie match), but enough there to interest me. Seems that men seem to enjoy using far more gadget's than a woman would. Using a spray-gun to coat a gateau with chocolate is something I can visualise Les having a go at. Me, I'd just coat with a sifting of cocoa ( if you wish to coat a gateau evenly, and it can be frozen, freeze it first then it can be held between hands and - like wheel - be rolled over a dish filled with the chosen coating (cocoa, grated choc. etc), the top coating put on after the sides are done. Freezing makes the cake solid, so far easier to deal with than when normally 'soft').

Slicing a sponge type cake in half is often difficult as a knife needs to be kept the same height from the base as it slices, the tendency is for one half to be thicker one side than the other. An easier way is to get a long length of sewing cotton, place the middle of this at the back of the cake exactly where you wish the cut to be, then wrap the ends round the cake, crossing them over at the front so they cross at the same depth as you wish to cut, then just pull the ends to the left and right. The cotton cuts through the cake very evenly and gives a clean finish.

No recipe today as the late start means a late finish. Coffee time break is now long past, so had better finish now in case someone is gasping for a read. Need myself to 'get on' while there is still a little morning left (I work best in the morning). Can't wait until tomorrow to sit down and read all your lovely comments (so please keep on sending them). By now many of you will have reached the end of the first four/five weeks of the challenge (which in my case began after my last delivery, several days before Christmas. Others may have started it once Christmas was over). It will be interesting to find out how many of you have managed to keep those pennies in your purse, or even if purchasing a worthy 'best-buy', if you have still managed to end up spending less that you would normally if not on this 'challenge'. Please let us know. TTFN.