Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Decisions, Decisiona...

Late start to my blog today due to waiting until Norma (the Hair) had left. With all comments agreeing that I should use my vouchers and send in an order, give a 'blanket' thank you to all.

We were forecast even colder weather last night due to a cloudless moonlit sky, the temperate expected to be around -15C (colder than the Arctic they said). Well, this morning woke and found the grass frost free, so where the cold went to have no idea certainly it seemed to have missed Morecambe. This morning began with another cloudless start but can see it slowly becoming overcast.

Came in here this morning to find that B had left the gas fire on all night!!! It was switched to very low, so probably he thought he had switched it off, but at least it kept the chill off the air. Have given up caring about our fuel bill. Will worry about then when the current payment year ends (in July).

Am still not eager to write up a grocery order. Have made a list of what I wish to be delivered, but my on-line shopping list will contain only the very necessary then see what that total comes to before I add the not-so-necessary. With any luck I can keep to the minimum order of £90 (helped by including the ingredients for B's 'social' desserts). From then may even start to go back to how it used to be, buying only what is needed when it is needed.
Have to say, having received my credit card statement yesterday, it was good to read 'there were no transactions his month'. To make it easy for me, got my bank to pay money due directly to the credit card company each month, so that there is never any interest to pay and I don't have to remember to pay by cheque. That last two months jave had no transactions (the card is used mainly for my grocery order), so this proves (if only to me) that this 'making do with what I've got', is working out to show a genuine saving.

You could say that the food already in my larder had to be paid for initially, and this is true, but as part of my food budget always allowed for a few extra 'offers' this has helped - over the months - for stocks to be built up without going over my normal food budget. In fact, over the twelvemonth this means my average monthly food expense is well below the 'set' budget (this being fairly low in any case). Several years back, on checking old Tesco statements (and this when food was cheaper than it is now) I used to always spend up to my limit, and having reduced this twice since then, and still managing to save, must be doing something right.

Having a quick 'stock-take' in the larder yesterday realised that the only canned products used regularly have been baked beans, soups and corned beef. Still have plenty of sardines, tuna, salmon, pilchards; also canned red beans, chickpeas; and plenty of cans of chopped and plum tomatoes. A whole shelf of jams, marmalade and other preserves.
The other side of the larder (the 'dry goods') appear almost to have been untouched, although have used quite a bit of flour, sugar, dried fruit etc when baking. But then had such a good supply at the start, hardly miss what has gone.

Definitely it is the fresh produce (fruit/veg) plus cheese, butter, eggs, milk, bacon...that now needs replacing, and with enough self-control will confine myself to these, plus topping up the shortage re the canned supplies. It will be interesting just to see how little I really need. although almost certainly will have to add a few more products to bring the total up to the minimum of £90. More about this when the order has been delivered, as only then will I find what (after the vouchers and bogofs have been deducted).

As mentioned in comments, food bought doesn't HAVE to be used immediately. The longer-storage foods can go on a higher shelf while I still work through the remainder of my stock. I''ve just remembered I've got home-made baked beans in the freezer, so even though will probably order more canned baked beans, these can be stored out of (my) reach until the home-made are used up.

This morning for 'breakfast' ate the last tiny wedge of cheese quiche that B had left (he had eaten the rest). Even small it was surprisingly satisfying. Realised this was because it contained cheese, eggs and cream. All protein (ignore the fat). Yet - breaking it down, barely a quarter of an egg in my portion, and about a couple of teaspoons of grated cheese, so the calorie count also fairly low.

So, working on the fact that protein is 'filling', and eggs need not be THAT expensive, it makes sense to occasionally make a meal of an omelette. We can serve these at any meal of the day (breakfast, lunch or supper). Just to make them more interesting (especially to children) why not colour them? Here are some suggestions...

Tomato Omelette: serves 2
3 medium eggs
1 tblsp milk
2 tblsp tomato puree/paste
salt and pepper
small knob of butter, or teaspoon oil
1 large tomato, sliced
few basil leaves, torn into shreds
Put the eggs, milk and tomato puree into a bowl with seasoning to taste, then beat lightly together.
Heat the butter/oil in an omelette pan, then add the egg mixture and cook for 3 - 4 minutes, pushing sides to middle, then tilting the pan so the runny egg drains back to fill the side gaps (if - like some chefs do - you stir the mixture it ends up like scrambled egg).
When the top has set, arrange the slices of tomato over one half, sprinkle on the basil, add more seasoning if you wish, then fold over the second half and slide onto a plate. Serve immediately.

Spinach and Cheese Omelette: serves 2
4 oz (100g) spinach, steamed and wilted
3 eggs
2 tblsp milk
2 oz (50g) ricotta or curd cheese (crumbled)
salt and pepper
knob butter, or teaspoon oil
Drain the spinach, squeezing out as much water as possible, then blitz to a puree (or mash/chop with a fork or knife). Put the eggs and milk into a bowl and beat together, then stir in the spinach puree, adding seasoning to taste.
Heat the butter or oil in an omelette pan and pour in the egg mixture, pushing sides to middle as it begins to set, then tilting the pan so the uncooked egg flows down to the side.
When just set on top, sprinkle over the cheese, adding a little more pepper to taste, then fold the omelette in half. Slide onto a plate and serve immediately.

Another way of colouring an omelette is to use beetroot juice. This 'colour effect' also works well with pancakes, and as these are often served as a dessert, they can also be coloured with cocoa powder to make chocolate flavoured ones.

Taking our 'own' packed lunch to work instead of buying it en route from the stores has now become more popular - mainly because it is cheaper - so it is worth keeping the 'basics' then adding what protein we have, then each time it can taste slightly different. To the 'basic' could also be added chunks of cucumber, slices of red or yellow bell pepper, sliced radishes, grated carrot, a spoonful of capers... the decision is up to you.

Basic Lunchbox Salad: serves 1
3 lettuce leaves
1 tomato, sliced
small wedge of red onion, finely sliced
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley or mint
1 tblsp vinegar of your choice (balsamic is good)
half can tuna, drained and flaked OR
half can salmon, drained and flaked OR
cooked sliced chicken (could be scraps) OR
sliced cooked ham (could be scraps) OR
sliced cooked beef (could be scraps) OR
few (frozen, thawed) cooked prawns OR
slices of Smoked Salmon (could be scraps) OR
piece of smoked mackerel OR
Scotch Egg, halved OR
hard-boiled egg, quartered or sliced
To assemble the lunchbox, arrange the lettuce in the base of the box, top with the tomato then spoon the chosen 'extras' on top. Scatter over the onion and herbs and sprinkle with a little vinegar and seasoning to taste. Cover with the lid and store in a cool place (or take to work in an insulated cool bag with an ice-pack to keep it chilled).

Final recipe today is a vegetarian curry. Another that could be taken to work for lunch (as long as there is a microwave to reheat it - alternatively take it to work in a wide-mouthed thermos).
The cheese used should be 'panner' (an Indian cheese made from yogurt), but tofu, feta, soft goat's cheese or even Wensleydale would work in much the same way.

Vegetarian Balti: serves 4
2 tsp sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tblsp medium curry powder
1 pint (600ml) vegetable stock
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 lb (450g) potatoes, cut into chunks
9 oz (250g) cauliflower florets
3 oz (75g) frozen peas
4 oz (100g) paneer, cut into cubes (see above)
salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion for about 5 minutes until softened, then stir in the garlic, ground coriander, cumin and curry powder and cook for a further minute.
Add the stock, tomatoes and potatoes, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Fold in the cauliflower and cook for a further 10 minutes until tender.
Finally, stir in the peas and cheese, allowing a few minutes to heat through, taste and add seasoning if you feel it needs it. Serve hot with salad or long-grain rice.

Made my usual error yesterday when it came to giving names. Of course it wasn't Jack Strawbridge (of the Hungry Sailors) it was Dick Strawbridge. Don't know why, but I never do seem to get names right.
Was read the Oxford Book of English Verse this morning whilst under the hair dryer so when looking up 'The Lady of Shalott' saw she had only one 'l' in her name (me of course, adding an extra 'l' and only giving her one 't', to turn her into a little onion. So another mistake by me.
However, did notice that 'the mirror cracked from side to side' was a line from the L of S, having so far only come across this phrase as the title of an Agatha Christie Miss Marple novel.

So many names of films/series etc seem to have originated in poems. Came across several as I flicked through the pages: 'Sabrina fair'. 'The Darling Buds of May', to name but two. Shakespeare was full of quotes that we use today. Am now hooked on reading poetry.

Must go now as need a final check of my fridge shelves before writing up my order, even though may not arrange for the delivery until next week, so plenty of time for me to add, subtract to my shopping list if needs be. More often than not I subtract things that tempted me at the time, but a day or two after decided they were not that appealing after all - this is one good thing about on-line shopping, we can enjoy being tempted, even take advantage, but don't have the downside that shopping in store brings when we find we have brought home what we didn't really need (or even want) in the first place. With on-line shopping we have time to control our impulse buying.

Another lovely sunny day it is turning out to be, but hope that all readers who are knee-deep in snow are managing to get to work without any problems. Other countries who have a lot worse snowfall than we ever get seem to manage perfectly. Trust Britain to always get caught short when it comes to bad weather. Our weather being so uncertain, and because of this seems to be our main topic of conversation, you would think we could cope with whatever nature throws at us. But a few years without much snow and then a sudden blizzard and everyone panics and the nation grinds to a halt.

Lovely programme on last night all about how plants began to appear on this earth, and the very necessary role they still play. Looking forward to the next episode. If you missed it, watch it on iPlayer.

Will be back at normal time tomorrow (if the comp doesn't play up) so hope to see you then.