Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Doing a U Turn Might be Moneysaving.

Yesterday's post brought me more Tesco food vouchers. Have to admit I was impressed. Not only did I have £4.50 more points vouchers to add to the the previous £13.50 (valid until the end of 2013) BUT there were three extra vouchers, even though each had to be used within a shorter time limit. The February one was the best, this being £13. Lesser amounts for March, ditto April.
Also the emailed voucher for £7.50 'off my next order' is still waiting to be used. If I order before 26th Feb and make use of this extra £13 Feb.only voucher with the others that can be used, then will have £38.50 that can be deducted from my order. To good to miss. What do you think?

There is a condition, to use the Feb voucher, the bill has to come to £90 (not including delivery charges), but as long as the total cost is £90, any vouchers, discounts, bogofs etc, are deducted afterwards and this lesser amount is the amount to be paid. Even this - due to using my credit card - won't be deducted from my bank for at least a month after delivery.
As B tells me his social club will pay me for the ingredients to make the desserts for their Italian supper, and as part of my order can now inclued these, this amount also can be deducted from the final amount due, so am hoping any of my own money paid towards the bill will be quite a small amount.

Do you know, I've just about talked myself into taking up these vouchers and seemingly now will be doing a U turn from yesterday's determination to stick it out until all the foods were used up. Typical woman, always changing her mind.

Perhaps it was yesterday's supper that pointed me in this direction (even by then was toppling off my pedestal after totted up the money vouchers and seen the gaping gaps in my fridge and an empty drawer sobbing its socks off in the freezer.
Beloved had requested chicken for supper, and as I had discovered a frozen quarter chicken lurking under a pack of pastry, decided to thaw and cook that for him, initially intending to do the full Monty, chicken, stuffing, sausage, bread sauce, bacon rolls, roast spuds, sprouts etc. But then had no potatoes for roasting, only 6 small 'new' potatoes left, and wanted to save these. Canned spuds wouldn't roast, and so decided to serve mash (well, Smash!). There wasn't even one sausage left, so in the end 'chickened out' (sorree!!) of the full 'dinner', and just roasted the quarter chicken with Bubble and Squeak (made with mashed 'instant' and squashed sprouts). Even before I got that far, changed the plan. Instead beat a spoon of Dijon mustard into the mash, fried some diced smoked streaky bacon until crisp, folding this into the mash then plonked the lot into the frying pan (this still had bacon fat in it) and fried it like a large Hash Brown until crispy and deeply golden on both sides. Served this with the roast chicken and cooked button sprouts.
Think the meal was acceptable. Didn't really care by then as was fretting over my depleting stocks of 'the fresh', wondering whether I should or should not order. Those pounds signs on the vouchers floating before my eyes. Decisions, decisions. Normally know exactly where I'm going, yesterday was faced with more than one path to follow, and which was the best one to take?

At least during the afternoon (and because the oven would be on to roast the chicken) managed to make a Bakewell Tart using up some home-cooked jam smeared over a pastry base, then topped with sponge cake batter and flaked almonds before baking. Have to say having the flour, sugar and Stork already weighed out made it very easy to 'throw' together.

As there was some pastry left over (yes thawed out a pack of that too), decided to grate the last of the Red Leicester and Cheddar cheeses that I found in the fridge (under something else), and make a quiche with 3 eggs and half a tub of double cream (still have two more tubs of UHT cream in the fridge). The cake and quiche meant that 5 eggs were used, this leaving me now with only five (or is it four?). Managed to cook the lot at the same temperature 180C..(well at least two at a time - the quiche case blind-baked first, then filled and put into the oven, followed by the cake baked on shelf underneath, then quiche removed and chicken put on top shelf, then cake removed, immediately turning the oven up to 200C to finish up crisping the chicken skin for the last 10 or so minutes.

B suggested he has some of the quiche for tonight's supper, and as I saw a bit of watercress in the fridge (he had sneaked in a bag of this without me knowing), he can have watercress, and oven chips with it, maybe also some home-cooked ham. That should be satisfying enough. He can have Bakewell for pud (hot or cold), or maybe I'll make an apple and blackberry crumble and he can have the Bakewell for one of his later snacks.

When I got up this morning, saw the roofs of garages and houses glistening white. Goody, I thought, there has been a light fall of snow. But there was no snow on the paths, and although the lawn is far whiter than it has been recently, all this was causes by a severe frost that gives the impression of a winter wonderland. Today there is wall to wall blue sky, lovely to look at as long as we stay under cover.

Without needing to do much cooking today, and no need to venture out, am almost certain I will be sitting here writing up an on-line Tesco order and feeling guilty because I feel I've given up too soon, but also triumphant (thanks to the vouchers) in that I'll have managed to re-stock for one of the lowest costs for many months. Isn't there a poem about treating triumph and disaster both the same? Doesn't matter who wins or who loses, what really matters is to 'play on, play on, and play the game'. Or am I mixing up two quotes from two different poems? Doesn't really matter, it's the thought that counts, so that's what I intend to do. Enjoy the moment when I sit and re-order knowing I'll have saved a lot of money (of course would have saved more if I hadn't ordered at all, but SOME things would have to have been bought, so my shopping list needs to be tackled with caution). Not sure what I'll feel like when it all arrives. Guilty again? Well, if we treat all problems that recession has given us as though they were a game that we aim to win (but be aware that we could lose if we are not careful) then perhaps this is the best approach. Feel I'm now making excuses for what might be about to happen, so will quickly move on to chatting about something else.

Didn't watch Superscrimpers last night, mainly due to B wishing to watch another channel at that time. Perhaps I've been too long a 'scrimper', as there doesn't seem anything in progs such as these that seems new to me. In fact find it quite depressing seeing (weekly) how much money is wasted today by families on things they feel they really need, and the thought of giving anything up smacks of downright deprivation.
In my day only the nobility could afford the good life that many who live only on benefits seem to have (or expect to have) today. Working class lived within their means, and this being only the money. Credit cards were the worst thing to happen, for once they came on the scene then those who gave no thought to their future began to spend, spend, spend so much money that they could only afford to pay back the interest - still owing the full balance for probably the rest of their lives.

Superscrimpers is a programme certainly helpful for the younger folk who have probably never been taught domestic skills (sewing, knitting, patchwork, cooking...), and do hope they watch and begin copying what they see. Maybe the programme will be repeated, so I can then catch up with what has been missed, possibly even learning something new myself. There is always something new to be learned. Still enjoy the thrill when I do.

One programme I love to watch is 'Hungry Sailors' (ITV 4.00pm). The 'sailors' being Jack Strawbridge and his son James. My goodness, just hearing James speak is enough to make me swoon. Just love his voice, and add to this his looks and I just wish I was 20 again!!!

Suppose in a way this is a programme for all sexes. Cookery for the women, and 'how to' for the men, for Jack is a very clever inventor (worked in this capacity for the army I believe), so if they haven't the equipment (being based on a boat) then he 'invents' a sort of Heath Robinson version. A smokehouse, a barbecue, a wind-vane to grind coffee beans etc. A fascinating and a very watchable programme.
The format of the prog was 'sailing round the British Isles to cook and use local produce'. They stop off and watch much being made (cheese, yogurt, honey, preserves, Cornish pasties etc...) and go to farms to see local pigs, sheep, cows etc. Also see bees making honey, vegetables and fruit being grown, also forage for wild produce and do some fishing. James and Jack also make up their own versions to compete against each other.

So far they have sailed along the south coast of England, from Cornwall along the English Channel via the Isle of Wight, (at present), yesterday they were at Eastbourne. Believe the series ends this week, but hopefully the plan is to eventually go round all of our islands, and we will next find out what the east coast has to offer, another series doing Scotland, then back down the west coast, stopping off at the Isle of Man, and finally reaching Cornwall again.
Definitely a series worth watching for all sorts of reasons. We don't even need to be interested in cooking (although there is much there worth learning about, especially as most of the food is prepared and cooked in a small ships' galley by Jack and James, served up to 6 (or more) guests.

Yesterday felt cold (as I do) and instead of getting myself a mug or coffee, or bothering to make a soup from scratch (time being of the essence) decided to stir a spoonful of Marmite into a mug of boiling water and drink that. Have to say this was almost as good as 'soup', a sort of vegetarian 'consomme' it could be called. Certainly warming and quite satisfying in its own way.
Suppose this is why 'cuppa soups' are so useful, as an almost instant way to warm ourselves up. Perhaps fortunately for me, have discovered there is some additive or preservative in cuppa soups that appears to cause my allergy (facial swelling), as this continues to happen if a cuppa soup has been used (as a soup or thickening to a casserole). So, whereas once I was addicted to cuppa soups, have now run down my stock, just leaving a few oxtail and chicken for B to make up and put in his flask to drink when he goes out in the 'safety boat' during cold sailing days.

Recently gave a recipe using uncooked porridge oats with berry fruits. Surprise, surprise...came across something very similar in another cook book (there are very few 'new' recipes, most are adaptations of a basic one). This too is worth making as it starts off with frozen berries (so can be made all year round). Instead of serving with porridge for breakfast, why not serve the berries with hot (or cold) rice pudding as a dessert. Dare I suggest using a can of creamed rice instead of cooking from scratch? If time is limited and children need temping to eat some of their five-a-day, then why not?
For an even creamier texture, soak the oats in the milk/water mixture for half an hour before cooking. This helps them to soften up and also they will take less time to cook. If you wish, you could make the compote in advance and keep in the fridge, also soak the oats overnight and also keep in the fridge, then it will only take a very few minutes to make the porridge and spoon over the cold compote.
Both arrowroot and cornflour work the same way - they thicken a liquid. The only difference is that when using arrowroot the thickened 'sauce' is clear, using cornflour it is opaque. Clear gives a better appearance with fruit and some savoury dishes (pie fillings, stir-fry sauce etc). Cornflour (or plain flour) best kept for thickening gravy or savoury dishes such as casseroles.

Scandinavian Oats with Fruit Compote: serves 4
11 oz (300g) frozen summer berries
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
pinch of ground cinnamon
cold water
1 rounded tsp arrowroot or cornflour (see above)
6 oz (175g) porridge oats
1 pint (600ml) milk
14 fl oz (400ml) water
Make the compote by putting the frozen fruits in a pan with the sugar, cinnamon and the 3 tblsp water. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, giving the pan an occasional shake. Then when the sugar has dissolved and the fruit softened and liquid simmering, dissolve the arrowroot or cornflour with a little cold water then add to the compote and stir until thickened. This compote can then be served hot or cold as you wish.
Meanwhile, put the porridge oats with the milk, salt and the 400ml water into a pan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then cook/stir for 5 minutes or until thickened. Divide between four bowls, and spoon the compote on top.

You know how I've taken to pre-weighing my cake ingredients as it saves so much preparation time on the day of making. Here is another 'ready-mix' you can make up and store ready for when you fancy making gingerbread cookies. It only needs three more (moist) ingredients to be added on the day, so what could be easier than that?

Make-ahead Gingerbread Cookie 'mix':
14 oz (400g) soft light brown sugar
4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
7 oz (200g) chopped crystallised ginger
1.2 lb (500g) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Mix all the ingredients together than divide into four equal weights, bag up and store in an airtight container in a cool place.
When ready to cook, take one bag and add:
5 oz (150g) butter melted
1 tblsp golden syrup
1 egg yolk
Mix well together then knead into a dough. Chill for 15 minutes before rolling out. Cut into biscuits and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 8 - 10 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

Must reply to your comments before I wind up for today.
Hope you are feeling better Lisa, there is nothing more miserable than having a cold, especially during the winter. I noticed that Tesco sells dried black turtle beans, and as you (and others) have mentioned these as being particularly 'meaty' in flavour, think I will order a pack. Am sure alpaca wool is incredibly warming (most natural 'wools' are). Quite a few alpaca farms are around this area, so obviously their wool is becoming popular. Is alpaca meat edible? Or shouldn't I even be thinking along those lines?

If all your party food was eaten up Urbanfarmgirl, then this has to be all credit due to the cook. As with anything creative, it is more the pleasure of making to please, rather than keeping for our own enjoyment, and this is the good thing about food. Make it and it *hopefully)disappears, so continually giving us the chance to keep on creating. It might be even better if we could SELL it, but then we should never consider money to be the be all and end all of our world should we? Just enjoy the making and let others enjoy the 'freebies' that come from our kitchen.

Stephanie's comment reminded me about how on freezing days the cream used to freeze in the milk bottles on our doorstep - would go to fetch them in in the morning and the cap would have been pushed up a good inch with solid cream sticking out. I used to lever out the frozen cream and keep it separate (with the rest) to serve with puddings etc.
In those days we had cream at the top of our milk, nowadays it is all 'homogenised' and mixed in with the milk. Really don't know why they do this as, in the 'old days' we could make our own 'semi-skimmed' by syphoning the cream from the top of the milk. In fact when I bought the extra rich Channel Island milk, after removing the cream (quite lot of that in each bottle) used then to water the left-over milk down to bring it back to a pint (equal to today's semi-) and so still had a pint of milk PLUS the free cream (rich enough to be whipped, made into butter or clotted cream.

Regarding cooking rice. Myself find easy-cook works for me, but then I use two measures of rice to three measures of water (not twice as much water to rice), and it cooks perfectly with no left-over moisture or stickiness. Also find if I soak the rice (ordinary or easy-cook) for several hours beforehand in the water, it absorbs some of it so then takes barely 5 minutes (often less) boiling to be fully cooked and tender.
Everyone seems to have their own pet way of cooking rice, so each to his own, but if any of you have problems you could try my suggestion above. Then let us know if it works.

Can't believe how time goes by so quickly, it is now after 11.00 (and I got up at 7.00am), but then it always seems to when enjoying ourselves (as when 'chatting' to you). Can remember how a morning in school seemed to be endless, then how quickly school holidays seemed to pass by.
When sitting under the hair dryer, and twiddling my fingers, it seems to take ages for my hair to dry. Yet, now - reading a book or cookery mag whilst sitting there - can barely read more than a few pages before up Norma gets and switches off said dryer and starts brushing out my hair. Incredible how time can seem to stretch or contract according to what we are doing.

'Nuf said. If I don't publish this now, it will be time to start thinking about what to eat for my lunch (not yet having had breakfast). My tummy is rumbling, hunger is setting in, so had better make a move now to cook up something low cal before I give in and have a full fry-up.

Despite the cold weather we are having, at least each day the days are growing longer, the nights shorter (don't mind nights as am having loads of lovely dreams these days, often going to bed earlier than B so as to get more 'dream time'), and all too soon it will be time to sow those seeds and prepare the garden for the planting out. Even before that there is (next week) Valentine's Day to plan for, followed the next week (?) by Pancake Day. Then perhaps might even consider giving up something for Lent. Like giving up cooking? That's a thought.

Hope you find time to join me tomorrow and have our virtual 'coffee break' together. See you then.