Thursday, March 22, 2012

Saving The Easy Way

Am struggling to find new ways to save, so am now having to resort to making use of previous savings and asking B to keep his eyes open when he shops. For instance, yesterday B asked if I wanted anything from Morrison's (as he just loves wandering round that store) and as I needed a new jar of Marmite, wrote that down on my 'shopping list', along with iceberg lettuce (as had run out of that as well, as am I'm trying to lose weight, I eat a lot of lettuce...!). Also on the paper put "check price of Nescafe Original and if either the 200g or 300g on offer, then buy two or three jars" (have to be exact with B or he gets things wrong). We still had two jars of coffee yet untouched, but as only buy when on offer, need to keep an eye on prices in Morrison's and Tesco.
Lo and behold, Morrison's were doing a '300g for the price of 200g' on Nescafe Original, so was able to get 'more to store'. Was very pleased as not only did this make a real saving, but I would also the emptied jars could be used for storage. So suppose that could be counted as the 'saving of the day'.

Remembered yesterday how I also save most of the containers that many foods are packed in. Empty plastic mushroom boxes are filled with soil and used to grow mixed salad leaves (the larger, oblong mushroom boxes I use as a container for 'tiramisu' etc.
Most of the foil containers are also kept (after thorough washing), and one that held a 'turkey breast' (roasted at Christmas in is container) is one of the most used. A photo of it was taken this morning (you can see it on my 'mouse mat' while I waited for the comp to warm up - as this can take a good 2 minutes).

The dimensions of the tin are not exact, but as my hand-span (known to be 8"/20cm) is the exact internal length of the tin, you can roughly guess the size. Possibly the size of a 1lb loaf tin, and realising that the sides of the tin are ridged/ribbed, using it to bake bread it would give useful markings on the sides of the loaf when it comes to cutting thin slices.

Have also used this tin to make a Madeira cake, and it is the perfect size for holding one of those Tesco (were 2 for £5) lamb shanks where I add a little wine and some halved new potatoes to fill in the gaps, cover with foil and cook for the given time. Have also cooked one of D.R's 'mini-roasts' using this tin (this time the meat was slow-cooked as per instructions, up to its waist in water - and it was absolutely gorgeous!!).

Yesterday's supper could - I suppose - be 'allowed' as a saving. For one thing the chicken used was some of the whole chicken bought recently (and then jointed), and the Butter Chicken curry sauce was from a bottle that was a 'bogof'. Sometimes I count a 'bogof' as 'free', other times cost it as half-price (which in actuality it will be). With added sliced carrot and a couple of onions, this made a lovely curry that B really enjoyed. With the vegetables, it made enough for an extra meal to freeze, so perhaps that could also be counted as a 'saving'. But then I do all the above anyway, so it is nothing new.

Is there anything new I can do. Am finding it difficult to find something, but am hoping that what is already done might not be done by others, so a saving glimmer of light on their horizon could then be a possibility.

It was interesting how your supermarket sprouting spuds (when planted) grew into similar sized potatoes sue15cat (and your seed potatoes of the same variety grew various sizes). Maybe this was just being fortunate, or maybe the spuds grown for supermarket sale have had some 'genetic engineering' done so they end up more 'clone-like'. As fresh produce sold in the supermarkets tend to sell vegetables and fruits that are identical in size, shape and colour, am sure this is more than just harvesting the ones that are 'look-alikes' for there would be far too much wastage if this was the case. Am pretty sure that varieties are now 'bred' to look perfect, but sadly, never with a thought to whether it has any flavour left or not.

Considering we eat to enjoy the flavour of the foods we eat, why on earth 'breed' them out, especially if most are going to end up chopped, grated, sliced anyway?

Thanks for the info re migraine and Q10 Ciao. Sorry you have had difficulty getting your comments accepted, but we did get this one. So hope you keep writing in.

Your 'chicken' dishes sounded good Lisa. Not sure whether our 'pound' chicken quarter meant weight or UK cost of each, but either way probably not much different that over here if bought over the counter. In bulk they would be cheaper, but have never seen quarters sold in more than a couple at a time.

We are having good weather at the moment, although I believe rain has fallen in the south, certainly not here for a few days, we have had quite a lot of sun. The hour goes forward this weekend so we lose an hour of sleep (or just get up an hour later on Sunday), and then it will really begin to feel that winter is now long past. If the weather retains its 'pattern', we should then have at least a week (if not more) of really hot weather towards the end of April. Not long to wait, and must make the most of it, for it maybe the best 'summer' weather we get this year.

Regarding the sous-vide Les. Everything you say I do already know (but others may not, so thank you for telling us). All I can say is you and I differ in our enthusiasm for this particular appliance. I prefer to slow-cook my meat by the braising method as this also makes good 'gravy', and admit to enjoying the smell of meat cooking (either by roast or in my slow-cooking) as it wafts through the kitchen. It makes my mouth water.

As I haven't yet eaten any meat cooked by the 'sous-vide' method, cannot comment on texture and flavour compared to cooking the meat by the more conventional method, but - as with the microwave/halogen cooker/pressure cooker... myself feel these are all just different ways to cook meats (taking shorter or longer times at various temperatures).

I'm too old to experiment further when I can get good results using the 'old methods'. With me perhaps it is more asking myself 'is it worth the extra expense?' and 'how long will it take for me to recoup the cost?'. If I do purchase a new appliance (like my electric slicer). it will have to rapidly pay for itself (which it did within 3 months!!!), and my bread machine (took six months), but fell by the wayside with my ice-cream machine, but mainly because I make a 'soft-scoop' ice-cream that doesn't need a machine. Must now take my ice-cream maker from the top shelf, find room in the freezer to freeze the bowl and start making it 'properly' again, and within a very few months it will have 'paid its way'.

Think there has to be a miserly streak in me that stops me buying many 'kitchen gadgets' and larger 'appliances', for I get sorely tempted each time I get the latest Lakeland catalogue, and want most of them like crazy! But I grit my teeth and soldier on with what I've already got.

The other day showed the candied peel made from orange peel that is often thrown away. Also have mentioned that adding orange or tangerine peel (pith removed) adds a lovely flavour to a beef casserole. But there are other great ways to make use of orange peel. This - with lemon peel/juice can be made into a cost-cutting marmalade. Scatter citrus peel around the garden and it will deter cats (halved orange shells propped up like 'tents' will attract slugs, this 'capturing' many each night (what you do with them after that is up to you!).

It's always worth grating the zest from any peel you don't wish to use for other purposes. This can be packed into ice-cube trays (with or without a bit of orange juice) to later use for flavouring cakes, biscuits and also savoury dishes.

Here is a dish that uses mainly store cupboard ingredients and some of that orange zest. If using canned chipolatas, no need to do the initial frying of the 'fresh', just move on to the next bit of the recipe.

Although a bit 'naff' no doubt children would love this made with canned baked beans (including its sauce) instead of the chickpeas and bottled sauce/passata.

Sausage Hot-Pot on the Hob: serves 4

1 tblsp olive or sunflower oil

12 chipolatas (fresh or canned - see above)

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 x 410 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 x 350g jar tomato 'pasta' sauce (or passata)

5 fl oz (150ml) chicken stock

1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)

grated zest of 1 orange

2 tblsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Put the oil in a frying pan and fry the sausages for 5 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

To the same pan add the onion and fry for 5 or so minutes until softened, then stir in the chickpeas, tomato sauce/passata, and the stock and bring to the boil. Return sausage to the pan, lower the heat and cook for five or so minutes or until the sausages are cooked through (if using canned chipolatas cook until thoroughly heated through).

Mix together the garlic, orange zest and parsley and sprinkle this over the top, then serve.

This next dish is a slightly different and speedy way to make a (sort-of) curry. Use the best minced steak if you wish it to be tender within the time given, but you could also use some pre-cooked beef mince made with a less tender cut (that you may already have in your freezer).

If you make this with minced lamb and harissa paste/spice and maybe add some chopped no-soak apricots you could call this Moroccan Mince.

Bombay Mince with Naan bread: serves 4

1 large red onion, finely sliced

10 oz (275g) minced steak (see above)

2 tblsp curry powder (pref mild)

4 oz (100g) red lentils

1 pint hot beef stock

4 mini-naan breads

coriander leaves, chopped

2 - 3 tomatoes chopped

Using a dry frying pan, cook most of the onions with the mince over a high heat for a couple of minutes, making sure you break up the mince as it cooks (or it sets into lumps). Stir in the curry powder and fry for a further minute, then add the lentils and stock. Cook at a high simmer for 10 minutes (if necessary add a little more stock if the mixture becomes too dry).

Mix the remaining slice onion with the tomatoes and coriander and set aside.

When the 'curry' is ready, pop the naan bread into a toaster (or under a grill) to briefly warm through (not too long or they will become dry), and then place each on a separate plate, top the naan with a portion (quarter) of the meat 'curry' and spoon the tomato 'salad' over part of the curry and also at its side. Serve immediately.

Once we begin 'growing our own' then we can lift an 'economy' dish into virtually 'posh nosh'. This next recipe being a good example. But first sow some peas (I use the dried peas that I've bought to make mushy peas et al). If you so one or two peas every couple of weeks you will then be able to have shoots for picking for most of the year.

Regarding the ingredients, again possibly all 'from store', and always advisable to 'plan to save' when the occasion arises (such as freeze a little wine in ice-cube trays when a bottle has been opened).

The rice, the butter, the Parmesan (and this could be very hard Cheddar, grated), and veg stock we should also have (use a stock cube if necessary). So no excuse not to serve this when you next have guests. It makes a very good starter for 6, or can be eaten as a 'mains' to serve 4 (although probably better served then as a 'quality' light lunch or supper dish).

Pea Risotto: serves 4

2 oz (50g) butter

11 oz (300g) frozen peas, thawed (or cooked fresh peas)

3 pints (1.7 ltrs) hot vegetable stock

12 oz (350g) risotto (arborio) rice

7 fl oz (200ml) white wine

1 oz (25g) grated Parmesan (or other hard cheese)

2 handfuls pea shoots

salt and pepper

extra virgin olive oil (opt)

Melt the butter in a large frying pan and gently fry the onion until softened (takes about 10 mins). Put a third of the peas into a food processor/blender and whizz to make a puree.

Stir the rice into the onion and raise the heat slightly. Cook for one minute, then stir in the wine. When this has been absorbed by the rice, begin adding a ladle of the hot stock, and keep stirring. When this liquid has been absorbed, add another ladle of stock and repeat until the rice is tender - this should take between 20 - 30 minutes. You may not need to use all the stock, or you may need to add a little more (hot water will do if run out of stock), the aim is for tender rice that has a creamy consistency.

When ready, stir in the pureed peas, the remaining peas, the grated cheese and seasoning to taste, then remove from heat, cover and leave to stand for a couple of minutes. Give the risotto one more stir then serve in shallow bowls with 'dollop' of pea shoots placed on top. If you have any (and if you wish) drizzle a little extra v. olive oil over the pea shoots. Then serve.

Next recipe today is one I made many years ago, and surprisingly it does work. Well perhaps not a surprise as mayo is made with oil (fat) and eggs, so virtually the same as the fat and eggs we would use when baking. Because mayo is used, these brownies are 55% lower in saturated fat than if butter was used.

Lower-fat Chocolate Brownies: makes 16

2 oz (50g) plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 oz (25g) cocoa powder

5 oz (150g) plain chocolate, melted

3 eggs

8 oz (225g) caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 oz (110g) Hellman's Mayonnaise

2 oz (50g) walnuts, finely chopped

Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa together. In another bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar and vanilla until thickened, then whisk in the melted chocolate. Fold in the flour mixture, with the mayo and finally fold in the walnuts.

Pour into a greased and lined 9" (23cm) square cake tin and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 30 - 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin and cut into 16 small squares (or 9 larger ones if you prefer).

Final recipe today is one for Hot-Cross Buns, made the easy way using a bought bread mix (this contains yeast, so don't use ordinary bread flour). Traditionally eaten on Good Friday, myself believe they taste best when freshly baked, but the dough could be made the night before and left in the fridge to very slowly rise (if rise at all) ready to finish rising and bake the following morning. If you prefer larger buns, then divide the dough into 8 or 9, and allow a few minutes longer cooking time.

A good tip is to keep back a tablespoon of the bread mix and use this to flour the work surface, it will all be taken up by the dough anyway, but will make it less sticky when first kneading. If making 'on the day' the dough could be made in a bread machine, adding the fruit towards the end of the kneading process.

Hot Cross Buns: makes 12

1 x 500g pack of white bread mix

2 oz (50g) caster sugar

1 tblsp mixed spice

3.5 oz (85g) butter

9 fl oz (250ml) milk

1 egg, beaten

9 oz (250g) mixed fruit (incl candied peel)

4 oz (100g) plain flour (for the crosses)

6 tblsp water

2 tblsp golden syrup or honey (for glazing)

Put the bread mix into a bowl with the sugar and spice and give a stir. Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk and beaten egg. Take a knife and bring the dry ingredients from the sides into the middle, and stir together until combined and formed a dough. Tip onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth, the put into an oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place to rise until twice the size).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly flour surface and knock back (aka punch the dough to remove trapped air), then press or roll into a rectangle (about A3 size and don't ask me what that is), and sprinkle the dried fruit on top. Roll up the dough around the fruit, then fold the ends under to the middle and knead (folding again if necessary) so the fruit is evenly mixed into the dough.

Divide the dough evenly into 12, and roll each into a ball. Place these on a large greased baking sheet - leaving half an inch or so between each to allow for spreading - then cover with oiled clingfilm (not tightly, just lay it over) and place in a warm place to rise. When the dough keeps its shape when prodded very gently they are ready to bake, but before this put the plain flour into a bowl with the water to make a smooth paste (it will need to be piped, so if too soft add more water, or if too runny add more flour).

Put this paste into a piping bag and pipe a cross on top of the buns. Then bake for 15 - 20 minutes (20 - 25 if larger buns) at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until well risen and golden. Cool on the tray for five minutes then remove to a cake airer. Meanwhile heat the syrup or honey in a small pan (or in the microwave) until warm and runny, the brush this over the warm buns and leave to cool (or almost as best eaten slightly warm spread with butter. Yummy!

What can I do today to 'deliberately' save? My mind has gone blank. Not even sure what to cook for B's supper - the trifle made in one large glass bowl still has one serving left so he can finish that off, but for his 'mains' have yet to decide. Think I might stuff the last few cannelloni tubes with some spag.bol. meat sauce, cover with passata, sprinkle some pre-grated cheese on top then bake off in the oven. Or maybe not. Decisions, decisions... but whatever I do/make you will almost certainly be told about it tomorrow. Bet you can't wait!

So had better get moving and try to come up with something worth writing about. Looks like being a glorious day today, might just take a mug of coffee out into the garden to sit and have my think. Who knows what might then suddenly pop into my mind. Might even fill a flower pot or two with something.

Join me tomorrow and see if my blog is worth reading or not. Can't promise, but will try. TTFN.