Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Think Before You Throw!

Apologies for late posting. Forgot it was Norma the Hair day and got up too late to blog before she arrived. Had then to reply to several phone calls before I began my 'chat'. Will try to keep it brief.

Despite trying to find ever new ways to save even more money, it is getting more than a little difficult, I seem to do the obvious - like ALL the time, this not giving me much room for improvement. However am now 'thinking before throwing', so yesterday, after eating a tangerine, decided to dry the peel (this adds a lovely flavour if added to a beef casserole), and sow the pips. Would you believe my one small tangerine contained TWELVE pips. Any other time I'd have been a bit annoyed having to remove pips from each segment (or mouth), this time was overjoyed as - when sown - these just might grow into a dozen more 'house plants' - again saving me the cost of buying any as a gift.

Another thing crossed my mind yesterday as I cooked some baking potatoes in the microwave that I intended to fry off before serving (this instead of peeling and boiling to cook in the normal way). I do this as a way to keep the potato flesh dry as cooked in its skin it doesn't absorb any water, this also makes the flesh excellent for mashing - and, if left to cool for about a minute, then cut into chunks - it is extremely easy to remove the thinnest ever layer of peel, just with the fingers (you could almost read a newspaper through it), As well as a way of keeping all its vitamins, having all the flesh to eat (none still left clinging to the skin when peeling in the normal way), with no absorbed water makes it a winner in all directions.

Going through my 'potato bag', found several of the spuds were now beginning to sprout. Even those bought recently (and probably why I got one extra a bag s a 'bogof' ). If the sprouts are still small, then all they need is just rubbing off and the spuds put back in the bag. Any of the potatoes that I'd had longer (and were smaller) had larger shoots, so have removed these and put them in the conservatory to plant in a few weeks. Another saving?

So do keep an eye on your potatoes and check them at least twice a week, removing the tiny shoots, and you should be able to use all of them. Have read that the way to prevent spuds shooting is to store them with an apple (preferably half a cut apple). Anyone tried this?

In our newspaper yesterday was a full page article on migraine written by a doctor, and as I know several readers suffer with this complaint thought some of the advice given might be of interest. Please remember I am just quoting what was written, and always best to check with your doctor or practice nurse before you try any of the following...

"To reduce the risk of migraine, get enough sleep, go to bed and get up at approximately the same time each day, and do not over-sleep, as irregularity can cause an attack"
"Avoid more than two cups of tea or coffee a day, but make sure you drink two litres of water, and never miss a meal. Avoid alcohol if you have any suspicion that it is a trigger".
"Take exercise each day, a brisk 20 minute walk will do, rain or shine".
"Avoid all other painkillers for headaches (except aspirin if you can tolerate it), as there is always the risk of triggering rebound headaches with most pain-relieving medicines".

"The next strategy involves the use of supplements. There is valid research that shows that riboflavin (known as Vit.B2), taken regularly at a high dose reduces the frequency of migraine. The dose you need is 400mg once daily , but be warned it could turn your urine yellow.
This is quite harmless but you should check with your GP first as people with cataracts should not take high-dose riboflavin."
The second supplement which has been shown to reduce the frequency of migraine is co-enzyme Q10 - studies suggest taking 150mg per day may reduce the headache frequency by 50% or more after a few weeks.
Both supplements are available as over-the-counter products at good pharmacies."

There was no mention of 'Feverfew' - this being a natural and well-known herbal remedy for migraine, but then doctors are more into pills and potions rather than herbal teas, although riboflavin (think this is the 'chemical' term for blackcurrants/b.juice?) is natural enough, but methinks if this is taken in pill form it is more likely to be accepted by the medical profession.

Although read about this in the trade mag, see there is now a TV ad promoting a chocolate flavoured cream cheese, this could possibly be used to 'help' make the filling for the following cheesecake, or possibly we can make our own 'chocolate cheese spread' by just blending some melted chocolate into the cream cheese. Why buy if we can make it ourselves?
Chocolate Cheesecake: serves 8
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
6 digestive biscuits, crushed to fine crumbs
14 oz (400g) cream cheese (room temp)
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
2 tblsp cocoa, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tblsp strong black coffee
2 eggs
5 fl oz (150ml) sour cream or creme fraiche
2 oz (50g) dark chocolate, melted
2 tblsp milk
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
Mix the melted butter and biscuit crumbs together than press firmly into the base of a 8" (20cm) spring-form cake tin that has the base lined with baking parchment. Place into a moderate oven (180C, 350F, gas 4) for 10 minutes, then remove. Raise oven temperature to 240C, 475F, gas 9.
Beat the soft cheese and sugar together using an electric whisk, and when smooth, beat in the cocoa, vanilla, coffee, eggs, sour cream and half the melted chocolate. Blend the milk into the remaining chocolate and set this aside to decorate the top of the cake once chilled.
Butter the sides of the cake tin, then pour the above mixture over the crumb base, smoothing the top. Bake for 10 minutes at the high temperature, then reduce the heat down to very low: 110C, 225F, gas 1/4 and continue baking for 20 - 25 minutes by which time the filling should be set but have a bit of a wobble in the centre.
Turn off the oven, but leave the cheesecake in the residual heat to cool down slowly for a good couple of hours, open the oven door very slightly half way through. Then remove cheesecake from oven and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
To decorate the top of the cheesecake, carefully remove sides of tin and lift the cake from the base, peeling away the parchment if stuck to it. Whip the cream until it holds its shape (don't over-whip), then swirl this over the cake. Drizzle the reserved chocolate sauce across the cream, the using the tip of a butter knife (or end of a teaspoon) swirl the sauce and cream together to give a marbled effect.

Before I leave you today here are two replies to comments sent in..
Les, your experiments with your sous-vide have been interesting, but wonder if you're using this 'appliance' more like a mega-slow cooker than the way it should be used. You mentioned slow-cooking some frying steak in the sous-vide, but doesn't this defeat the object of cooking steak in the normal way? Frying steak takes only a short time to cook and the caramelisation of the surface when frying gives a superb flavour that can never be matched in a sous-vide, and overall the fuel-time taken to cook the steak slowly PLUS the essential 'flash-fry' at the end to regain at least some of the flavour back, wouldn't make much fuel-saving difference.

The sous-vide comes into its own when more attention is needed with the preparation of certain meats (such as stuffed breast of chicken rolled to form a 'ballontine', then tightly wrapped in clingfilm and slow cooked) as I see so often done on TV by chefs. Due to most meats cooked in this fashion looking slightly anaemic, they then need to be served with a coating of a really good sauce. Gourmet fare that is well within your capabilities Les. Hope you will give them a try and leave the normal slow-cooking of the tougher cuts of meat to the slightly higher temperature of a 'crockpot' where you will always be assured of having a good stock/gravy made at the same time - which never happens when cooking vacuum-packed meat in the sous-vide).
Incidentally, another reason why I'm sure some restaurants use this appliance is that meat cooked in a sous-vide can be started earlier in the day and can continue cooking quite happily for longer if necessary, as this makes them perfect for restaurant meals when the same meat is requested by diners over several hours, and also leaves times for the chefs to get on cooking other dishes that need more speedy cooking.

Thanks Lisa for giving the recipe for home-made 'Nutella', will have a go at making that. Not sure about the laundry detergent as we are always told never to use soap in our washing machines as it makes too many bubbles. Maybe your 'laundry soap' is almost 'bubble-free', but do know many of our bath soaps can make the water very frothy.

As both you and Les say Lisa, if we continually make ourselves what others normally buy, then this can be a daily process so nothing really new we can attempt. Even so, we can still be aware that even the smallest things we do can still save money, and count these as saving, even though not 'deliberate' at the time. Yesterday myself baked another loaf (normal for me but still a saving compared to the price of one bought). So at least am able to keep my purse still padlocked and that must mean something.

Late finishing due to late start, but should be back as per usual tomorrow. Hope to see you then.