Monday, April 02, 2012

Gopurmet on a Shoestring?

Just one comment to reply to. This is a good sign as am hoping this means readers are busy, busy at the weekend with extra cooking and gardening. Or even just relaxing. As long as we can enjoy what we are doing (at no extra expense), then why not?

Have not checked the ingredients in Nesquick Cheesepare, but expect it is mainly milk powder and flavourings. I normally buy the strawberry and the chocolate flavours as can use these in many ways (and rarely use them to make a milk shake). Adding a tablespoon to whipping cream gives flavour when making an ice-cream (the 'strawberry' ice-cream is really delicious), likewise the chocolate. When making my soft-scoop ice-cream usually divide the cream into three and whip strawberry Nesquick into one third, chocolate into another, and flavour the third with a little vanilla extract. After folding Italian meringue into these (with a little added natural yogurt), end up with three flavours to make a tub of 'Neapolitan' ice-cream.

The Nesquick can also flavour milk when wishing to make a blancmange (or custard) with cornflour (and a little sugar). A little can be added to the dry ingredients when making a cake or biscuits. Perhaps one of the most useful ways to use this product is to add it to a natural EasyYo to give it flavour when making up. Or it could flavour 'ordinary' milk if making yogurt in the traditional way.

Liked your idea of using warm rain-water in your washing machine (then setting it to 'cold wash') CP. Unfortunately my machine doesn't have a cold-wash setting (it is over 20 years old!). Will check out a Wilco's, as the Oxy type laundry cleaner does work well, and if something similar is sold cheaper then am grateful you told us.

Regarding a microwave, in retrospect I do find it 'useful' in many ways: for defrosting:for cooking frozen veg: reheating home-made 'ready-meals'; making lemon curd; making custard; melting jelly is a small amount of water; and of course a speedy way to cook jacket spuds. But I rarely use it as an alternative to cooking in the oven or hob, and never use it to make cakes (although have once or twice made a small steamed pud in it, but it never seemed as good as those made the traditional way).

On now to my 'chat' for today. Not sure where to begin. The headlines in yesterday's paper made me shake my head, not with disbelief (as it was pretty well on the cards) but knowing that lorry drivers have now said they will 'come out in sympathy' with the tanker drivers if they strike, and the almost certain mayhem on the roads if they do....!!! Road blockages to prevent the army delivering fuel/food etc would be just a start.

It may be that our alpha males will be inconvenienced by not getting to work, if the above happens, or if they own a business are not able to get the materials delivered (or even customers). Their income could be affected.
The supermarkets would soon see their supplies dry up and once the panic to 'stock up' is over, the shelves could remain empty for some time. Even local shops would probably get few deliveries.
And who bears the major brunt of all this? The 'home-maker (usually the wife and mother). Whether in sympathy with the strikers or not, their men-folk still expect to return home and have a meal waiting for them, their laundry done, and all the usual 'care and attention' given to them.
Personally, I feel that it is time to form a 'housewife's union' and WE go on strike when our 'domestic' working lives are in need of improvement. If we are unable to buy the food and other 'necessaries' to feed and clothe our families (especially children), then we should down tools, lock our larders and make ALL men fend for themselves until the status quo is back to normal. We even lock the men out of the bedroom! Shut the pubs and refuse any watching of footie matches on TV (or any TV for that matter). If you want to strike, you're on your own, mate!

Decided this morning to take a mulitvitamin and mineral 'supplement' (as have not eaten much in the way of greens or even protein lately - due to me still trying to lose extra pounds and not succeeding very well). This made me wonder sometimes if it wouldn't be a lot cheaper if we just lived on one pill a day, plus a bit of 'roughage' to keep our internal pipes working properly. Then I began wondering if those starving millions in the Third World waiting for food supplies to be dropped were supplied with 'a pill a day' to help them keep healthy. Easier than waiting for supplies to be sent (and these often high-jacked en route so never getting to those who need it). Perhaps this is already done, and no doubt there is a very good reason why we should all eat 'real food' and not exist on pills. Someone will probably tell me.

But even this thought, despite its obvious money-saving potential, does not stop me from cost-cutting when I cook. And yet do I cut costs? To others it would seem I do not when they consider the amount of butter, cream, quality meat, liqueurs that end up in the meals I make.

Yesterday read an article about a young working couple who spent £60 a week on food. Perhaps this is a reasonable amount when they both work, yet reading about what was cooked at home it was pretty basic and not that interesting. Much that had been bought could have been made at home (given the time).
But then worked out that my Goode food budget worked out (per week) at less than half what the above couple spent, and - taking into account the occasional months each year when no food is bought at all, this then averages out out to less than a third, which still feeds two (although B gets the major share only because I prefer to eat different foods), yet the meals made are (I say modestly) pretty darn good as requires quality.

As I said to B yesterday (whilst preparing his supper of lamb shank, baby new potatoes, with peas, mint sauce and redcurrant jelly, plus a red-wine gravy, Followed by a lemon and banana trifle flavoured with Limoncello!), "I still can't work out how I can manage to serve meals as good as this (well I like to blow my own trumpet at times) on such a small budget".

This has to be because I buy 'in bulk' (a month's supply of food from the supermarket, instead of shopping weekly), then making everything go as far as possible. Even an egg yolk (or egg white) 'deliberately' saved can go towards another dish (to save using another egg). The booze has always been requested as a 'gift' (so free). Cream, butter... always bought when the price is reduced (as are most other foods). Quality meat/fish (as I keep saying) is bought from the money saved (again 'deliberately). During the summer try to grow most of our 'salad leaves' and plenty of herbs, so the 'meal improvement' has to come more from the knowledge gleaned over years of 'how to make the best of...' than anything else. Somehow it just WORKS.

So today am giving a couple or three more recipes that can use up possible 'left-overs' yet turn into something a bit more interesting than usual. The first is a rather special 'Bubble and Squeak' that can be eaten as a vegetarian meal in its own right. Don't feel you have to stick to the exact ingredients given (some suggestions in brackets, but your choice), and the veggies could be raw (as given) or 'left-over pre-cooked' (if so, reduce their cooking time). Have given this a 'fun name' due to its Middle Eastern flavours.
Hubble-Bubble and Squeak: serves 4 as a 'main'
1 lb (450g) parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks, OR...
...use butternut squash, potatoes or mixture of all
1 tsp turmeric
half Savoy cabbage (or other 'greens') finely shredded
few oz/g frozen peas (or chopped string beans)
juice of half a lemon
2 oz (25g) butter
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tblsp garam masala (or curry paste/harissa)
1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped (opt)
bunch fresh coriander, lower stems finely chopped
coriander leaves for garnish
Cook the parsnips (or other chosen veg) in boiling water with the turmeric until very tender. Remove with slotted spoon then add the greens to the water and blanch for two minutes, then add the peas (or beans) and cook for a further minute. Drain well.
Return the parsnips to the pan and roughly mash with the lemon juice and half the butter. Work in the rest of the ingredients except the remaining butter and coriander leaves.
Take a large frying pan and add the last of the butter, and when melted press the above 'mash' firmly down into the pan to make a large, circular 'cake'. Fry until crisp underneath, then turn with a fish slice. Then fry the other side. When turning it could break up, but this doesn't matter - in fact it can improve the texture. Just press it back down again and fry for a bit longer, then turn and break up and press back and fry again - this way it is crispy both on the outsides with crispy bits inside as well.
Slice onto a warmed plate and serve cut into wedges. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Next recipe makes use of those cooked chicken scraps we thrifty cooks pick from the carcase after making chicken stock. The rice can be yesterday's 'left-overs' (or if you HAVE to use microwave 2 minute rice). The rest of the ingredients are usually to hand in a cook's kitchen.
Nicely-Spicy Rice with Chicken: serves 2
12 oz (350g) cooked chicken chopped
9 oz (250g) left-over cooked rice
2 inch (5cm) piece cucumber, finely chopped
2 carrots, grated
handful mint leaves, roughly chopped
5 fl oz (150ml) natural yogurt
1 tsp runny honey
pinch chilli powder or few drops Tabasco
salt and pepper
Put the chicken, rice, cucumber and carrot into a bowl. Mix half the mint with the yogurt, honey, chilli and seasoning to taste. Stir this into the rice and garnish with remaining mint.

Next comes a suggestion to use up oddments from the fruit bowl, plus any salad leaves you might have in the fridge (or growing on the windowsill). The 'meat' content - for economy - HAS to be scraps of chicken or turkey (from the carcase) or ham scraps left over after slicing your home-cooked gammon. A great meal from what other people would normally throw away. But we know better!!
Many fruits eat well when added to a 'basic' salad. Two fruits are suggested but alter this to what you have. Myself love to add orange segments and/or sliced banana to a salad, also kiwi fruit and grapefruit (preferably not ALL at the same time). Blueberries and pomegranate are becoming popular with salads. It doesn't have to be walnuts - use hazelnuts, pine nuts, cashew nuts or almonds. Include sunflower/pumpkin seeds if you wish.
Use a bottle salad dressing if you prefer, but the one shown is particularly tasty.
Chicken and Ham Fruity Salad: serves 4
approx 6 oz (175g) mixed salad leaves
2 ripe pears or eating apples (see above)
1 oz (25g) walnut pieces, chopped
chunks of cooked turkey, chicken and/or ham
Put the salad leaves in a bowl. No need to peel fruit, but remove cores and cut into quarters (or slices or chunks) and scatter on top of the salad with the walnuts. Add the chunks of chosen cooked meat. Drizzle over the salad dressing (recipe below) just prior to serving.
salad dressing:
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 tblsp wine vinegar (red, or white)
2 tsp runny honey
4 fl oz (100ml) natural yogurt
Mix all the dressing ingredients. together. Pour over the salad at the last minute - too soon and the salad leaves go 'soggy'.

Final recipe for today is a great way to use up left-over potatoes and those scraps of cheese lurking in the fridge. Being that it is a 'tortilla', you could bulk it up by including some frozen peas (thawed) or some colourful chopped bell peppers. Serve with a green salad and you've made a meal in minutes.
Potato, Cheese and Onion Tortilla: serves 4
1 oz (25g) butter
1 small onion, thinly sliced
8 oz (225g) cooked and cooled potatoes, thinly sliced
4 large eggs (or 6 medium eggs)
salt and pepper
3 oz (75g) Cheddar or other hard cheeses, grated
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley OR...
...1 tsp dried mixed herbs (opt)
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat and saute the onion for about 5 minutes until softened. Meanwhile beat the eggs with seasoning to taste, then stir in the cheese and optional herbs.
Spread the sliced potatoes over the onions in the pan, then pour over the egg mixture and gently stir the lot together so the eggs flow through to the base pf the pan as well as coating everything above.
Reduce the heat to low and leave to cook for 10 - 15 minutes until the top is nearly set, then place under a pre-heated grill to cook for a couple or so minutes. When the top is set and golden, slide onto a warmed plate. Cut into wedges and serve with a green salad.

As is so often happening these days, not a lot of new ideas can be found to make savings, it now is mainly making 'the usual' (this is a saving in a way as 'others' normally buy what I usually make).
The orange pips and avocado stone planted (in the same pot) several weeks ago have shown no sign of wanting to grow. I tried to 'dig up' the pips yesterday and couldn't even find them. So ended up planting another (larger) avocado stone in another pot and put that on the sunny windowsill with half a plastic bottle over and hope that will eventually grow.
The little 'lemon trees' are growing fast, and I don't really need any more citrus 'house-plants' so will do without the oranges.

Made a couple of trifles (mentioned earlier today) for B yesterday, plus a small bowl of lemon jelly (left-over) for me. Put some dried fruit, candied peel, and glace cherries in a bowl to soak overnight as today intend making a Simnel Cake for Easter.
Discovered some crispy tortilla 'chips' in a glass jar (hidden behind another glass jar in the larder) so decided these would be my 'supper' eaten with a low-fat cream cheese mixed with pesto to make a dip. Plus cucumber 'sticks' to also dip. Finished the day be eating a couple of oranges.
Did a bit more sorting out of my kitchen during the day, also make another litre of Greek yogurt. Spent a few minutes sitting in my larder checking for any 'shortages'.

Have now taken to wearing my big linen apron most of the day (it has a big pocket with the words "never trust a thin cook" printed across the front). Just having the huge pocket is SO convenient, for in it I keep my mobile phone, a pen, a small notebook in which I write down foods that need replacing, also 'things I have done today' (to remind me to tell you if interesting enough). What else is in there? (am looking through as I write), A couple of clean paper hankies. Oh yes, also the tub of multi vits. Why in my pocket? Oh yes, to remind me to check how many different ones are provided. There are 27 listed, each pill containing 100% RDA (recommended daily allowance) with a very few exceptions.
Nothing else in the pocket except a few dried crumbs (how did they get in there? I don't carry food around with me).

Even when sitting watching TV still wear my apron these days, the pocket is large enough to hold a hot water bottle so can tuck on in to keep myself warm without having to keep clutching it to prevent it falling on the floor.
Apron pockets are VERY useful. It is so much more convenient if we can carry around things like wooden spoons, scissors, ball point pens, note-pads, marker pens, even a can opener - to save us having to get up and hunt for them (well, you know how lazy I can be). Must really add a tape measure to my 'collection' then I can measure tins accurately if needs be.

Today am planning another 'cook-in', and as I always work better during the mornings, will wend my way into the kitchen to make use of the couple of hours left before lunch-time.

The weather has now turned cold again, so perhaps a casserole for tonight? Need to have a think about that. Must also wash the laundry (and dry it close to the radiators that we've now had to turn back on again). Enjoy your day. Hope to meet up with you again tomorrow. TTFN.