Monday, May 07, 2012

Taking it Easy

Short blog today as B will be collecting our daughter mid-morning and she is spending the day with us, so will need to organise my day. Yesterday did nothing at all because I went back to bed after writing my blog as I had an attack of vertigo. Very rarely have these, but not pleasant when they happen. Slept most of the day, getting up early evening - B not pleased as he had to get his own supper, but that's life!

This meant I was wide awake at 'bed-time' so stayed up all night working on my soon-to-be new sit (and also watching some TV), so at least this means I am able to start today's blog fairly early.
The weather forecast is for rain today, and it should be raining now, but the sun is shining and the skies, although slightly overcast with thin cloud, are showing plenty of blue, but it remains to be seen how long it stays like that. I've loads of 'trials' to do (recipes for my new site), as well as the preparations for our family supper tonight, and also spend time with my daughter, so want to get on doing as much as possible as soon as I can before our daughter arrives.

As always, am grateful for your comments and agree with Sarina that it really is very satisfying when we find out the cost of something we have made then compare it with similar on sale, for almost always it ends up very much cheaper when made at home. When I began doing this, found the easiest way was to write on the jar/packet the price per oz/gr of the contents so that I didn't have to remember or work it out each time I made something with it. Although still preferring to weigh using lbs and ounces, when costing these days it really is much easier using 'the metrics' when costing as most packs are either 500g or 1 kg, and with decimal currency it tis so much easier to work it all out (500g for 50p = 10 per g etc).

Anyone who is a bit bored with cooking/costing in the normal way might like to have a go at one of my favourite challenges from the past. See how much we can make for £1's worth of ingredients (or 50p). Or see how much it would cost to buy a ready-made (say) Victoria Sponge cake, then gather together the ingredients up to the cost of the bought cake, and then see how much more than just the (same) cake can be made from those.

We can do the same when we compare the cost of a 'ready-meal'. No need to buy, but when in store, read the back of the pack, find out the total weight of the meal, and also the percentage of meat used etc, then - working on the cost of the same ingredients (use no more than the total weight of that on the pack) as bought raw that you would cook yourself - work out just how much less this meal would cost when made at home. Or you could gather the same ingredients up to the price of the ready-meal and then see how many more meals/servings can be made from those.

If I hadn't worked out the cost of making 80 cream-filled profiteroles, would never have known or even been near guessing these - when formed into that 'Croquembouche' (hope you remember it) - would have cost me as little as £5!! Those eclairs too worked out a great deal cheaper (and much larger) than any on sale. We can still provide 'luxury' food for ourselves and family at really low cost. We just have to find out what is the cheapest way to get it.

A welcome to Christine (Canada) who, I believe is a new 'commenteer'. In reply to her query have to say I normally freeze my pies unbaked, although if a meat pie, the filling has first been cooked and chilled before covering with pastry before freezing. If small - like mince pies, will make a batch in advance, freeze, then when solid remove from tin and store in a bag/container, then return to the tin (only as many as needed) to cook from frozen, otherwise tend to thaw out (or partly thaw out) a pie before cooking. Sometimes have frozen the last wedge or two of (say) an apple pie that was not expected to be eaten over the next day or two, and usually this is thawed and then popped into the microwave to reheat.
If any readers have pre-cooked pies to freeze and then re-heat, please let us know if you first need to thaw or whether they can be re-heated from frozen. Much I think would depend upon the size of the pie in the first place. Sorry I haven't been of much help re this query.

You got some great bargains at the car-boot sale Jane, and how I envy you your cooker. I'd just LOVE one like that. Not sure about your minimalistic kitchen for I would feel quite uneasy if I didn't have 'things' on show. Even though now most of my food is kept in the larder, and have few open shelving other than that holding my various pots and pans, each day leave the larder door open and the light on inside so that I can see my 'hoard' as I sit at the kitchen table. I could open the cupboard doors as well to 'keep and eye on things', but it's not the same, and B bangs his head on the corners being just the wrong height. As I've shrunk several inches (according to my check at the surgery) due to my great age, the cupboard doors are high enough to cause me no problem other than the cupboards themselves are too high for me to now reach the upper shelves without standing on steps (which B won't let me do in case I fall).

When I read that you might be spending today doing your ironing Jane, my immediate thought was 'what's ironing?' Can honestly say I don't recall doing any ironing at all since we moved here from Leeds. Possibly because I now put 'softener' in when doing laundry in the washing machine that everything comes out with hardly any creases at all, even the cotton bed-linen. Myself (and B) always wear clothes that are 'jersey-knit' so these too don't crease. On the rare occasion that B wears a proper shirt he probably irons it himself (I certainly don't), or puts it on early and then the heat of his body 'irons' out any creases. Don't even know where the iron is kept, although the ironing board is sometimes used as an extra 'table' on which to put things (it came in very handy when I was cooking/packing the food for the recent 'curryfest'.

Pleased that you enjoyed the lemon biscuits Alison. Can't now remember which these were, but I do try to give recipes that I feel will be enjoyed. It's surprising how many cook books/mags give recipes that are not as good as the photo seems to suggest (at least I don't think they are). But then we all have different tastes, and what one likes another doesn't, so my opinion doesn't always count. This is why it is good when readers try something I've suggested and they find it works - and not only that - let us all know. Then I can give a sigh of relief.

One recipe today that - if planned ahead - would make an interesting 'breakfast' muffin. By 'planning' mean bag up the dry ingredients together (flour, baking powder, salt and pepper, and cheese 'bits') and keep in the fridge ready to tip into a bowl and add the 'wet' (and the 'wet' can be assembled the night before and also stored in the fridge). Then all we have to do is tip the 'wet' into the 'dry', add some crispy bacon (precooked and stored in the fridge) sprinkle over some grated cheese (from a tub stored in the fridge or freezer) and bake. Simple as that.
If you have no mustard powder, then add a tsp made mustard to the 'wet'.
Cheese and Bacon Muffins: makes 6
1 tsp oil
3 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
2 oz (50g) mature Cheddar, cut into tiny cubes
6 oz (175g) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
salt and pepper
1 tsp mustard powder
2 eggs
3 fl oz (75g) sunflower oil (or melted butter)
7 fl oz (200ml) milk
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley (opt)
1 oz (25g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Put the oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and leave to cool.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, mustard powder, and salt and pepper to taste and add the cubes of cheese. In a jug put the eggs, oil (or butter), and milk and lightly whisk together. Pour this 'wet' into the dry ingredients and fold together until just combined. Don't over mix, it doesn't matter if it is a bit lumpy. Fold in the bacon bit and parsley (if using).
Spoon into greased muffin tins (or use paper cases to line the tins), filling them almost to the top, and sprinkle the tops with the grated cheese. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 or 25 minutes or until risen, firm to the touch and golden. Very good when eaten warm for breakfast, but also eat well when cooled for 'elevenses' or as part of a packed lunch.

And that's is for today. Still no sign of rain, and the clouds are now disappearing. Typical Britain, it never rains where it is supposed to. And always does when it shouldn't. But things could change within the hour, and by lunchtime we will be gazing out at the falling and persistent rain. At least have a front garden full of bluebells, and these always raise my spirits. An English wood full of bluebells is the most beautiful sight on earth. My wish is to have my ashes scattered in one.

Didn't see that huge moon we were supposed to have last night. I can't believe it would look as large as that shown on TV, if it was that big I'd be very afraid it would be too close and the earth's gravity would cause it to fall from its orbit onto earth. However, on Tuesday this will have caused one of our highest tides, so worth driving out to Sunderland Point to see if it has reached further up the road than it did last time. B said yesterday (when out 'sailing', only he now doesn't sail, he drives the safety boat) that the tide was already very high, and it still has a couple of days to go before it reaches its peak. Not that I really care. I'm far more interested in what cooking I'm going to be doing this week. So had better love you and leave you and get on with it.
With luck will still have time to 'ramble' on again tomorrow, so hope to see you then. TTFN.