Thursday, July 05, 2012

Whatever the Weather...

A dreary day yesterday, yet today we wake up to cloudless blue skies and - of course - sunshine!
Let us hope it stays like this for the next 24 hours at least. 71 deg. humidity last night that made sleeping a bit of a hit and miss. However, managed to get several hours in the land of nod although this meant waking later than intended. Who cares!

Back to normal after the indigestion caused by 'eating out'. Kept away from carbos yesterday but filled myself up with plenty of salads and fruit, fish sticks and hard-boiled eggs providing the 'protein' (plus a bit of pork pie, yes the pastry was carbo but will ignore that). Good news is that this morning discovered my weight is 3 lbs less than it was yesterday. Probably due to fluid loss but at least is is a loss.

My new 'smalls' have arrived and at three sizes smaller than my last lot really do look 'small' and was afraid they wouldn't fit, but they are perfect. With the order came a freebie. I had hoped it would be a handbag (which I didn't need) as this was the one offered with the order form I used (but that was months old so out of date). At least I got the free post and delivery and instead of the bandbag they sent a red holdall (zip top and two pockets at the front), and inside found a smaller bag PLUS a zip top purse, all in the same red material (looked like linen but probably artificial fibres). Am sure I will be able to find a use for them.

Also yesterday decided to bake another loaf. The Tesco crusty farmhouse mix made a superb loaf (B loves it), but for me it seemed a bit 'soft' (which is good) but this made it a bit difficult to slice thinly. In any case the dough had risen so rapidly that I was going to add half as much plain flour again to the pack (plus the extra water) as I had with their brown mix (which worked well), just so that I would get an extra small loaf at low cost. But changed my mind.

What I did was divide the pack of bread mix in half and then make it up to the original weight with strong plain flour (in other words half of each), this way I would still end up with one 2 lb loaf but only need the amount of water as stated on the pack (no need for more).
Believe it or not this worked. The bread dough still rose rapidly, the loaf looked exactly the same as if the mix had been left as-is, and the crumb texture was identical and just as moist. The only difference being the crust was slightly firmer which has made it easier to slice more thinly.
As the bread mix is 66p a pack (500g), and Tesco's strong plain flour is 60p (1.5kg), the above loaf then worked out at 33p (for half a pack of bread mix = 250g) and 1op for 250g of the strong flour, total 43p for a large loaf. At least a quarter of the price when you consider the price of a similar 'farmhouse' loaf that is sold in supermarkets (even dearer in bakeries). From now on I will always use half and half bread mix and strong flour when making bread.

Did a bit more 'stock-taking' yesterday, topped up my Kilner jars with dried fruit (one with sultanas, another with raisins, third with mixed dried fruit and peel), then put the small amount of dried fruit left in the packs into a bowl to turn them into a fruit cake a.s.a.p. Will soak these overnight in fruit-flavoured tea to give them that little bit of extra flavour.

Wanted to watch Hugh F.W. new River Cottage series, but as this was on at the same time as our favourite 'soap', instead of knocking it forward an hour, we chose to watch the programme about 'living with pensioners' (BBC 1) instead. This was very thought provoking and I'm still dumbfounded when it comes to the 'food poverty'. There was Gloria Hunniford going on about how it would cost at least £5 to buy enough meat and veg to make a meal that could (admittedly) last two days, and am sure I heard her mention that an onion was 80p. Yet we all know we can (or should be able to) feed ourselves for far less than that, and although this would be difficult for younger folk to get their heads round, the older we are the more used we are to being thrifty. Even so, this particular part of the programme made me feel very guilty when thinking about our larder with shelves full of food.

Perhaps, living alone, people just can't be bothered to cook for themselves. I know that when B is away I rarely bother with cooking myself a proper meal, making do with Spam (bliss) or sardine sarnies etc. Not quite as bad as that, often make salads, cook myself a jacket potato, even eat baked beans from a can (role playing chav). But would also have some home-made ready-cooked meals in the freezer if I wanted 'real meal'. It always seems different when cooking for a family (or just one other) than when cooking for ones self. We seem to be prepared then to make more of an effort. Am probably not alone in this, but also know that people who do live alone always prepare themselves a 'proper meal', and just wish I could be like that.

Andy Murray (eventually) managed to win his match, at first I thought it was going to be a real battle and he would lose, but nowadays he seems to start badly then finish with a final burst and lets hope this continues and he reaches the final. Doubt he could beat Federer (who can?), so hope he doesn't play against him in the semis.

Am still getting a daily dose of one (or several) 'anonymous' comments, each promoting their own site. Some are giving what seems to be a name, but even them am suspicious and blogger seem to know these are 'spam' so don't show them in the comment box. All I can say is that if there is an 'anonymous' out there who is genuine and wishes for a reply, then write again and just give a name and no mention of their own site then probably the comment will be available to be seen by all (and then a reply will be given). There is nothing wrong in promoting a personal site, but I don't agree with sending a comment to any site just for this purpose.

Am hoping Jane, that - like me - you will be working your way through your 'bedroom' (and other) stores and not stock up with any more until you have got rid of many of them. Again nothing wrong with stocking up, but myself have to tell myself (nay FORCE myself) to use what I have. Otherwise food can so easily get well past its b.b. date (some foods really should be used by then - dried pulses etc can get very hard the longer they are kept and will never soften after soaking and cooking).

Ideally, food should be constantly 'on the move', and having one to use (a can of beans or bottle of ketchup, jar of coffee etc), and one unopened as 'back-up' is the best way, then when the back-up has to be started, then re-stock. Trouble with me is I have back-ups of the back-ups. Yet this can make sense. Buying several jars of coffee when at reduced price means no more need be bought for up to six months and by this time the price will be reduced again (or maybe a bit earlier in which case I will buy more then). Same goes for non-foods like washing up liquid, loo rolls, kitchen paper, laundry powder etc. Buy when at the best price then keep in store (and buy a year's supply - or even two - if these work out more profitable that way).

Cans of baked beans, sardines, tuna and chopped/plum tomatoes are another of my 'bulk buys' (usually buy in four-packs if these work out the cheapest, but do check as sometimes it is cheaper to buy the cans singly), but rarely buy more than 2 x four-packs of anything (so I have at least 8 on my shelves), then stock up when down to my last two. Beware of the six-packs of things like baked beans for these often work out dearer (per can) than the four-packs, and sometimes dearer (per can) than purchasing one can. A supermarket ploy to get us to buy more because we THINK it will save us money by doing so.

However much fun it can be to 'make the most of what we have', the most pleasure (for me) comes when not having much to play with. At the moment it is far too easy to make almost anything when I've got just about everything. In a few weeks it will become more difficult and that is when I really will begin to enjoy myself.
Even so will aim to use up a lot of items in store that have been there for too long - and probably would never be used if I don't make my mind up to use them. Such as cornmeal, rice flour, and some 'freebies' that Gill brought me at her last visit: yam flour and the like. If I can clear at least one shelf, then there will be room for me to store my numerous baking and roasting tins (at the moment shoved in several cupboards, or stacked end-on against the larder wall (and often knocked over). Since doing more cooking (for the sailing club), find I need to use these tins more often so they need to be conveniently to hand (must have spent many hours in the past hunting for something that I'd forgotten where it had been put).

My aim (when using up stores) is to serve up something special. So today will probably thaw out one pack of chicken livers to make Chicken Liver Pate. Probably will also retrieve one thick slice of gammon from the freezer (cut from an overlarge joint as it wouldn't fit into the pan when boiling to make ham), mince this up with some bacon, sausage meat, apple, onion and dash of W. sauce and use this as a filling to make a pork pie (or two). Also must defrost some chicken drumsticks to make a batch of stock (as have just about run out of this), the cooked chicken flesh can then be made into Coronation Chicken to serve with salad. Then possible make a (dried)fruit cake and also a (fresh) fruit crumble or fruit pie. Yes, think today could be fun after all.

Not sure yet what supper will be as need to 'stock-take' the meat and fish drawers in the freezer to find out what I have the most of (then use some of that before starting on those I have the least of). Balance is everything. Run out of beef then B has to make do with pork, lamb, chicken or fish. Ideally 'balance' out meals so there is a little of everything eaten during the week and for as long as possible, then no meals will ever get boring. Memories of my early years of marriage when money ran out faster than the days of the week and we ended up eating nothing but beans on toast for the last couple of days!! We survived.

Precious time is fast moving on, and while writing the sky clouded over and my heart sank, but suddenly the clouds have gone again, the sun is shining brightly and I'm raring to go - might even go and have a sit in the garden before I start 'stock-taking' and then cooking. Good idea. Will do that now.

But whatever the weather, with my intention of very definitely using up only what I've got (there, I've said it now so can't back out), each day from now on you will be bored out of your socks reading what I've done with very little (or maybe quite a lot). More interesting as stocks run down, but hopefully worth reading from the very start. Hope you will return tomorrow to find out what has happened in the Goode kitchen today. See you then.