Friday, August 10, 2012

Hopefully Sorted...

Eventually got a phone call from Tesco yesterday afternoon apologising about the mistake, no-one seems to know anything at the warehouse end, but customer services said they would refund the money for the missing items, and they would (by my request) deliver them today - these have just arrived and complete. They did charge me a delivery cost, but earlier today picked up an email from them that said they had refunded the money for that (but didn't mention refunding the cost of the ingredients, so have mailed them back to make sure this has also been done).

Might just stop sending orders to Tesco and start in-store shopping at Morrison's (using their mobility scooter), for several months, if nothing else this will prompt Tesco to find out why and also send me a voucher for at least £10 off my next order. Might even wait for 6 months to see what happens.

Thanks for comments. Must look up Springfield on our giant AA map of the USA Lisa. This is an amazing book of all the roads, cities and even farms throughout the USA, and surprising how many roads appear perfectly straight across many states that don't have much population or built up areas. Are they really as straight as they look? In England our only straight roads are the ones built by the Romans, and some of these have had 'wiggles' put into them in more recent years.
Thinking about it, in the UK we are not fond of 'straight' anything. We find the high-rise flats and the not-quite US standard 'skyscrapers' very unpleasant to look at. They spoil our randomness and beauty of our skyline. We try to make our tall buildings now look more attractive.

Our town streets are rarely straight, although some are. We don't have the 'box-like' effect that many US towns seem to have, although this 'street planning' was the norm in ancient times as seen in Roman remains. This is probably a very efficient way to 'plan' a town, but we Brits seemed more obsessed with everything looking 'pretty' and 'rambling', and possibly just used the ancient paths and roads that meandered through the countryside around the hills and mounds rather than over them.

Our M1 (and presumably other motorways) could have been built much straighter, but the curves are put in so that people pay attention to where they are going, otherwise would probably nod off in front of the wheel.
Interesting that Springfield is (also) in Missouri, as always connected this name with Massachusetts. Am not very well up on the 'capital' cities of the US States, but several (like Springfield MS come readily to mind, as does Sacramento, California, and New York, New York.

In on old gardening book that belonged to my dad, the egg-plant is mentioned, but this seems to be what we now call an 'aubergine'. There are many different shapes and colours of this veg, but the ones mostly used in the UK are the deep purple ones. Easy to grow at home, and managed to grow some myself in our porch when we lived in Leeds. Huge aubergines they were too.

'Salsa fresca' sounds as though it translates to 'fresh salad', and from your explanation this seems to be what it is, although our 'salads' are more leafy, a 'salsa' is more chunky veg, diced and mixed together.

Like Lisa, Margie also has the 'continental approach' to distance. Anything several hundred miles drive away is not thought of as a problem. Just accepted. Those of us in the UK who don't drive for a living, almost blanch at the thought of driving any distance to visit friends and relatives, and to us 'distance' means anything over 100 miles.

It could be that driving in the UK is more stressful because certainly the motorways are packed with traffic. My Beloved will always use a motorway to get from A to B if he can, whereas I (when I used to drive) much preferred to use the 'scenic route' even though it might add half an hour onto the journey.

When I used to travel down to Leicester (from Leeds) to visit Gill, I would always leave at first light (in the summer), and at that time there was little traffic on the roads, and often none for miles, then would arrive at The Mill House (in the country, where she lived at that time), just in time for breakfast at 7.00am!
Returning home would be done late evening, again when there was little traffic on the roads and as it wasn't dusk until nearly 11.00pm (on a cloudless day), again no problem with having to drive in the dark.

Am sure America and Canada have many roads in the rural areas that have very little traffic at all. Can only go on what we see in the films, but those great straight roads and no other traffic to be seen at all for miles and miles and miles. If the car breaks down, how long would it be before someone is able to reach it for repair? On our motorways we have little phones placed every 100 metres or so along the length of the roads so we can call for assistance if needed. Not that they are needed really now that most people have mobile phones, other than that the motorway phones are connected up to a 'breakdown help line' only (and not for personal calls).

Another good day for us at the Olympics. I actually shed tears when I watched the dressage, as am continually amazed at how the horses work through their routines. This time the riders could choose in what order certain movements would be made, and also choose their own music, and all the horses seemed to time their feet to the beat. It was pure magic, and the horses looked at times just as though they were dancing, and considering the size of the creatures, they were extremely light on their feet. Do hope that many of you were able to watch.

One of the presenters/commentators was talking to an America competitor, asking what he thought of our 'planning' of the Games, and he said he was very impressed, and this was the best he'd ever been to (or seen), with everything being so conveniently placed, and accommodation so good.
Later we saw visitors being asked what they thought about the gardens that had been built in the Olympic Park, and they too thought it was wonderful. I hadn't known about these gardens before, but we saw some of them, and it looked really pretty, luckily now perfect weather for all the many different flowers to open, and all planted rather like a wild flower meadow, some were wild flowers, others more 'garden plants', and a walk through all the winding paths and trees would seem more like Paradise than a place in the East End of London.

A great deal of time and labour is given to making sure these floral attractions are kept in perfect condition, and all this has to be done during the night, so we saw many gardeners tending to the plants and lawns under secluded lighting, and apparently the men mowing the lawns found it difficult to cut the grass to make those straight lines that we expect (but I don't think is necessary). All credit to them, and also all those volunteers who have given their time to welcoming all the visitors to the park (and other venues) always smiling and very helpful.
Think this must be one of the best Games ever held, so we can hold our heads up high with pride.

In two week we have the Paralympics, then it will all be over. We have gone through the delights of the Jubilee, the joys of the Olympics, and then - what next? The economy of this country seems to be going from bad to worse, so let us hope that many of the overseas visitors to the Olympics will stay at least a bit longer and do some shopping and 'feasting' to bring some joy back to the many retailers that are complaining of the loss of trade recently.

Not good news on the food front either as it seems that the price of tea has risen dramatically, the maize (sweetcorn) crops have been depleted due to bad weather in the US, and over here we will have shortages due to the constant rain that fell this year. Not sure what has happened to the wheat, but almost certainly we could be looking for higher prices there too (and with so many products made with wheat products that means anything made with flour will probable end up several pennies dearer. So are we looking towards a much more expensive Christmas?
Perhaps time to consider what is worth buying now, as only stock purchased at the higher prices by the stores is legally allowed to go up in price. Stock now on the shelves still at the original price.

We are all in the same boat when it comes to the rising price of the cost of foods, so any hints and tips that readers can send in will be much appreciated. 'Approved Foods' has been mentioned as a good place to buy at reduced prices, but so far haven't given that a go as tend to concentrate more on the 'fresh food' outlets. Farmers' markets obviously a good place for these, but are their products any cheaper than the same sold at the supermarkets. Would like to hear your views on that.

The other night (when staying up late) watched a repeat of 'The Food Factory'. Quite a bit of deja vu with that for it seemed exactly the same as the series made by Jimmy Doherty. Even the signature tune was the same. Just had different presenters. Didn't find it is interesting as when Jimmy showed us how to make things.

Watched more from the Food Network. Have to say that am now beginning to believe that some of the US cookery programmes are far more interesting to watch than any we have here. Only our Jamie Oliver and the Hairy Bikers have the same appeal. When I see one of Nigella's progs. stuck between two US cookery slots, she really doesn't fit in at all. Neither do some other English cooks/chefs (who I've never heard of anyway).

The US cookery programmes have appeal to me as there are many 'regional' dishes shown. Some of them are Italian or Mexican, and think also Spanish based, but they seem to avoid using an foreign cooks (unless as a guest).
In the UK we have no cookery programmes presented by Americans, but plenty with Italian chefs, Indian, and Chinese, also a Japanese (name forgotten but have seen him in short 5 minute cookery films on the Food Network).
We do not have enough cookery progs about European food (other than French and Italian, with Spain and Greek of seeming less interest). Why don't we have programmes showing us the regional dishes from Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, Russian, the Netherlands, Scandinavia....?

The cloud yesterday eventually did burn away, but I stayed indoors as needed to be close to the phone to await the call from Tesco, so this morning/lunchtime am planning to sit outside in the sun, already the sun is shining on the garden bench so it will have warmed up nicely.

For supper yesterday B said he'd like 'fish 'n chip's. Was quite pleased about that as I fancied a take-away from the chippie, but B then said '...if you can manage to make that?", so ended up making a thick batter to coat some 'value white fish fillets', and instead of oven chips decided to make my own, slicing some peeled Desiree potatoes, blanching for a couple of minutes then tossing them with oil. Did attempt to 'oven' cook them like the bought chips, but they were taking too long, so ended up frying them off in the hot oil once I'd removed the fish. Served with peas, B thought his 'fish 'n chips' were fine. Can't say I enjoyed cooking it, getting the timing right was difficult because the chips were done in time. But it sort of ended alright.
I didn't eat any chips (they looked lovely), just had one fillet of fried fish with a salad.

Although Superscrimpers is (for me) usually 'teaching grandmother to suck eggs', there was an interesting tip about placing a sheet of kitchen paper in with a box of berries as this absorbs some of the gases and helps the fruit to keep fresh longer.
Am sure on this programme (or maybe sent in by a reader) there was a tip on how to make our own fabric conditioner. I love to have towels that are very soft after washing, and find that a good fabric conditioner works well, but last time I bought a cheaper (Tesco) one, and this doesn't seem to soften much at all.
Possibly some of the fault is due to the washing tablets that I use, as some seem to include a softener (but more costly).
To avoid the expense of going back to buying the more expensive, does anyone know how to get the same 'softening' effect using ingredients that we already have in our kitchen cupboards?

Obviously it is time (again) to review the meals we cook and see if we can find cheaper dishes to make that are still giving us the nutrition we need and are also tasty with it. Money saved now can help towards the cost later in the year when prices are expected to rise.

Here is a lovely summer salad that uses chicken livers. All livers have virtually no waste and packed with protein. The cheaper (ox) liver is usually too strong in flavour for most people (but this can be weakened by soaking in milk overnight before using), lambs' liver is our favourite, and calves liver too expensive. The cheapest liver is chicken livers, and at 50p or less a pack from Tesco is more than worth the money.
If more salad ingredients are included with perhaps halved hard-boiled eggs, then the one pack of chicken livers would be enough to serve three or even four people. It's all a matter of how much protein we end up with. Making a small amount of liver to serve more we should then add protein to a meal (not necessarily in the same dish), this could take the form of a wedge of cheese chiche to go with the salad, or a hard-boiled egg. Perhaps serving a bread and butter pudding for 'afters' (eggs and milk), or maybe just cheese and biscuits.

Warm Chicken Liver Salad: serves 2
4 oz (100g) string beans, large ones cut in half
7 oz (200g) chicken livers, trimmed if necessary
2 tsp olive oil
half tsp chopped fresh (or dried) rosemary
1 Little Gem lettuce
1 handful watercress
3 tblsp balsamic vinegar
crusty granary bread for serving
Cook the beans in boiling water for 4 minutes, then drain and keep warm. Put the chicken livers in a bowl with the oil and herbs, then fry in a large frying pan over high heat for 5 minutes until browned and just cooked through (barely pink in the centre). Save the juices still in the pan.
Cut the root end off the lettuce and separate the leaves, then place these on two individual plates with the shared beans and watercress.
Remove the livers from the pan and place on top of the salad, then into the pan juices add the vinegar, heat through and then spoon this over the livers and salad. Serve with crusty granary bread.

Next recipe is also a 'cheapie', but still provides the nourishment we need. Don't miss out on this if you haven't olives, just add something else instead (could be peas, courgettes....).
Eat straight from the pan (so why not walk up the garden path with the frying pan and plonk it on the table and let each help themselves). No mention of serving with anything else (and no real need) but myself would prefer to eat this with a green salad.

Greek Salad Omelette: serves 5
6 large eggs (or 8 - medium)
handful fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
2 tblsp olive oil
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
4 tomatoes, cut into chunks
2 tblsp pitted black olives, halved or sliced
4 oz (100g) feta cheese, crumbled
Whisk the eggs, the beat in the parsley and seasoning to taste. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat, the fry the onion for 4 minutes, until beginning to brown at the edge.
Add the tomatoes and olives, and cook for a couple or so minutes until the tomatoes have softened.
Reduce heat to medium-low and pour in the eggs. Shake the pan so the egg settles between the pan contents, and also give a stir now and again so the egg begins to set, but still slightly runny in places.
Meanwhile, heat the grill to high, and when the eggs are at the half-cooked point, remove the pan from the hob and place under the grill. Cook for 5 or so minutes until the omelette is puffy and golden. Cut into wedges and serve hot or warm, straight from the pan.

Final recipe is not-quite-a-bolognaise. Sausagemeat instead of beef mince. Either buy sausagemeat from the butcher (or supermarket) or - as with this recipe - use whole sausages and remove their skins. 'Proper' sausages come in various flavours, so according to your choice, these could make the dish tastier. Chestnut mushrooms are denser and have a more 'meatier' flavour than the ordinary white 'buttons'.
If you haven't a jar of the pasta sauce, then use passata and add some dried or fresh oregano, marjoram and/or basil.
Using fewer sausages and more mushrooms, pasta and sauce, this will reduce the cost.

Sausage 'Bolognaise': serves 4
6 quality sausages, skins removed
1 tsp fennel seeds
9 oz (250g) mushrooms, sliced
5 fl oz (150ml) red wine (opt)
1 x 660 jar/pack tomato pasta sauce (see above)
11 oz (300g) pasta penne (or other pasta shapes)
salt and pepper
grated cheddar cheese
Heat a large frying pan and crumble in the sausage meat, use a wooden spoon to break this up to look like 'mince'. Stir in the fennel seeds. Stir-fry until golden and cooked through. Pour off any excess fat, then add the mushrooms and continue frying until they soften, then add the wine (if using) and bubble this for a couple of minutes to reduce, then add the pasta sauce.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then when ready, drain and tip into the frying pan and toss everything together until the pasta is well coated with the meat and sauce. Add seasoning to taste.
Divide between four serving dishes and sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top.

An absolutely beautiful day today with barely a breath of wind. Am now going outside with the crossword and a mug of coffe and intend having an hour (or two) relaxing. Will think about what to cook for supper as well, but do very little about that until I return indoors.

Hope you too managed to get out and enjoy this good weather, it won't last much longer than a few days, so we should make the most of it. Please join me again tomorrow,. TTFN.