Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Right Thing to Do?

Well, my veggie box arrived (eventually) yesterday afternoon (it had been promised for the morning). Certainly made me feel as though I was opening a gift, not quite sure what the box would contain (all I could see was a container of tomatoes on the top and 'something green'.

Then spent a few happy moments unloading said box and discovered I'd been sent 8 fairly large tomatoes still 'on the vine' (and having eaten one later than evening did find it tasted better than supermarket ones). a mini-string of good sized yellow onions, 2 huge cobs of sweetcorn still wrapped in the leaves/husks (these can be used to dry to make things), 2 leeks, one really large, the other slightly smaller), 8 carrots, 5 courgettes, a strong paper sack of 'Orla' potatoes (about 1 kg), a pale green cone-shaped cabbage (think the variety is called Hispi, could be wrong), and a 'free gift' of a biggish bag of fresh basil leaves.

Did some comparison costing, and even though this box was a half-price offer, still found it above the price of the non-organic (and some organic) supermarket veggies. On the other hand my delivery would be far fresher than those on sale in stores. What was pleasant (I suppose) was to see earth on the carrots and the potatoes (but of course this means more washing when preparation, how lazy can I get?).

On the down side, my Beloved does not like leeks, sweetcorn or courgettes, and not even that fond of tomatoes, so not a lot in the box to please him. I had hoped this veggie company (Riverford) would allow their customers to removed some items from their lists and replace with more of the 'liked' or choose another, but seems not. All the weekly deliveries of veggies (some boxes include fruit) are itemised on their website, and to these we can add more from a range of dairy products, cheeses, meat etc, and of course free-range eggs. Trouble is all are very expensive compared to the cost of supermarket foods, although of course far superior in quality.
Am sure similar could be bought cheaper from farm shops and at farmer's markets, but then this means I'd have to spend time and petrol money getting to them. Having a 'veggie box' delivered would make it easier for me and also make me think a lot more about how to make the most of what I have been sent.

So now have to decide whether to scrap the veggie box idea, or run with it. In an ideal world we should all be able to afford to buy organically (or at least locally) grown produce, although current views are that 'organics' are nutritionally no better for us than the non-organic. Buying 'home-grown fresh' (from this country not imported) for me this is fast becoming more a moral issue than a financial one. By buying organic we are helping to boost our local/national economy, also know that the food is fresh and of very high quality.
Problem is - like with the D.R. meat I buy - quality costs more. What it all boils down to is if we can afford to buy 'the good stuff' then why not? If not, then buy what we CAN afford and try to grow as much as possible in our allotments and gardens or even on just a windowsill.

The less money we have the more we need to fall back on the supermarkets. Having been an avid supermarket customer for more years than I care to mention, do know that it is possible to save a LOT of money with canny supermarket shopping and have no wish to make any reader feel guilty for doing so. I may even go back to doing this myself (still buying quality meat though) for - like most people - we have to live within our means and if this causes us to cut costs to the extreme, then we have little or no choice as to the quality we buy. On the other hand, by causing us to think a bit harder how we can make 'quality' go a bit further (good meat has such good flavour we need to use quite a bit less and still gain as much flavour - even better - than if we used a cheaper meat of the same 'cut').

In the wartime there used to be a saying 'Careless talk costs lives'. Today we could say 'Careful cooking costs less'. You will get so fed up with me saying that "the more we think about how to make the most (or best) use of what we have, the chances are we will end up with far better meals for less cost", and this also applies when using the better quality foods. So who knows, maybe by spending more on the veggie boxes, quality meats etc will be able to prove that it really doesn't cost us that much more. A feather in my cap if I can.

Much depends what is in the weekly veggies box (as shown each week on the website) as to when I will reorder (if I do), as no point in having veggies that B doesn't like (and some I'm not fond of either, such as courgettes, corn on he cob and leeks). The larger boxes are much more up my street as they have several more veggies that ARE liked (but still including the same basic ones) but these are (by my standards) horrendously expensive, so only worth having a delivery of these once a month - which may work out to my advantage. Will see what is in next week's box before I make a final decision, but at least this week's delivery has provided enough veggies me plenty of 'food for thought', and who knows maybe B and I will find out we both enjoy eating what we didn't think we would.

Thanks Les for further details about how to sharpen knives. Will possibly get the Lakeland sharpener you recommended as really sharp knives are essential to a cook. It was good to see that Gordon Ramsay said we only need three different types (there is me with more than seven and not one of them that little 'paring knife'!).

A welcome to Ivy, who is asking whether the Beef Rib Trim is fatty to eat. Myself find that after slow-cooking in a little water any fat marbled in the meat has dissolved, leaving just strips of very lean meat. On the good side (at least for me), once the meat has been removed from the cooking liquid, the resulting stock is very 'meaty' (makes good gravy) and when this is chilled a good layer of 'beef dripping' sets on the top. This I remove and use for frying roast spuds etc. The 'stock' I then normally freeze, although some I do use to spoon over the cooked Rib Trim before these are frozen.

Worth mentioning again that at least half (and sometimes all) the Beef Rib Trim ordered (in other words several packs) are all removed from packs and slow-cooked together in the one pot , usually overnight, as when wishing to use the meat later it then takes far less time to make that casserole, and the beef - being so tender after a lengthy cook - can be added to stir-fries for just a very few minutes 'cooking'. Find also the Beef Trim makes good 'strogonoff'.

Chrissie has said she is ordering Beef Rib Trim so perhaps I should get my order sent before then run out (was intending to wait a further 10 days to give me a chance to clear space in the freezer, but maybe they will hold back delivery once ordered).

A great idea Lisa to use a different coloured yarn (and maybe a stronger one) for your hand-knitted socks. Unless open-toed sandals are worn, who is likely to see any difference to the main colour of the sock. Today anything goes and there are lots of socks on sale that are brightly coloured and striped. Some people have taken to the 'fashion' of wearing a different coloured sock on each foot (could this be because they have lost the other sock when they are washed? Don't know why it is but put socks in the washing machine and less seem to come out than went in - and they are not trapped in the machine either, losing a sock is just one of those unknown curiosities).

Your daughter seems to be enjoying her cookery classes Lisa, but arriving home at 10.00pm! Does she start after lunch, or is it that she lives some distance away from the college? Lovely that she can bring home what she has made. Most of our flour-less chocolate cakes are made using cocoa powder instead of flour. If you need a recipe will put one up for you.

Made my Beloved a Chicken Tikka Masala curry for his supper yesterday, using the cooked chicken removed from the thigh bones after making stock. Today will be boiling the stock down to reduce, and then box this up and freeze.
Whether it was something in the (bottled) curry sauce not sure, but as I went to bed felt the 'sensation' around one side of my top lip that I get before my 'allergy' hits, so took a couple of anti-histamine pills before retiring. This morning the left side of my face was HUGE (this is the side I sleep on so probably the excess fluid settled there) and once up it went down slightly but is moving across to the middle and possibly over to the other side. Have taken another pill and do hope it will subside soon as recently the allergy has changed to not just my face, but also my throat although not impairing my breathing (yet!).
Wish it had happened tomorrow as that is the day I have to take myself off to the local hospital for my annual chiropody check, and someone there might have got a doctor to take a look at my face. By the time I've booked an appointment with my own surgery (even the same day) the allergy has subsided and not really seen 'at its best'. So the doctor just says 'keep taking the tablets', and unlikely that anyone could find out the cause, it's just one of those things'.

Today have chosen a recipe that at least can use up some of the less favoured veggies in the box. Probably not for B, but as once made it will keep for a few days in the fridge (reheated in the microwave), then myself don't mind eating the same thing every day - well for a while at least - and a chilli is one dish that I could eat every day for a year!

Vegetarian Chilli: serves 4 - 6
1 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
inch piece root ginger, finely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 courgettes, diced
1 each red and yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 tblsp chilli powder
4 oz (100g) red lentils
1 tblsp tomato puree
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
9 fl oz (250ml) water
1 x 195g cans sweetcorn (or fresh, cooked)
1 x 420g can butter or cannellini beans, drained
1 x 400g red kidney beans
Heat the oil in a large pan, then fry the onions, ginger, peppers and courgettes for about 5 minutes, adding the garlic towards the end. When the veggies have begun to soften, stir in the chilli powder and cook for a further minute, then stir in the lentils, tomato puree, canned tomatoes and the water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes then add the sweetcorn and beans, cook for a further 10 minutes. Serve hot with rice or spooned on top of jacket potatoes. Alternatively use as filling for a tortilla 'wrap'.
Any 'left-overs' place in a covered dish and keep chilled in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave and serve as above.

This next recipe will be made for my lunch today as now have all the necessary ready and waiting in our kitchen.
Courgette Frittata: serves 1
1 small red onion, halved and sliced
1 medium or 2 small courgettes, sliced
olive or sunflower oil for frying
3 eggs
salt and pepper
1 oz (50g) grated Cheddar cheese
Fry the onion and courgettes in a frying pan over low-medium heat, using a little oil, until softened and turning golden. Meanwhile beat the eggs with a little salt and pepper to taste and fold in the cheese, when the veggies are ready pour the egg mixture into the pan, giving the pan a shake to settle the egg between the gaps. Cook until the base has set, the pop under a hot grill until the surface has puffed up and is golden brown (you could if you wish flip the 'pancake' over in the pan, but it may break up - still edible but won't look as good and won't be as 'fluffy'). Cut into wedges and serve with a mixed leaf salad.

My Beloved loves home-made white bread even more than he used to. He says it is now making even better toast, and myself think this is because instead of just making it with water, I now use half milk, half water. This also seems to keep the bread fresher for longer (although it never gets the chance now to go stale). Myself prefer to eat home-made brown bread (if I eat bread at all - which I shouldn't), so today need to make at least one white loaf for B, and maybe a small brown for me.

Due to Gordon Ramsay on at 5.00pm and Downton Abbey on about 20 minutes (sometimes less) later, have to plan supper to fit in with this. All depends on whether be is working with his mate or at the gym. B also wants to watch Downton, so at the moment am making meals that he can easily reheat when he comes home. Today am planning a lasagne. Tomorrow B will be at the County Fair and late home, so he says 'no supper' needed. Thankfully the repeats of Downton finish this week (a new series begins on Sunday - can't wait!), or my very fresh vegetables won't be that fresh by the time they get onto his plate.
There must be better things to do that watch TV, but at the moment don't wish to know. Had to miss Great British Bake Off last night due to B wanting to watch a footie match, but it will be repeated at the weekend and I can always catch up with it on iPlayer (although always prefer to watch repeats on a 'proper' TV rather than on the comp, probably because I am far more comfortably tucked up in my chair.

Must get on as have more freezer sorting to do otherwise won't be able to order the meat on offer from D.R.
Went to bed when it was raining, woke up to more rain and it is still raining. Let us hope it clears up before tomorrow or the County Fair won't be that much fun. B has already been warned to take his wellies.

Could go to the chiropody tomorrow on Norris, but think I'll take the easy way out and go by taxi (B said he'd pay as he wasn't able to drive me there). Much depends upon the weather. I could tell B I'd gone by taxi anyway and then take the 'taxi fare' for the inconvenience he has caused me. If I did then I'd end up feeling guilty, so not worth it.

Hope to meet up with you again tomorrow, usual time (my appt. is just after lunch), and also hope you can find time to have our 'virtual coffee break and online chat'. If so - see you then.