Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Planning the Menu

A change of hair appointment has given me the chance to write my blog earlier today, but still need to finish by around 10.00pm.

My veggie box arrived, and this week the 'seasonal' box contained: carrots, white onions, turnips, red 'ramiro' peppers, cauliflower, red cabbage, vine cherry tomatoes, and fennel.  Plus some organic free range eggs.  Was VERY pleased, especially as the fennel had a lot of feathery leaves (these I can chop and freeze for later use.
The pepper were about the width of the bell peppers at their top, but about a foot length, tapering to a point at the bottom, so not sure yet whether they will be sweet (expect they will be) or have some heat.  Fun to find out.

Will be serving some of the fennel today, probably in a salad (grated fennel bulb), with some salmon cooked in a foil parcel in the oven with some fennel leaves to add flavour. 

As I've now enough organic veggies to keep me going for at least a couple of weeks (and probably more) then won't need to order again for at least two weeks.  This certainly seems to be working both for my purse and for our taste buds as yesterday B had some D.R. liver for his supper, with bacon, shredded organic 'pointed' cabbage (he says that has a lovely sweet flavour), and organic small potatoes.   Pudding was apple and blackberry crumble using our own apples (that fell from the tree this week) and some blackberries from the freezer. 

Am beginning to feel more and more like those restaurant chefs who plan their menu according to what fresh fruit and vegetables are in season and available each day.  To make sure I get the best from my veggie box I now also have to plan my meals so those veggies that are best eaten fresh (salads, spinach, courgettes, fennel...) are used first. 
With yesterday's box the red cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, carrots, and onions will keep well in the fridge (or onion basket), for at least a week - and probably far longer, although again best eaten as 'fresh' as possible.
Am looking forward to cracking the first organic egg, mainly in the hope that - for the first time in years - I get to see a yolk that is orange and not the pale yellow that all eggs seem to be these days.  Not that there is probably any difference in nutritional value, but a really richly coloured yolk does look far more appetising when poached/fried/scrambled/boiled etc.

It's an absolutely terrible day today regarding the weather.  Yesterday mid-evening we had a thunderstorm, then another around mid-night.  Nothing dramatic, but unexpected.  Saw the moon shining in our bedroom when I went to bed so the skies must have cleared, but this morning woke to heavy rain and half a gale blowing outside.  As so often happens in Morecambe, the skies now seem to be clearing and I can see a band of blue sky on the horizon between the house roofs,  so maybe it will clear up.   Let us hope so as it is B's day at the RNLI shop and no-one goes there when the weather is bad as it is a bit off the beaten track so to speak (away from the shops, close to the sea-shore (naturally, as it is from there they launch the lifeboat).

Overnight have cooked a batch of minced beef in the slow cooker so that it can be packed away and later turned into several different dishes (Cottage Pie, chilli con carne, spag bol meat sauce, meat pies/pasties,  and with other ingredients also mix into meat balls...).  Pre-cooked meat saves a heck of a lot of time when wishing to make a meal as all that needs to be done then is cook any veggies needed (no more than 20 minutes max), and add the remaining essential flavourings.

Whilst making the crumble pudding yesterday made a large batch of the crumble mix, so able to freeze that also ready to use another time.  More and more these days I do prefer to have a lot of the 'readies' already prepared so that when making a meal 'from scratch' (aka 'home-made') as it takes far less time. 
Don't get me wrong - I can spend all day preparing a special meal when the mood takes me - but there are days when I'm tired and really don't want to be bothered.  If there was only me to feed I'd make do with a Spam sandwich, but B likes a proper meal, and rightly so.

Regarding the Spam,  I've now eaten up the supply in the larder, and have no plans to order more as the larder 'stores' are becoming far less important, and am weaning myself off the canned meats, eating either chicken (good supply in the freezer) or minced meat based dishes (ditto), or home-cooked ham.  However do occasionally enjoy canned tuna and also sardines/pilchards, but had already built up a good stock of these as they have a very long shelf life.

Unfortunately missed 'Great British Bake-off' due to B watching a footie match yesterday, but later did watch the last half of 'Hotel GB', this being slightly more interesting than the first episode,  however it still isn't 'working' for me.   What hotel would allow so many dogs in one room, especially when they 'poo' all over the floor, and a guest to order 'breast milk' as part of his 'needs'?  Do we really want to see/hear all this.  I don't think so.
Must have missed the bit about Kim being silly (for her age) Jackie, not that keen on her anyway although have seen her in a chat show once where she wore her long hair down and she looked a lot younger.  

A comment from Campfire (sent via an earlier posting).  I think I missed reading Enid Blyton's 'Adventure' series, as the titles don't ring a bell, but she must have written hundreds of books, so although I read many, there must be some I didn't.  Does anyone remember 'Shadow the Sheepdog' and 'Mr Galliano's Circus'.  These were two favourites of mine.
The company that I get my veggie box from is 'Riverford' Campfire,  and so far have to say I am extremely pleased with what has been sent.  Everything perfect and as fresh as can be.  If thinking of ordering, you may be able to get a half-price 'trial' box (there was an ad in a current cookery mag that led me to start ordering), and although delivery is free, this expense has (obviously) to be covered in some way by adding a little to the cost of what is delivered.   It does work out much cheaper if - instead of ordering a small box each week - one larger box is ordered one every fortnight or three weeks as there is only one delivery, this means we get a lot more variety of veggies as well as lager amounts of the basics that are in most boxes (potatoes, carrots, onions...).

This is my third box - the first being the smallish 'trial' box, the next week ordering a large box, then a gap and now the third being a 'seasonal' box (smallish but different to the 'small box').  Now have enough to wait another two weeks before ordering.  So am finding it not too expensive done this way.
As the winter gets closer, most of the crops will be the longer 'shelf-life' ones so a large box now and again should keep me going for quite a few weeks, and reducing the cost-to-my-purse even more.  But as this is a new 'venture' for me, will have to wait a few months (am allowing myself three months) to see how much benefit this 'quality' eating will give us (financially, it goes without saying we are already gaining loads more flavour with the meals now eaten).

The smaller 'new' potatoes mentioned by Jane, don't normally mash down well as they are waxy.  We need the older 'floury' potatoes to make a good mash.  Waxy potatoes make good potato salad (mix spuds with the dressing whilst the potatoes are still warm). Some chefs use both floury and waxy potatoes in casseroles, the long slow cooking breaking down the older spuds so they help to thicken the gravy, whilst the waxy potatoes hold their shape.

I too thought Nigella's way of cooking chips was interesting Les.  Starting them off in cold fat sounded really odd, but they did look (and sound) good when she served/ate them.  Might give it a try sometime, although we now tend to eat oven-chips.

Sorry to hear about your broken slow-cooker lid Lisa.  Do hope you manage to find a replacement.
In the meantime you could try covering the top of the cooker tightly with a double layer of kitchen foil (this could be wiped clean and re-used), making a tiny steam-hole in part of it), then place another lid (or even a plate on top that covers the cooker. 
An old fashioned way of making an 'air-tight' lid was to mix up some flour and water to make a thick dough, then put this all round the rim of a casserole dish before placing the lid on top.  This keeps in any steam and helps keep the liquid from evaporating.

Good to hear you buy gifts throughout the year then store them in a 'gift box'.  This does cut down the cost around Christmas when our money has to go on so many other things, but perhaps in your case it is Thanksgiving that is the most expensive family meal of the year. 

Blue sky has come and gone, and we have had another downpour of heavy rain with - it looks like - more to come.  Have a feeling that B will be returning shortly as they close the shop if no customers have arrived, but with the weather being so variable in this region, who knows - the sun could be shining over the shop.  B often has come home saying "it's been tipping it down with rain, so we had to close", when - although cloudy - it's been dry as a bone where we live - about 3 miles east, also close to the prom.

Saw a new programme advertised on BBC TV yesterday, all about using up the foods we have, think Nigel Slater will be the presenter/cook.  Do hope so as he is one of my favourites.  Think it will start later this month.

Sorry, but time now for me to leave you for today.  Would like to continue with recipes etc, but the clock is ticking and things to do.  Hope to meet up with you again tomorrow.  Enjoy your day.