Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Taking it Easy

Didn't have time to reply to comments yesterday due to unexpected visit by daughter, so will begin with these, and also add today's...

Good to hear you got some great bargains from Morrison's Kathryn.  B and I went there yesterday, but more on that later...

Les, you shouldn't need to seek new recipes for Christmas puds that don't include booze, as all you need do is omit the booze from any of the recipes and instead substitute orange juice.   It may be the puds don't keep so well without brandy etc, but as the alchohol will have evaporated with the first lengthy steaming, doubt this would help 'mature' the puds anyway, just add flavour (you can get rum cake flavouring by the way).   You could make the puds sans booze, and then steam, freeze and thaw later to reheat in the normal way.

As to your second comment re the fact that British Gas make only £20 profit per customer - well they have millions of customers, so by making (say) £2 less profit for each this should keep prices frozen (or even drop) and they still make a hefty profit.  So they can still could afford to do this.  Am not going to comment further on this subject as am not really interested in what they do with their profits, just interested in the customer side of things.

That Sweet Potato and Rosemary soup sounded lovely Campfire.  We have a huge rosemary bush growing in the garden (looks lovely when in full bloom), and yet I hardly ever use this herb. As it doesn't die down in the winter, maybe I should start using it more. 

Eating out (even brunch) is now becoming far too expensive, especially when treating friends (ref. to Margie's comment).  Think nowadays more people are beginning to entertain at home.  My friend Gill, and three of her friends (one a vegetarian), meet up once a month but now take it in turns to have lunch at each others houses (each providing a meal just three times a year) .  Gill panics a bit when it is her turn, trying to think up a vegetarian dish for one (probably using Quorn) and then the same dish (using meat) for the others), and if it was me I'd make the same vegetarian meal for all my guests.  Vegetarian food can be very good and we should eat more of it. Gill herself says the Quorn tastes very good 'almost like the real thing', so why not serve it to all? Saves a lot of faffing about.

Interesting to hear that you raise/keep chickens from egg to table so speak, MamaDragon.  Suppose it is possible to work out how much it costs to feed each bird from hatching to dispatching, but this has then to be offset by the 'income' (not needing now to buy eggs, chicken to cook etc), The number of (possibly) free-range organic eggs laid over their life-time (now at least 30p each) must add up to a good saving, and then the price of the (possibly) free-range organic bird if bought over the counter to eat would be quite costly.  Could the feathers be used to stuff a pillow or quilt? 
Even chicken manure has a value as it is excellent to dig into the ground when growing veggies etc.

Your mention of your daughter not being overly interested in the economics of cooking Jane, brought back to mind how it was a bit like that with my children, who often used to laugh at me when I plonked a dish onto the table and said "this cost only *** to make!". True, I was a bit obsessed at how cheap some meals could be, and perhaps liked to show off a bit.  None of them took me seriously (thought I was a bit mad), until the Beeb suddenly showed interest, and then things changed.  I got respect!! No longer was I just 'Mad Mum' but a real person in my own right. How good that felt you wouldn't believe.

Even if a child or young adult is not interested in cooking, occasional reminders of the cost of a meal made for them will sow seeds, especially if they know how much more it would cost if they had to be it as a 'ready-meal' from the supermarket. They will then think twice about how far their pocket money goes, and by home-cooking some 'treats' for them (sweets, vegetable crisps etc) you could let them buy these from you at cost price, and they will then see how much more they get for their money.  Even making home-made pizzas for them that they can just take from the freezer and bake in the oven (at low cost) will save them buying one from a take-away and eating it on the way home.  Well, let's hope so.

Another idea is to suggest one day a week they cook a meal for YOU (and rest of the family - in fact all members of the family could take turns doing this.  Make it a competition, the best one wins something like the money saved that it would have cost them (theoretically) to buy it over the counter readymade?).  You provide the money (and recipe if you wish), and then they go and do the shopping.  Possibly they would enjoy doing this as it gives them the feeling of being responsible for their own lives they all seek at teenage time.  If they want a helping hand with the preparation, then give it gladly, but let them make their own mistakes if they wish.  Just praise the meal made (even if it isn't that good), as there is nothing worse than criticism, even if it is 'constructive'.

Always worth mentioning that even in this day and age of 'share and share (chores) alike', men and boys still are more fond of being looked after, than doing anything else.  True, some men do enjoy cooking, in which case encourage this.  However, having asked many young male adults that if they had to choose between two girls that they really liked, which one would they pick, the one with the best looks, but that had few skills, or the slightly plainer girl who could cook.  Every time they chose the girl who could cook.  It has always been - and is still true - that a way to a man's heart is through his stomach!

One weekend, our daughter - still at school - said she'd like to cook our Sunday roast (lamb) dinner for us, and sent B and I off out for a drive whilst she cooked the meal.  I was astonished as she never seemed that interested in cooking before, but she said she knew what to do as she'd been watching what I did (and she could follow recipes), and it was true - she really had got it right, we returned home to a really lovely Sunday dinner.  I was so proud of her.  So just by watching Mum work, some youngsters really do pick up cookery knowledge.  

Shortly after finishing my blog yesterday, and after our daughter's departure (same daughter as above), B and I went off to Morrison's to see if they had at least some of the things on my 'party list'.  Fortunately their scooter was available, so I whizzed around loading my basket.  Was VERY pleased to find some 'bases' (bruschetta etc) on the reduced shelf (still within bb date), and - with the help of an assistant - was able to get some pumpernickel and other dark breads (in a pack of 'assorted').  When cut up, these will make loads of bases, and I can make my own bread and pastry cases for others.

They didn't have blinis, nor buckwheat flour, but did buy a bag of rye flour so might be able to use some of this (with white flour) to make small blini-type pancakes.
Wanted to buy some "caviare" (but it had to be the cheaper roe), and couldn't see any, but a customer who had heard me ask B to look on the high shelf (I couldn't read any labels,as was wearing my wrong glasses), stopped me at the end of an aisle and said she had seen tins of cod's roe at the other end on the top shelf - so kind of her to let us know - and there it was, only cod's roe appeared, from the photo on the can, to look a bit like a roll of Spam.  I wanted the 'eggy' type of roe that looked like little bubbles, but B suddenly saw small tins of said black 'bubble' roe (think it was lumpfish roe), so that was perfect to use for garnishing. In the basket went a couple of cans.

Also bought some packs of Parma Ham (enough to wrap round the melon that will be cubed). I've had an unripe melon for a couple or so weeks and it is only just beginning to ripen so has now been put into the fridge to 'hold'. I'm also able to buy packs of Game Bird 'mix' from elsewhere at a reduced price. 
Venison sausages are now being sold by Riverford (expensive!), but I will probably buy a couple of packs, then slice thee into diagonal chunks once cooked, and either lay on top of (home-made) venison pate , or spear on sticks.

So now my canapes are just about sorted (plus a few more pastry ones to bake but they won't take more than a couple of hours), and all that needs to be ordered (from Tesco) are smoked salmon (on offer at the moment), smoked mackerel, frozen prawns, double cream, eggs, butter and - while I'm ordering - milk.  The very fresh: cucumber, watercress, tomatoes, radish, spring onions, lettuce et al....will be bought a couple of day's before the 'do'.  Have other things on the 'shopping list' but will need to refer to that before I order.

Can now put my feet up as far as the 'party' goes, until this weekend when I will be making a start on cooking the Macroons (will keep in airtight containers), the cheesy choux buns (will freeze), and the cheese straws (keep in airtight tins).  Will probably also make the square chocolate rum truffles as these can also be frozen (then will pipe the dots on them to make them look like dice, on the day).  Oh, it's now all feeling far too - and dangerously - easy.

Have tried making a strawberry jelly with 'mock champagne' (white wine and lemonade), and it turned out well, but the cost of a 'real' sparkling dirnk (even a rose) might work out rather expensive, might have to dilute it down (half jelly/water then half booze).  Adding a few quartered strawberries will fill up each glass quite a bit, so that will make the jelly go a lot further.

All that remains for me to do now is start making lists so that I know each day what has to be done, and when (some need to be done early, other things later on the same day).  This way, faced with making 500 canapes, it could appear daunting (even for me), but working down a list that breakes it down to small amounts (say 30 at a time) then only have to concentrate on the one job in hand before moving on to the next.  This really does work well.

We've had several really lovely days of sunny weather, with hardly any wind (in fact the wind died right down on Sunday and the sailing boats (supposedly racing) found they were being taken out with the tied and had to tack hard for a long time to get back.  We have had some frost at night, sbut the temperature was not to bad in the daytime. Yesterday the Bay looked beautiful.
Today woke up to rain and high winds.  Still cold but not nearly as 'comfortable' now it is damp (cold always feels better when the sun is shining - even if below freezing).  The leaves are falling fast from the trees now, and our Horse Chestnut-lined road is thick with them (although the council do come and sweep them up several times a week).

Time for me to go and sort out the freezer/s (re-pack) as do need at least two large empty drawers to store my 'makes and bakes' from next weekend.   B had the last of the oven chips last night with a couple of fried eggs and three sausages (I had one sausage and a mixed salad).  Can't order more oven chips until the party is over as won't have the room. 

Maybe tonight will make chilli con carne as then can use up some of the already-cooked minced beef, this will give me a bit more freezer space.  If only we had the big 14 cu.ft chest freezer (like the one we had in Leeds) then it would be so much easier at 'party time'.  But who would ever think I would go back to 'catering' on such a large scale (well small to me as used to providing buffets for 140), as was fully expecting to have to give it all up (due to age, mobility probs, etc).  But seems there is life in the old dog yet.   Just wish I had a larger kitchen!  And a dishwasher!!

Have emails to reply to before I begin my culinary day, so must say my farewells.  As it is Norma the Hair day tomorrow, will probably have to write my blog once she has left, so expect tomorrow's 'chat' to be published closer to noon, but still hope to see you then. TTFN.