Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tools of the Trade

Got on well with sorting out our dining room.  Now that some of the furniture has been moved around and other things 'put away', the room looks twice the size (and it is large anyway).  As it cries out for 'entertaining', the hope is we can host a lot more dinner parties next year.

The 'catering committee' have chosen a Chinese meal for their meal here on Tuesday evening.  This I will enjoy as it means I can serve several different dishes instead of a boring casserole (meat and two veg sort of thing).  It's just the timing that needs to be got right, so hope the guests turn up at the alloted hour.  In any case, B can give them a sherry before the meal and keep them amused whilst I sort things out in the kitchen.

Today will be going to Morrison's (10.00am to make sure of getting their scooter) to buy one or two Oriental sauces etc.  If I leave it to B to get them he will get confused, even I need to make sure they are the right ones.

We went to the club yesterday evening to see the demo by The Pampered Chef.  It was raining when we left home, and raining even heavier when we returned.  It rained all night, and think it is raining now, but has eased off a bit.  The clouds are scuttling across the sky - from the north-west which seems strange as the low pressure area is moving up the country from the south, but remembering the weather forecast, the little circle of depression is moving north and as it does turns anti-clockwise and so the left-hand side of this does spin round down from the north, so everything is as it should be in that respect.

Think there were over 80 flood alerts over part of the country yesterday, and with so much flooding and the ground already saturated, the rains last night will have caused even more chaos.   And - apparently - more to come.  We hear of cars being washed away, one had the driver still in it, and although rescued, sadly he died.
Our daughter drove down to Bristol a few days ago, and said the M6 (one of our major motorways) had only one lane open due to flooding.  She was lucky to get there and back without too many problems.   Many train services also disrupted due to water on the lines.  

Thankfully it is the weekend when fewer people have to travel to work, and let us hope that early next week transport at least will be back to nearly normal.   Who would believe that this spring people were praying for rain because we had a drought.

Of course we now hear our water rates will be increased - substantially.  Usually this is done when there is a water shortage and they have to pipe it from another part of the country.  Now we have too much water, so they are presumably charging us for removing that as well.  Probably though a lot of repairs have to be done to underground piping, and the charges also cover sewage as well as drinking water.  Does it really matter?  However much it costs to pay our utility bills, one thing is certain.  They will continue to rise.

The Pampered Chef demo was quite interesting, it could have been better if it had not been for the competition between two male club members, each assembling the same dish.  One of these 'chefs' continually talked loudly, often drowing out what the demonstrator was talking about.  Otherwise it was a pleasant evening.   Because the club was getting a percentage of the takings for throwing the party, I did buy quite a few things (that I really did want, and hadn't got), but everything sold was extremely expensive (Lakeland have much the same and far cheaper).  My most expensive purchase was a 'self-honing' knife (it sharpens itself when put back and then taken out of its scabbard) - this B chose for his own use to be my Christmas present to him.  When he's not looking I'm might use it too (well he uses all my knives).

The club had provided 'nibbles', and as there were fewer visitors than expected (due I think to the atrocious weather outside), more for us all to eat.  I ate quite a lot!  Several lovely soft bread 'baps' filled with ham, and also egg mayo.  Then had two helpings of the 'turkey' roll that the two male 'chefs' had prepared (these were baked in the club's oven before being served). Also salad of red and yellow peppers, 'frilly' lettuce, and mayo.  
Desserts were numerous - a zabaglione trifle (this I didn't have), scones, jam and cream (my scones that they had frozen, also my jam - but didn't have any of those either).  I did have a meringue nest filled with whipped cream and topped with fresh berries, and also a couple of hot mince pies.

Could have eaten more, but was absolutely 'pogged' as we say in Yorkshire and the Midlands.  Really did eat too much (for me), as nowadays eat much smaller helpings, bit it was SO good to eat food that someone else had prepared.    
I even had a gin and tonic, and later an orange juice.  Not like me to drink alcohol, but thought this time I'd allow myself to have a good time.  It was worth it.

Thanks for the recipe for the 'French Silk' Lisa, I hope to give this a try within the next few days, it sounds like a dessert that my B will absolutely love.

Was pleased to hear your 'freezer check' showed you had more of certain meats than you expected Alison, and proves that it is worthwhile listing what we have to make sure it all gets used up.  Not only that, when we know the different variety/cuts of meat we have, we then can balance them out, not serving the same dishes quite so often, but using the meats in different ways, and with serving vegetarian meals at least twice a week,  this helps to keep our 'meat budget' down.

Those of you who read the Daily Mail will yesterday have seen a double page feature on 'Feeding a Family on less than £50 a week.  This was overseen by Prue Leith, and the menus and costs for each day of the week were shown (family of two adults, two children).   There was also a shopping list showing all the foods bought to make these meals, the cost of these and also where they were bought.

Although I don't want to criticise (much!) such a splendid feature, the total of the foods I could not add up to the amount shown.  It came to several pounds more. Possibly not ALL of certain foods were used up, but the price was given for 10 small eggs (these worked out at just over 13p each), yet 24 were bought (so more expensive than the cost shown), and have to say that Tesco sell trays of 15 medium eggs that are around 10p each.  So money could have been saved there.
Also wondered why £1.80 was spent on buying a watermelon, when that amount of money could have bought more and different fruit and veg.  I would also have removed a few other items that seemed not that necessary, just to free up more money to buy 'better' foods.

Another problem was that to buy the foods listed at the cheapest price (the prices shown did not seem to always be the cheapest - but were supposed to be) this would mean we would need to shop in several supermarkets (Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Morrison's et al) and also town markets.  Few people have the time to do this.

There was certainly one item mentioned in the menu (bread rolls) that were not on the shopping list, and suggestions of others (Parma ham) etc, also not on the list.
Was also puzzled about the 'lunch-boxes' as quite often these included foods that should be served hot - soup for instance.  Perhaps taken to school in a vacuum flask? 

Later this week (once our dinner party is over) I'm going to take a closer look at the £50 budget and try and work out exactly how much it really cost (the final total of foods served being just over £41 I think - so there must be some 'left-overs').  But that's just me being 'picky'.  The whole point of the feature was that we can all spend a lot less (than expected) and still eat well.  That's the message that has to come across, a few pence more or less doesn't really matter unless we have to scrape the barrel so clean that we need to give even more thought to what we buy and cook.
The lady who trialled these recipes with her family said she normally spent £130 a week on food, so the foods/meals in the above feature show that it is possible to spend a lot less and still eat (fairly) well..

Possibly yesterday's article can be read on the Daily Mail's website, so if you get a chance to take a look, I'd love to hear your opinion.   No doubt there will be letters sent to the paper from folk saying they can manage on a lot less, and all power to their elbow I say.

Back to the Goode life. Am not watching Superscrimpers at the moment as they all seem to be repeats.  Unfortunately not much there anyway to interest me.  Had to smile though when I saw a girl showing how to give finger nails the latest 'look', the nail varnish with glitter sprinkled over.
Would you believe when I was about 19 (1952!) I once painted my nails with green enamel and then sprayed them with gold glitter (used to spray on hair for special occasions)?  Just shows that my 'invention'  done 60 years ago (but never did it again), has now been thought up by others as 'something new and trendy'.    I feel a bit like Leonardo da Vinci who drew all sorts of things like planes and submarines before anyone ever thought to even try and see if they would work. 

Have to get ready now to write out my shopping list and then go with B to Morrison's, so again an early finish to my blog, but will be back again tomorrow, and hopefully the rest of this week as the Chinese meal is more a matter of preparation (and listing) than lengthy cooking. 

Do hope that none of you are having too many problems with the weather.  Let us hope it soon improves.  Less than a week now and it will be December.  Then another three weeks and the days will begin to lengthen again.  That at least is something to look forward to.   TTFN.