Friday, December 28, 2012

Before and After

A bit of a late start today due to me feeling so warm and cosy in bed.  Just didn't want to get up.  In any case a dark and dreary morning, it having rained all night and still 'spitting'.  Goodness knows what is happening to the rest of the country.   Our son phoned yesterday to check if we had flooding.  He lives further down south and although his house is on fairly raised ground, the lower part of his garden (and also garage) now has water lying on the surface due to the subsoil being clay - preventing fast draining away of the constant rain.   He doesn't think it will reach his house.

We hear that part of America has been hit by heavy snow - beginning with some severe tornadoes (saw some of this on the news, with thunder and lightening as well?.   In the 'old days' when our weather was pretty normal, we always used to get the snowy American weather (New York area) about 5 - 6 weeks after they had it.  So will this still apply and we get a lot of snow at the end of January?  Have to wait and see. 
If we get a lot of snow after all the rain, what on earth will it be like here when it thaws - our lands being completely saturated now?  Methinks it is definitely time to think about building our Arks'.

It was good to get 'working' in the kitchen again yesterday.  Found some 'beginning to dry up' lemons in the fruit bowl, so turned them into a few small jars of lemon curd (hoping that B won't eat this all up within the next week as he is prone to do).  Also baked two loaves of bread, one large for toasting, one smaller to slice thinly for sarnies.  Not sure why, but the dough rose even more when put into the oven, usually it stays much the same size once doubled in bulk then baked, perhaps because I used a little extra liquid.  Having made just one tiny (plaited) loaf from a small lump of leftover dough,  ate this for my breakfast today, and have to say the crumb is definitely softer and slightly moister, making it one of the best,  so from now on will add that little bit of extra liquid above the recommended amount.

Yesterday used 2 parts milk and one part of water when making the bread as I found three cartons of UHT milk in the larder that were past their best before date.  Well past - the date on the cartons being 9th Sept of this year.  Even so - after the 'sniff and taste' test, the milk still seemed perfectly 'fresh', so used some of a carton for the bread and the rest in our coffee during the day, as I live to tell the tale, not doubt the milk was still 'safe' to use. But you don't always have to do as I do - always check first and if in doubt - don't use!!

I'll be using up the rest of the '' milk over the next few days having bought another bulk pack of UHT semi-skimmed to keep in store during (and way beyond) my challenge.  But it just goes to show how the b.b.dates on most things are just for guidance, not mandatory. At least my excuse anyway.

Didn't really have to bother much with B's supper yesterday as he chose to have a pack of kippers (thawed) instead of the soup I planned to make (and so then didn't need to).  He doesn't eat kippers often, so enjoyed them, especially as they were quick to cook in the microwave.  He ate them in the living room (which now reeks of kippers!!!), as he didn't want to miss TV.  We'd been watching the film 'Fiddler on the Roof' (love that one), that was almost immediately followed by the repeat of 'Downton Abbey' (we not having yet seen this). So with five minutes between the two progs, just time to cook the kippers.

Plenty to see on TV yesterday that we both liked to see.  B staying up late to watch a film, so I went to bed, and why B is still in the Land of Nod as I write (he seems to need 12 hours of sleep each night, whereas the most I can manage is five, although last night was an exception and I managed seven (and feel all the better for it).

Lots of lovely comments have been sent, so thanks to all for those.
Have to ask you Marjorie, what are 'dead fish hats'?  I've tried visualising them, but the thought of fish heads flopping over ears doesn't make a pretty picture, so feel I've not quite got the picture.
Most men seem to enjoy eating the 'dark meat' from turkey, and stores often sell single turkey legs (to cook alongside the now more popular 'turkey crowns') presumably for the men of the family and certainly cooks/chefs on TV now always recommend using the 'dark meat' from chicken (usually thighs) when making a casserole or curry etc., as this has much more flavour than the breast.  Which is very true.  Chicken breast has very little 'taste' at all, but is certainly the most tender. As the thighs and drumsticks are much cheaper - as well as more flavoursome - always worth using these when we can.

This brings me to Lisa's comment 'boneless Buffalo wings'.  In our cook books, 'buffalo wings' are sort of glazed chicken wings, and have to ask how on earth you are able to bone these, as they are mostly all bone and skin with very little flesh inside. Even turkey 'wings' would be difficult to bone.

From your comment Lisa, am assuming that in America the coffee bean rules OK?  Over in the UK many people do drink coffee made from ground beans (and often possess coffee grinders and percolators), but also many families (mine included) use 'instant' coffee (granules or powder).  It's just so easy to make a speedy cup of coffee.
I once bought an electric coffee percolator in a jumble sale (for all of 20p including the filters), and did have a go at making coffee using ground beans, but we really didn't enjoy it, much preferring the 'instant' (and fairly weak - we don't need the caffeine 'lift'). 

Suppose ground coffee is one of those things that people either like or hate - like Marmite.   I'm not into the 'fancy' coffees that places like Starbucks sell.  As far as I'm concerned 'coffee latte' is just coffee with milk.  Don't even like the 'frothy coffee' that often is served - is that called 'espresso'? (the froth sticks to my upper lip and I look like I have a 'moustache' and I'm not keen on the taste of the coffee anyway), So why does coffee once so 'ordinary' now seem to be in so many different guises, each given a 'posh' (or foreign) name?  Is it because those that sell it can then charge more?

Hope you've managed to avoid all or most of the snow Lisa, it did mention Mississippi as having a lot of tornados and snow, and your state (Missouri?) is close by (but probably several hundred of miles away - I tend to think of the US states like the counties in the UK - almost within walking distance of each other.  In fact the UK would fit 12 times into Texas I believe, so perhaps only the size of one of the Texas 'counties').  Anyway, hope you manage to avoid most of the bad weather, although snow could be useful as it would then melt and help 'water' the land after your year-long drought.

Was very impressed with your way of cooking CTMOM, and only wish I could work out a month's meals ahead of making.  Well, suppose I could, but this just wouldn't work for B as he prefers to choose each morning what he wants to eat that evening.  Sometimes he decides what he wants without me even opening my mouth, other times he is maybe wants chicken, but now sure how, so is given a choice of dishes, then he decides on the one. Very rarely do I make something that he is not expecting.  Yesterday I suggested we have a big bowl of home-made soup for supper, but he didn't want that (so he chose the kippers, and of course that is what he had.  Perhaps other wives would still serve soup. Me - I bow to my masters wishes). 
Being allowed to make his own choice throughout marriage has become more than a habit with B, and now am not sure that my new challenge will last too long if he finds he no longer has a choice.  On the other hand, he still talks fondly about the meals his mum used to make from the weekend joint, so perhaps - for a while - he might enjoy going 'back' to his youth (he never seems to have grown out of it anyway). But I'm certainly not going to boil a steamed pudding in the wash boiler like his mum used to do (he'll probably expect me to improvise and 'cook' it in the washing machine!!).   He'll have to make do and have it steamed over water on the hob, or maybe (horrors) cooked in the microwave.  How low can I get?

Oh Cheesepare, are you really hoping I'll be able to come up with some 'different' ways of using up the cold roast meats?  There was me thinking it would be easy, just making Cottage Pie, and a casserole.  Now I suppose I'll have to put my thinking cap on just to please you (and of course B).  As of course I will - mainly because the aforementioned 'traditional' (using leftovers) are boring. And boring I don't do.  So watch this space.

Lucky you to get such good bargains Jane (sprouts, swede...).  You definitely have the knack of finding out what's on offer.  The secret of saving is - once we have food stored away in larder, fridge and freezer - then we start wearing blinkers that prevent us being tempted to buy any more, and even when we see something 'too good to miss' - we still have to turn our heads away (and least this time round - these offers always return). Stopping shopping, we then have more time to make and bake, and by making sure we keep our purses padlocked, and begin using up what we have - then the magic happens. Come Easter, we should find we have a few hundred pounds of our food budget still in our purses, and only SOME of this need be used to re-stock again.  Myself spend some of the savings on 'quality' (offers from Donald Russell et al.) this alone raises the standard of (food) living without paying any extra.  And still have money left over. 

Why this approach works, I am never really sure - it shouldn't, but it does.  Probably because this way we can break the habit of almost a life-time of adult supermarket shopping, and instead buckle down to the old ways of cooking and making almost everything from scratch.  
The 'basic' ingredients of almost any 'manufactured' food sold are incredibly cheap, so we mustn't make the mistake of believing the price we pay for the 'ready-made' is almost the same as if we make it ourselves.  Try it and see the (financial) difference.  

The new EU regulation about not now being allowed to sell home-made jams, marmalades and other preserves in recycled jars is one of the most stupid I've ever heard of.  For one thing, it is so easy to sterilized old (clean) jars, and it is recycled lids that probably cause problems (I boil old lids, but more often use new ones). But even I feel I dare not sell any more home-mades, even to the people from B's social who are pleading for more of my marmalade, because I could get a £5,000 fine if caught out using a second-hand jar (and who would be likely to know it wasn't a new jar - I do buy new jars from time to time?).  Think about it - we buy new jars and then maybe pick them up with an unclean finger stuck inside and the jar would be contaminated, yet a recycled jar that has been sterilized in the oven would be spanking clean.  We couldn't even stick an unclean finger in one of those or we'd get burned.  Who on EARTH thinks up these EU rules and reg.  Bet it is always a man!!!

Suppose this means that 'home-made' preserves on sale at Farmer's markets etc, now will be even more expensive (to cover the extra cost of the new jars and lids), so - as we can use old (sterilized) jars for our own 'home-mades' - in a sort of back-handed way we gain from this new ruling as now fewer and fewer people will be able to afford to buy the home-made preserves from over the counter (they were expensive anyway, so the extra cost will make them hardly worth buying), and as we can still give 'ours' as (as long as not sold for profit, we can use recycled jars), what a wonderful gift they will now make.
Can see a not-too-distant future when 'home-cooked' becomes something really worth having, and home-cooks can command a very high wage when working as a 'Mrs Bridges' or 'Mrs Patmore' in the larger mansions and stately homes.  Quite a few wealthy families employ a cook to travel with them to their homes abroad to provide meals for the family, and their children - whilst the adults enjoy life in the sun.   I once toyed with the idea of doing this after seeing an the Lady mag.  now wish I had.
There were similar ads for a cook and handyman/chauffeur, but full time.  I would do the cooking, B would drive the car or knock a few nails in where needed. Even a  cottage in the grounds for us to live in. But we never got around to offering our services.  We are too old now, but am sure this work is still available, especially as there seem to be less 'home-cooks around these days.

A great idea to provide your recipes as a Christmas gift Janet.  Also making them up into a recipe book.  We are so used to spending money on gifts, we often forget our 'knowledge' is as good a gift - if not better - than anything else.  Making up some hand-written 'vouchers' to give a relative as a gift works well - these vouchers could be for the same thing, or varied: (for the elderly) 'cleaning windows', 'supermarket shopping', 'washing/ironing', 'hoovering carpets/dusting', 'dog walking',  (or for younger relatives) 'baby-sitting'.  A voucher to be returned when the need is there - and in return we do the work specified on the voucher.  The only cost is our time, and we all have plenty of this (or should have if we keep away from TV and computers).

The snow seems to have arrived where you live Margie, hope you manage to cope with it.  But expect Canada is a lot more geared up to dealing with snow than we seem to be in the UK where an inch fall of snow seems to grind the country to a halt.  We never seem to get around to gritting our roads in time even though snow has been forecast.  Or we run out of salt and grit a couple of days later. 
Good to know you get BBC progs in Canada, I've also enjoyed those 'fly on the wall' historical series about rooms through the ages. 

Like you Jane W., also smiled when I read your anecdote about your grand-daughter eating AND enjoying her first Brussels sprout (and more and more...). Let us hope she continues to enjoy eating her 'greens' throughout the rest of her life.

It's been a bit amusing (for me) today as had comments from two Janes and a Janet - this sounding like a very good name for a pop group.  Hope readers managed to sort out who is who as I try to write a 'personal' reply to each comment (and apologise if and when I get mixed up - which I don't think I did today).

Might cook the roast beef today (or maybe tomorrow) as prefer to slice it when cold, then reheat in gravy.  This seems to make the roast go a lot further, although admittedly this is not the traditional way to deal with a roast (carve it shortly after it has been cooked).  But then I'm having to add a pinch of common sense to the 'old ways', purely to make life a bit easier for myself (and more interesting), so that a few slices can be frozen in gravy to make another meal (to be eaten a month later, and if I do this with every joint over 4 weeks, then should end up with enough to serve 'meat-based meals for a week without having to buy/cook a joint at all the previous Sunday!!!! How clever/devious is that?). 
So this coming week sees hot roast beef in gravy served Sunday with all the trimmings, cold sliced beef on Monday.... a few slices frozen for later (see above), and the rest made into at least two other dishes to be served during next week.  That leaves three days of 'meat-less meals'.  Fish on Friday, Egg and chips Saturday, just one 'vegetarian' meal to fit into one of the weekdays.  Probably Wednesday.   Not sure if I will enjoy having a 'menu' already pre-set, but am sure I can find a way to to enjoy it.  Maybe concentrate more on the puddings?

Today will make the soup that was planned for yesterday - unless of course B decides he wants to eat something else!  Am sure he will be happy with the trifle that I will make today (to use up some trifle sponges and cream I have left - I have loads of packs of jelly, and can use the old UHT milk to make custard) - should make enough for 4 helpings and hope he leaves some for me (or should I eat mine first?). 
Also have some left-over shortcrust pastry so could make a fruit pie/cheese straws or something that B will also enjoy. 
Did notice that I'm running a bit low on caster sugar, but do have several bags of granulated, so can whizz up some of these in the liquidiser to make my own 'caster', making sure I have enough sugar left to make marmalade as my 'home-made' is now down to a very few jars.

Looks like being a time for stocking up my shelves with more home-made, and this does give me the chance to use up lots of 'basics' that have been around for perhaps too long.  At least no food in the house has been here longer than three years as we brought very little with us when we moved.  Three years may seem a long time, but believe me there are plenty of cans and packets that can keep that long before having to be discarded (something I never do).

Because of a late start, had better take my leave of you, but will be back again tomorrow with more tales of our 'Goode life'.  We will not be celebrating New Year with anyone other than ourselves, so life will go on as normal from now, so hopefully will very soon be back on track when it comes to cost-cutting, cooking, and 'coping'.  Hope you can join with me doing this, and end up enjoying the bountiful fruits of your own labours. 

One apology I should make before I leave you today.  Yesterday was having a bit of a moan about all the money we Brits were spending at the Sales.  Believe one store sold over one and a half million pounds of stock in the first hour of trading.   Seems it is not the Brits splashing their cash as after reading the newspaper later, seeing photos of one store where ALL the customers fighting over the goods on one counter were foreign.   Apparently thousands have flown in from abroad (Arabs, Chinese, Japanese, Asian....) to take advantage of our low Sale prices.  Seems they have more than enough money to squander (does it really save money when having to pay for a flight from Dakata to buy a handbag?)  so perhaps good for our economy if nothing else.

Hope you can join me tomorrow when another weekend starts - and my challenge really begins. Hope to see you then.  TTFN.