Monday, December 31, 2012

Challenge Begins...

Because my 'New Year' Challenge is based around cooking a 'Sunday Roast',  this has - as you now know - been brought forward a few days as Jan 1st falls in the middle of the week.  So yesterday was the first 'Sunday Roast Beef' we've had in - maybe - half a century. 

Weighed the beef when cooked and chilled and it had lost about a third of its original (raw) weight, but that was expected.   Still was left with over 2lbs cooked beef - and using the 'metrics' this came to 1kg.   Normally prefer to work in lbs and ounces, but this time the metrics worked to my advantage as the (nutritional) recommendation is 100g of meat per person a day (just under 4 oz), so this meant the cooked meat should then be enough for 10 meals - more than enough to last the week for both B and myself (and that's if I ate the same amount as B, which often I don't as preferring to eat a veggie meal now and then).

Yesterday sliced up some of the beef - three slices each for B and myself.  The slices were large, still very slightly pink in the centre (tender and  perfectly cooked at the low temperature).  Myself just ate the beef and a little salad.  B had the full Monty: Beef, onion gravy, Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, roast potatoes, and Yorkshire puddings.   He complained afterwards that I'd given him too much (so why didn't he leave what he didn't want, I could have whizzed it up and made it into soup for my lunch today?), but somehow he managed to eat it all up - including the four Yorkshire puddings (think he had two with his meal and the remaining two later with golden syrup!

Sliced of cold beef are already in the fridge for today's 'cold meat, jacket potatoes, and a veg (not yet sure what veg - maybe peas - or perhaps he could have it with a salad?    Then tomorrow some of the remaining meat will be minced to make either a Cottage Pie or Spag.bol,  more cut into chunks to make a casserole (or curry), and the remainder will be frozen to serve another month.

When I make something like Spag.bol, I always add plenty of veg, and this time may also add a packet of Beanfeast spag.bol mix to the veg and minced beef.  This then should make at least 4 good portions (maybe six) - so at least a couple (or four) spag.bol portions to freeze away.

So far, so good. It looks as though the half-price joint of rump beef - although still perhaps more than I would normally spend - might well have been worth buying after all, for as there will be enough left from this Sunday roast to make at least a couple more meals to freeze, and the same when I cook the remaining half of the joint (which I froze raw), and serving meals the 'old fashioned' way (roast Sunday, cold meat Monday, minced meat Tuesday, stew on Thursday.....) this means that at the end of each month may have managed to freeze away enough meals to - eventually - last a whole week without having to buy a joint at all.

Apart from costing the meat cooked, the rest of the ingredients are - and will be - taken from my own stores, with these lasting several weeks before needing to be replaced.  Even so I'm making a note of what I use (veggies, larder stores etc) so that I can work out the price and total this up at the end of each week, added to the cost of the meat - and estimate anything else made/eaten during each day - to find out if the £20 budget is enough (more than enough it seems at the moment, but will have to wait and see).

Today - with supper being 'sorted' - really should bake another loaf of bread (the last one was so nice that most of it already eaten).  The 'free' dripping made when cooking the joint (how I made the dripping was mentioned yesterday), was very satisfactory according to B who has already begun to eat it, spread on toast with a sprinkle of salt.  

Will probably make an apple and blackberry crumble for B's 'pudding' as still have a lot of apples left, and also blackberries in the freezer.  Or might make the trifle that I meant to make the other day from some trifle sponges, jelly and cream that were 'left-overs' from those bought for B's social meal the other evening - just enough left to make three individual trifles - but (sort of) 'free'.

Thanks for comments.  I took a look at the website mentioned by Marjorie as I really wanted to see those 'dead fish hats' that she made for her boys.  Have never seen anything like these before, don't think they are known in this country,  the only knitted 'hats' worn by both adults and children in this country seem to be those South American (Peruvian?) hats that have a bobble on the top and tassels at the end of ear flaps to tie under the chin, usually knitted in an ethnic patters (a bit like our Fair Isle).  So am sure the 'dead fish' hats would really go down well here, so 'readers who knit' it is definitely worth having a go at making some and taking them to a craft shop (especially in areas where there is a lot of line fishing). Offer them 'sale or return' and I bet they will be sold within days.

Had to smile Jane, when I read about your bargains.  You really can't resist them - and have to say I would be the same if I saw all that at such a very low price.  Bargains are always worth having, but only if we can use up what we already have (freeze away the most recent purchases if we can), or we end up with our shelves overflowing and instead of reducing the amount we have bought we end up with even more.  
My Beloved has asked - more than once - why I buy (or used to buy) so much food when ordering from Tesco, when I already had loads of food in store.  We really only needed (say) milk, eggs, butter and some fresh salads, but so much more was delivered 'because they were on offer'.  So he did have a point.  But as there were good bargains to be had, I did not want to miss them. 
This is perhaps the main reason why - each New Year I force myself to use only the foods I have in stock and refuse to buy more unless absolutely necessary.  By not going to the shops (or clicking on Tesco's website) I can avoid even the best of bargains.  What I can't see, I don't miss.  B goes to Morrison's with a very short list of what is needed, and told not to bring anything else, even if it is a bargain.  He sometimes ignores this request - like bringing himself a fresh trout, reduced in price as it had reached its 'use-by' date, but then it was for him, and not for me, so he had to pay for that himself!

Doing this 'use up what I have' at least twice a year helps me keep my food budget safely within bounds, and between times can then enjoy myself restocking my shelves, waiting until what I want is on offer. 
So many readers have commented on the bargains that can be found in the supermarkets - often late evenings, so perhaps this is the time I should venture into the stores, and so save even more.  But do I need to?  At the moment am contented with the way I shop, and also the way I save, because by 'using it up' I really can save ££££££s.  We each have our own approach, and probably others are better than mine.   Just as long as we spend to save, not keep buying just because we are tempted, then that's all that matters.

Here are a few more recipes to make the most of what we already have.  The first is a speedy soup, and with added left-over cooked minced beef, can end up as a satisfying meal in its own right.  Frozen mixed veggies are listed, but myself - planning ahead - would cook a few fresh veggies the day before, then dice them up the day after to add to the soup.  Also would use any pasta shapes I have, just bashing them with a rolling pin to break into really small pieces, or - instead - add a tablespoon or so of rice or quinoa...  You get the idea.
Although I've said this more than once, always worth the reminder that plum tomatoes have much more flavour than the chopped, so either chop (or blitz in a liquidiser) plum tomatoes to make 'chopped' or passata.
Minestrone in Minutes: serves 4
1.75pints (1 ltr) vegetable stock
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes (see above)
4 oz (100g) thin spaghetti, broken into small pieces
12 oz (350g) frozen mixed veg (see above)
pesto, olive oil, grated Parmesan when serving
Put the stock into a large saucepan with the tomatoes and bring to the boil.  Add the pasta and cook for 6 or so minutes until the pasta is 'al dente', then add the vegetables and bring back to the boil.  Simmer for 2 mins until everything is cooked/tender, then serve in individual bowls with a drizzle of pesto and oil on top, then finish with a sprinkling of the cheese.

This next recipe is a useful one as it can be the makings for a lunch-box (work or school), or ready and waiting in the fridge for teenagers to help themselves.  While it is being chilled, the pasta tends to dry out slightly, so when ready to eat a portion, stir into this a spoon or two of boiling water to  bring it to room temperature, and give back the moisture. This also improves the flavour.
When making up this dish, add the ingredients to the pasta whilst it is still warm as then it will readily absorb all the flavours.
Tuna Pasta Salad: serves 4
7 oz (200g) pasta penne
1 x 100g can tuna in oil
1 x 400g can beans (cannellini, butter beans, etc)
half a red onion, finely chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
handful fresh parsley, chopped
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then drain and put into a bowl.
Rinse and drain the beans and add them to the warm pasta with the flaked tuna, and rest of the ingredients.  This can be eaten immediately, or left to cool then kept (covered) in the fridge for up to 3 days. 

Cottage Pie (made with minced beef), Shepherd's Pie (made with minced lamb), or - what I call 'Farmyard Pie' (made with minced chicken) all are variations using left-over cooked minced meat reheated with gravy under a mashed potato topping.. Then we come to this vegetarian version, given a cook-book name as Golden Veggie Shepherd's Pie, but as it contains no lamb (cheating!) myself have decided to call it something else.  But whatever - it makes good use of veggies we already have, with the addition of some from our larder (instead of using dried lentils, we can used canned lentils - in which case simmer add these to the veggies and stock and simmer for only 10 minutes.  As ever, we can substitute one veggie for another (as long as there is some similarity - not all veggies go together).
Gardener's Pie: serves 4 - 5
1 oz (25g) butter
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 oz (100g) chestnut mushrooms, sliced
9 oz (250g) dried lentils (pref green)
1.75 pts (1ltr) vegetable stock
salt and pepper
2 tblsp tomato puree
2.2lb (1kg) floury potatoes
2 oz (50g) butter
4 fl oz (100ml) milk
1 oz (25g) cheddar cheese, grated
Put the butter into a pan over low heat, then fry the onions, carrots and celery for about 15 minutes until softened, stirring in the garlic towards the end.  Raise the heat and add the mushrooms, and cook for a further 4 minutes before stirring in the lentils and the stock.  Simmer for about 45 minutes or until the lentils are very soft, then add seasoning to taste.  Remove from heat and stir in the tomato puree.
While the above is cooking, peel the potatoes and cut into chunks and boil in water for about 15 minutes or until tender.  Drain well and add the 2 oz butter and milk and mash together. Season to taste.
Put the lentil mixture into either one large or four individual dishes, then top with the mashed spuds. Sprinkle the cheese on top (if wishing to freeze, leave to get cold, then wrap and freeze for up to 2 months, Thaw before cooking).  To serve immediately after assembling, bake for 30 mins at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until the topping is golden.

My Beloved has just brought me a mug of coffee and he asked me if he could eat the (saved) sliced beef in a sarnie, he was disappointed when I said the plan was to serve it tonight with jacket potato. So I've compromised - said I'd serve one slice of beef with one slice of home-cooked ham, and then salad: lettuce, tomatoes, beetroot, and maybe a quiche - if I get round to making one (still have some scraps of short-pastry to use up and a small bag of grated cheese, plus end of a tub of creme fraiche - these together with eggs and milk should make a good quiche).  Myself can have salad and quiche.  So both of us happy.
It looks like I'll have a bit of a struggle keeping to the original plan of 'traditional' meals made from the Sunday Roast, but as long as a roast is cooked, then used up, does it really matter what meals are made with it?  My only concern will be 'can we afford to have a 'Sunday roast' in the first place?  Have to wait to find out.

After watching several of the 'Food Network' programmes (esp those like 'Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives', B mentioned that it does seem as though offal is rarely eaten in the US.  Have myself not seen it mentioned on the other cookery progs (Barefoot Contessa, Sunny Anderson etc), that is - until yesterday - when a diner 'called 'TACO, TACO' (think serving mainly Mexican 'fillings' to the tacos) was cooking tongue to chop up and fill - with other things - their tacos.  The tongue (dish) they called  'liguinee' (similar pronunciation to'linguine' pasta)..

In the old days, offal in the UK was eaten far more than it is today, although we still eat plenty of liver (my preference being lamb's liver), also kidney (steak and kidney pie etc). Pigs or ox tongue is always on sale, thinly sliced to add to a 'cold meat platter'.  Hearts, brains, sweetbreads, and tripe are not so commonly cooked/eaten, neither are pig's ears and pig's trotters, although there are still many people who enjoy them.  The lesser used offal etc are - of course - much cheaper than other cuts of meat,  and in many instances even more nutritious, so perhaps we should begin thinking about using them again.  Not sure if I could persuade B to eat stuffed heart, but if he doesn't know what it is when served to him he might well find he enjoys eating it.

So it would be interesting to know what dishes are made in the US and Canada using offal, as we tend to believe (due to the food programmes seen) that all that is eaten is steaks and burgers, or 'pulled' meats (from long-roasted joints).  Chicken also seems popular, and especially 'shrimps' (even though some of these are the size of small lobsters - we call these 'prawns'!).  We hardly ever see dishes made with lamb.

Had a blip halfway through writing this when the blogger seemed to close down, then an unwritten page came back on screen and I seemed to have lost my posting.  However, managed to discover it in 'draft' (took me a long time to find the page - blogger have changed their settings), but back it came and so hope that it all gets published. 

Late start this morning (due to staying in bed because it was raining and so dark and gloomy), but being retired have no real need to get up - other than to write this blog - so decided to grab a bit more 'shut eye'.  Hence the late finish, but got their eventually.
Believe it is New Year's Eve today.  So must wish all readers a very HAPPY NEW YEAR and tomorrow really will see the new challenge progressing.  Let us hope it will be worth it (if not mentally stimulating, at least financially).   

Do hope you all have a pleasant day and able to drink in the New Year.  Please find time to join me tomorrow and see what delights I have come up with for B's beef-based supper. TTFN.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Making the Most Of....

Early to bed yesterday to catch up on my sleep.  Worked a treat as I had a very restful night (give or take the geriatric trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night!) and woke early enough for me to eat a bowl of porridge before sitting down to write.   Aiming to finish before Gill phones in 90 minutes.

Heard it raining heavily last night, at one time must have been sleeting as it was rattling on the windows.  Forecast said the temperature would be dropping, with snow on some hills, so have to wait until it gets light to see what state the garden is in.  There was a full moon shining on me through the window when I sat down to write, almost immediately disappearing behind clouds, but the appeared again before sinking below the roof of the house opposite.   In a couple of days we will get high tides, and if we have on-shore gale force winds at the same time, the sea-spray will bounce up over the prom walls right onto the main road.  A sight worth seeing.

Cooked the beef yesterday at slow temp of 80C (after initially searing the joint in a pan).  It appears to have shrunk a bit, but still have to weigh it to find out the 'before and after' difference.   Used my electric thermometer stuck into the joint (the door trapping the wire so the temp could be read on the 'equipment' outside) this to keep an eye on the internal temperature of the meat (it needed to be around 65C (medium) but I let it reach 68C as B likes his meat medium to well done.  Took nearly 3 hours (or maybe longer) to reach this, but worth it.

As I had a pack of clarified beef dripping in the fridge, melted some of that to sear the meat, then added it to the roasting tin with a bit more so the meat juices would flavour it and (hopefully) turn it into something similar to the beef dripping I make when there is a good layer of fat already on the joint (the rump I'd bought not having any fat with it).  This seemed to work as the 'dripping' is now a light coffee colour, so hopefully has gained enough flavour for B to enjoy it spread on his toast (with a sprinkle of salt).

Today will slice the beef for B's supper (reheating it in gravy), slice extra to serve cold, and then (probably) cut the remainder of the joint into strips, chunks (maybe some minced) to use for other meals to serve this coming week (some will be frozen).
Having the meals already planned for the week ahead certainly will make life a bit easier for me, not that I'm sure this is a good idea (I like to be 'interested' in cooking, not just cook by habit),  but as I'm aiming to use 21st century recipes to use my 'leftovers' rather than make the meals my mother did (don't think she had a cookery book - meals in those days were very simple to prepare) then perhaps this will be a challenge in itself.  I look forward to it.

It is unlikely that many people will even consider buying a joint to roast at this moment in time - mainly because it could be expensive (although I'm hoping to prove it may not be), and almost certainly because our bodies are still groaning over the amount of food we seem to have consumed over the last week.   Even I am finding it is time to reduce my intake considerably as the scales showed I'd gained a whole stone during this festive season, and as I normally eat small meals anyway, this has to be all the mince-pies, slices of fruit cake, sweets, cheese and biscuits that I've been 'nibbling'.   But easy-come, easy-go when it comes to weight gained (if not allowed to linger on the hips too long), and a few days of careful eating should get rid of those excess pounds, then all I have to do is keep losing a few more before I have my next weigh-in (end of April).

With this thought am today giving a selection of recipes for light meals that could use up 'left-overs', or ingredients that many of us would normally keep in our larder/fridge/freezers.  As with most of my recipes, we can usually substitute a different ingredient if we haven't the ones recommended.  Will give suggestions where appropriate.

First dish is a stir-fry.  Use smooth peanut butter if you haven't the crunchy.  Cook dried noodles, then add them to the pan if you haven't the 'straight to wok' variety.  Goes without saying the 'pack' of stir-fry veg (on sale in supermarkets) is much more expensive than using oddments of veggies we have already.  So use small amounts of carrot, onion, cauliflower/broccoli, sweet corn (kernels), mange tout or sugar snap peas (or just loose peas), string beans, mushrooms, bell peppers.....
If you wish the dish to serve more, then include strips of cooked turkey meat (or chicken/beef/ham), or throw in a few cooked (thawed) prawns towards the end of the cooking time.
Thai Satay Stir-Fry: serves 4
3 tblsp crunchy peanut butter
3 tblsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tblsp soy sauce
4 fl oz (100ml) water
1 x 300g pack straight-to-wok noodles
1 tblsp grated fresh root ginger
1 x 300g pack stir-fry vegetables
1 oz (25g) roasted (or salted) peanuts, chopped
Mix together the peanut butter, the chilli sauce, soy sauce, and water together to make a smooth sauce, and set aside.
Put the noodles into a bowl and cover with boiling water, stirring gently to separate, then drain thoroughly and set aside.
Heat the oil in a wok or deep frying pan, then add the ginger and the firmer vegetables and stir-fry over high heat for 2 minutes, until the veggies are just tender, then add the remaining veg and fry for a further couple or so minutes until the veggies are cooked, then add the noodles and satay sauce, gently folding it into the pan contents.  Bring to the boil, sprinkle the peanuts on top and serve immediately.

Here is another vegetable recipe -  this time using a pack of frozen mixed vegetables, but again we can make up our own selection from the frozen veggies we already have (or use some cooked 'fresh' veggies that we have).  Quinoa (pronounced 'keen-wah' if you don't already know that) is a 'wonder grain' as it has the best nutritional value of all grains.  As it cooks fairly quickly, could be used as a healthy substitute for rice, pearl barley etc. for instance when making risottos.
This dish is a type of curry, so perfect for the cold winter days, but - like most curries - also good eaten in summer.
Spicy Vegetable Laksa: serves 4
1 large onion, sliced
4 tblsp Korma or Madras curry paste
1 tblsp water
1.75 pints (1 litre) hot milk
1 x 750g (1lb 10oz) pack frozen mixed vegetables
6 oz (175g) quinoa, rinsed
salt and pepper
Put the onion, curry paste and water into a large saucepan, stir together and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the vegetables and quinoa, then stir in the hot milk, bring to the boil then simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the quinoa is cooked.  Add seasoning to taste, then serve with chapatis or naan bread.

Next recipe is a risotto and a perfect dish to make if you have some cream cheese in the fridge. Preferably a herb-flavoured cheese, but you could always add finely chopped fresh herbs if you have some.  As mentioned above, quinoa could be substituted for the barley, in which case it will take far less time to cook - on the other hand, pearly barley is far less expensive than quinoa.
Or - if you have some - you could instead use risotto (arborio) rice.   As with most of my recipes - we use what we have (as long as it serves the purpose).   Same applies to the stock.  Use chicken stock instead of the vegetable.  If you wish, add less oil and include some butter (for flavour!).
Pea and Herb Risotto: serves 2
2 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
7 oz (200g) pearl barley (see above)
2 pints (1.2 ltrs) hot vegetable stock
5 oz (150g) peas
4 oz (100g) soft cheese with chives (see above)
chopped fresh chives (opt)
Heat oil in a pan and add the onion.  Fry gently for 3 minutes, then stir in the barley and fry for a further couple of minutes before adding a third of the stock.  Continue simmering, adding a ladle more of stock from time to time as the liquid is absorbed.   After about 15 minutes the barley should begin to become slightly tender, so time then to add the peas and more stock if necessary.  Continue cooking until the barley is cooked (there should be some liquid left in the pan - if all stock has been used add a little hot water). 
Remove the  pan from the heat and leave to stand for a minute before adding dollops of the cream cheese, stirring this in until it melts.  Add seasoning to taste, and finally the fresh herbs, if using. Serve immediately.

Final recipe today makes use of mainly store-cupboard ingredients, plus a bit of lettuce (or 'greens') if you have some.   Again we have a choice - if you haven't canned tuna, then use canned salmon, sardines, mackerel, or pilchards.  You could - of course - use cooked fish (maybe some smoked haddock left over from yesterday?). 
Although the Italians would never combine fish and cheese in one dish, have to say it works well, so don't do as they do, do as I suggest!
Tuna and Sweetcorn 'burgers': serves 4
3 oz (75g) fresh breadcrumbs
1 x 198g can sweetcorn, drained
2 x 185g cans tuna, drained and flaked
1 oz (25g) grated Cheddar cheese
1 shallot, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 tblsp sunflower oil
buns/baps, lettuce and tomato relish
Put the breadcrumbs into a bowl.  Put he sweetcorn into a blender and whizz to chop the kernels finely (but not too find), and add to the crumbs with the tuna, cheese, and shallot. Add seasoning to taste.  Add enough of the egg to bind the mixture together (you may not need all the egg), then divide the mixture into four, forming each into a 'burger' shape.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, then cook the burgers for 5 minutes on each side until golden and heated right through. 
Split the baps and spread the cut side of the base with relish, and stuff in the tuna burger with shredded lettuce and (maybe) another dollop of relish on top before clapping on the lid.

And that's it for today.  With 10 minutes left before Gill phones - just time for me to do a spellcheck and any editing needed.
Thanks for comments sent in and suggestions for holidays.  Feel better today, B is back to normal (in other words less grumpy), so am happy staying here for a while although could do visiting a country where the sun always shines. 
Hope you will be able to 'meet' up with me again tomorrow. Look forward to 'seeing' you then.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Doing Without!

Another late start to my blog, and not because I slept in - I began work early as I stayed up all night, mainly due to B coming back from the sailing club in a filthy temper.  Because he couldn't use the car he had to cycle there, and it was raining (but only a bit).  Very few people turned up, so B said he sat in the corner reading a book, then when he was about to leave three people he knew turned up so he was able to join in the chat for a bit.  When closing down and locking up the bar he inadvertently set off the burglar alarm (and not for the first time!), so he had to ring the 'alarm' office to send someone down to reset it. 
As B uses me as his 'kicking dog' when he has been annoyed by someone (I'm used to it), I suggested he went and read his emails before going to bed, but then I had to set up the right page for him as previously he 'lost' his own connection and has to go through mine, and as he can mess up the comp just by looking at it, I needed to know it was OK for him to start, and also requested that he didn't switch it off, but leave that for me.  Ages later he finished and went to bed, so I came in here and checked my emails/comments ready for today's replies.  By then I was wide awake so sat and watched films/news until about 7.00am.  

After putting in a load of laundry (now washed and on the airers), took the beef from the fridge to come to room temperature before I begin cooking it (once I've published this), did the washing up, made myself a bowl of porridge, weighed the beef to see how much weight it will have lost after cooking, then did some 'kitchen tidying', went back and watched TV news (more rain, rain, rain over the next few days - it's been the wettest year since records have been kept), and after realising the time (9.15am) despite it still seeming darkish outside (heavy rain clouds) that made it seem barely past dawn - decided I'd better make an effort to write something for you to read today.

Not that there is much of interest.  B requested sausage, egg and oven-chips for his supper yesterday, I made myself a salad and had that with a few sausages.  Late I ate a couple of mince-pies, and B ate more of these when he returned, so only one mince pie left and a good chunk of Christmas cake.   For some reason B hasn't seem to have been interested in the selection of cheeses I bought for him to enjoy - when I don't have much cheese in the fridge he always seems to want it, but when I do have it, he ignores it.  All the more left for me to grate up and use to make 'meatless' meals I suppose.

Think the problem with B is that he is not enjoying being around the house all day long. When he was able to use his car, almost every day he would find a reason to go out (birdwatching, library, Morrison's, club house....) and he doesn't enjoy not being able to do what he wants.  Myself wish he would go out, even for just a walk or cycle ride (which he won't do in the rain - and rain we keep getting), so that he is out from under my feet.  At the moment I'm contemplating taking a few days holiday on my own, maybe just staying in a local hotel, but at least away from the house and B who really is not nice to know when he can't have what he wants.
This is the first time he's had to give up doing what he would like to be doing - at least since we moved here - so perhaps I shouldn't grumble.  All I hope is that the repairs to the car to get it through its MOT won't take too long and B will get the car back by the end of next week.

Anyway, perhaps spending the day in the kitchen today will keep us apart, and when I do go back into the living room B will probably be asleep in his chair (when he has nothing to do he tends to sleep as much as he can - probably to make the day pass faster). 

Remembered that 'frothy' coffee was called Cappuccino, not espresso.  Thanks for reminding me Jane.  Think that we all find when drinking tea or coffee, there are 'favourites'.  Do remember once having a weekend break in Amsterdam, being served coffee at breakfast and it was gorgeous.  I asked how it was made, and they used coffee with a name like 'Doue Egberts' (am not sure of the spelling but near enough), and the milk was Evaporated.   I bought some of this coffee in 'instant' form at the airport, and when I got home made coffee using the evaporated milk, and it certainly was lovely, but since then have gone back to using Nescafe Original (I use the jars as storage jars), and both B and I prefer it rather weak - adding just a little milk.  Can't say I find it bitter, but myself feel that ground coffee IS bitter, so maybe everyone tastes things that little bit differently.

My favourite teas (according to my mood) are English Breakfast, Earl Grey, and Green Tea (only the E.Breakfast with milk added).  As the flavour of any tea depends upon the water used, even this can change from region to region, county to county. 
At one time used filtered water to make tea (jug with a filter attached), and it was amazing how a cup of tea made with tap water would have almost a 'rainbow' sheen on the surface, whilst the filtered tea looked very pure (there was also a noticeable difference in the taste of tap water and filtered water).  If it wasn't that the filters are rather expensive, I'd use filtered water all the time when making drinks (but not for cooking).  

Glad you haven't (yet) had snow Lisa, although a slight fall will help your parched earth.
I too am a fan of sushi, but not the sort made with raw fish (think this is called sashumi?).  The supermarkets sell trays of mixed sushi, and sometimes (but rarely) treat myself to one. 
At one time I used to make my own sushi, but (silly me) gave my mat, sushi rice, sheets of seaweed, etc away to someone else who liked sushi.  I haven't seen them on sale in Morrison's (and not on Tesco's site either). Are these 'sushi makings' still on sale?

A welcome to Pauline - who may be a new reader or a regular who has sent in her first comment. Hope to hear from you again Pauline.  Like many small families (two adults only) today, she has little or no leftovers this Christmas.  That makes good sense, for we do tend to spend far too much on food to eat over the Twelve Days, and am sure in some households (but not those of our readers I am sure) there will still be quite a lot thrown away that could be used but people are just fed up of eating the same thing day after day.

Let us hope that I can make the new challenge (using the left-over Sunday roast over the week), something that B won't get fed up with.  He has always liked to eat a different meat (or fish) each day, and in no particular order this would normally be beef, lamb, pork, chicken, salmon, prawns.... so am hoping my challenge will last at least a month before he says 'enough is enough'.
If I play my cards right and make the meals interesting enough, he may wish to continue.

Took a look at the Guardian article you mentioned Margie (re 'posh' Spam).  I've already eaten Spam-with-Bacon, and enjoyed that, so will look out for (and hopefully find) some of the more 'gourmet' versions that seem to be on sale.  Will still enjoy the ordinary Spam, but not quite sure why as it really doesn't have a very interesting flavour, but there must be something (nutritious)about it as I have real 'cravings' for Spam sarnies - and I'm not even pregnant!

At the moment am having to decide whether to braise the rump joint of beef, or cook it by the 'low-temperature' method (which is not the same as cooking in the slow-cooker - best used for the humbler and cheaper/tougher meats).  Whichever way I choose, the joint has first to be seared in a hot pan, and experience has taught me that the slower the meat is 'roasted' the more tender it will be, and also lose less weight, so low-temperature cooking \(80C) seems to make the most sense as the more meat there is, the more meals it will make.
Have to admit that roasting at high temperature does give a wonderful flavour to a tender cut of beef, but when it comes to the crunch - beggars can't be choosers.  What I want is to gain the most for my money, and if it has to be through slow-cooking, then so be it.

With slices of beef served in a rich, hot gravy, doubt that B will notice much difference in my meat and the roasts his mother used to cook (at least hope he won't).  As long as he has 'Yorkies' with his beef, roast potatoes, and Brussels sprouts (and maybe carrots as well), he will be a happy bunny.

By now you know that the 'Sunday roast' (tomorrow) will be beef.  Next weekend I'll be making a choice between a large chicken or a joint of lamb.  Much depends upon the price and how much can be made from it.  It will be towards the end of the week before I have that decision to make.

However, today am giving a recipe for a chicken curry 'with a twist' (in other words not an Asian dish).  Although this version uses raw chicken, no reason why it could not be made using left-over cooked turkey, and myself might make it as one of the weekday meals when chicken will be the Sunday 'roast'. 
Instead of curry powder, use curry paste.  Instead of sweet potato use butternut squash (or ordinary 'spuds').  Instead of chicken breasts use boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cheaper and have more flavour than breasts) - or use about 1lb (450g) cooked chicken/turkey, diced.
West Indian Chicken Curry: serves 4
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tblsp curry powder
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
4 skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 x 400g can coconut milk
4 oz (100g) cherry tomatoes
Put the onion and the oil into a large frying pan and fry for 5 minutes, then stir in the garlic and curry powder (or paste) and fry for a further minute, then stir in the sweet potato and chicken.
Add the coconut milk and simmer for 10 - 12 minutes (until the s.potato and chicken are cooked), then add the tomatoes and simmer for a further 2 minutes.
Serve with (or without) cooked rice, but do serve it with a cooling dip of 'raita' (chopped mint and chopped cucumber folded into Greek yogurt).   Being West Indian, possibly corn tortillas would make a good 'flatbread' to serve with this curry (as they are similar to chapatis).

Today sees the beginning of my preparations for my new challenge.  My aim is for B not to notice he is having to do without (his favourite meals), but make what will be served interesting enough to hold his attention.  There is no real need to use left-overs in the way my mother did,  just as long as the 'left-overs' are much the same (this week: cold beef). Whether the meat will be minced depends upon what I'll be making - should it be used for the traditional Cottage pie, or should I use the mince to make a spag.bol?  'Sliced cold meat' (normally served on Mondays) could instead be sliced thickly and then cut into strips to marinate in a bit of sherry, to then be cooked with mushrooms and cream to make a Strogonoff.  Or instead could stir-fry the strips with veggies to make a Chinese meal.

Let's call it the 'traditional' way of cooking a Sunday roast, with the advantage of 21st century 'knowledge' to turn the left-overs into something more interesting.  So really not THAT much different, as my mother would have done much the same had rice, pasta, curry paste, soy sauce, black pepper....been common ingredients in her larder in those days.

Reminds me - recently have noticed how many cooks/chefs are now using white pepper again.  When in my youth there was no other kind, with the black peppercorns (that needed to be 'freshly ground') something that seemed to 'appear' in the 60s or 70s, and so we all then went out and bought the pepper mills!  Sea and rock salt is also 'new' in that previously salt was always 'fine' for table use, and 'coarse' for cooking (or for strewing over icy patches to prevent us slipping).   Now it seems we all use black pepper and have forgotten about the white.  Many of us now also use rock/sea salt (better for us anyway).

White pepper (whether freshly ground or 'loose' in jars) works best as a seasoning in something (like a white sauce) where the appearance would be spoiled by flecks of black pepper.  There is a slight difference in flavour between the two peppers (there are also other 'coloured' peppers - pink etc...) myself finding the freshly ground black more 'fragrant' than the white - which has a stronger, 'hotter' flavour. 

I could ramble on about 'what's new' (by this I mean in my life-time - but probably common to all who are younger than 50!).  So should be grateful that there is so much more on sale today than ever before - some of which I hope will improve the 'left-overs' to turn them into a dish in their own right.  To find out if this will happen, all I can say is "watch this space".

Hope you all have a good weekend, despite the bad weather that has been forecast.  I think it has stopped raining here, but for how long?  Not that it matters, I'm staying indoors (so what's new about that?). Expect B will find a dry minute to cycle down to the shops to buy his Lottery ticket. He wouldn't dare miss that in case this is the week his numbers came up (always a mistake to keep the same numbers for that very reason).  As he (like many others) buy Lottery (aka Lotto) tickets each week (now twice a week) ever since they began (without winning more than £10 over that period), just think how much money must have spent (wasted!!!!!).  I shudder to think.

Yes, yes, YES! Really must stop tapping the keys and go and get on in the Goode kitchen.  Gill will be phoning tomorrow, so if I can get up early enough to write and publish before she phones (at 9.00) then hope to do so, otherwise it will be 10.00am before I begin.  Either way, will be back tomorrow.  See you then.


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.



Thursday, December 27, 2012


So it's nearly all over!  Just a few more days, then we see the start of a New Year.  Do hope all readers managed to have a good Christmas.  Unfortunately much of the country had to deal with floods - the weather map showed practically all of England and Wales coloured red (floods), with the exception of Lancashire and a bit of Cumbria.  Seems all the ground is now saturated and there is nowhere for the water to go, so the floods get higher and higher.  The only way we will have any improvement is for us to have weeks and weeks of dry weather, and in this country, this is most unlikely.  Perhaps we should each think about building an Ark and begin looking for another Ararat to float away to.

It was lovely to have Christmas Dinner cooked for me, although we had to rely on other transport to get us to our daughter's, B's car now having to have its MOT before it can be used again.  Think we both ate far too much, and since 'the day', not at all healthily, eating up left-over mince-pies, cake etc.  Really must begin cooking again, although as now have got used to having several days without needing to do any (other than making bread), almost wish I didn't need to.

On Christmas Eve -  took Norris out of hibernation and scooted down to the shopping parade to get a last few items.  Went early to miss the crowds, and luckily it wasn't raining, but when I turned the corner and saw the long, long queue at the butcher's (who also sells milk, eggs, butter, cheese etc), decided I couldn't face waiting. . Everyone in the queue - it seemed - was there to collect their fresh turkey (sausages etc) and it would have taken about half an hour before I even got into the shop the queue was that long.

However, managed to get my pressie for B (good malt whisky/s), and so that was sorted.  I had bought him a chef's knife (it had its own self-sharpening scabbard), but decided as he would hardly ever use it (it was expensive) I'd keep that for myself and so bought him the malts instead.  He can use the knife when he wants to, but if it had been 'his' then I wouldn't have been allowed to use it, and it would have been a bit of a waste of money.  My need (for a good knife) is greater than his I told myself.

My mind has been going round and round re my new challenge.  It dawned on me the other day that it was a bit daft of me to begin 'buying' food from myself as all the food in store has already been paid for - so why pay for it twice?  So had a rethink about my approach.
Initially the new challenge was to find out whether we could afford to eat 'old-style':  a roast on Sunday then use the rest of the meat up over the following days, and remembering that the first thing I did when forced to reduce my food budget (must have been fifty years ago....) was to stop cooking a joint of meat each Sunday, and make meals using cheaper cuts (casseroles etc), and considering the price of meat today (even the cheaper cuts), just wanted to see if it was possible to keep within a fairly low budget if I went back to buying a weekly roast again, as even the 'left-overs' from the joint would be more expensive than (say) buying raw minced meat or stewing steak. 

So - what I'm going to do is allow myself £20 a week as my food budget, initially starting with buying a joint of meat (or a large chicken) to roast each Sunday, then using the 'left-overs' from this with any vegetables that I already have to make several more meals over the following days.   Will also need to cook 'something different' on Wednesday (my Mum used to buy chops or something to cook that day), also serve a fish dish on Friday, and egg and chips on Saturday.  Then begin all over again. 

As I've already bought the joint of beef for this Sunday (a large joint that I cut in half to freeze/cook on two Sundays in January), will still take the cost of this from the £20, leaving me with over £14 for anything else needed.  Nothing else should be needed as I have enough veggies to last a couple or so weeks (or longer), and other foods in store.  So the rest of the budget will be put into a separate purse to save to use for later purchases.
Each week will start off with a new £20 note (to buy the meat etc), and what isn't spent will be added to the 'savings' purse.   
In a couple of weeks will need more fresh milk, probably eggs, butter, and a Riverford organic veggie box, then nothing more for a while (other than a weekly purchase of meat). So it will be interesting to see how it all works out.

At least it should make life easier for me knowing what meals will be made each week (roast meat with all the trimmings on Sunday, cold meat and jkt potatoes Mon; Cottage Pie Tuesday; perhaps Cauliflower Cheese Wednesday; meat casserole Thursday; fish on Friday; Egg and chips Saturday).  Already I feel bored with that and I haven't even started!  At least can use some 21st century recipes to add a bit more interest - maybe a curry/spag.bol/chilli con carne instead of Cottage Pie (or casserole).  Or even a fish risotto on Friday.   My mother hardly ever served rice or pasta - always potatoes - with her meat dishes.  Thankfully, today we have many more alternatives.  
Not sure what veggies (other than spuds) my mother would have served with fish, peas in those days being a seasonal vegetable, but expect she did have dried peas, so perhaps she soaked and cooked these and we had mushy peas with our fish.  Should I do the same, or take advantage of using frozen peas?  Well, why not?  Peas are peas after all.

Several comments have come in over the past few days with Christmas Greetings, so my usual 'blanket' thank-you to all who sent them.  No doubt most of you will still be using up your festive 'left-overs', so it will be New Year before we all get back to our usual routine and - hopefully - start up your own challenge (or follow mine?).

Seems that thousands of Brits went to the Sales yesterday and spent £millions.  Mostly all using credit cards I suppose.  Obviously plenty of bargains to be had, but were they all 'needed', or is it just the pleasure of buying something at lower-than-normal cost that drives us to queueing up in the early hours of the morning waiting for the doors to open?  Considering how strapped for cash most of the nation seems to be, how can they afford to spend all that money?  Or are we getting a bit like the Spanish?  "Live for the day and worry about tomorrow" I've heard them say (on TV) when asked why they don't save their money.  As yesterday's tomorrow is now 'today',  according to the Spanish way of thinking,  tomorrow never seems to actually arrive (so why bother to worry about it?).

Really must get myself into some sort of routine when it comes to my cooking.  Up until now have tended to ask B what he'd like for his supper each day, then try and make it for him.  Now it should be much easier working with 'the roast'.  But do I wish it to be easier?  Not really. 
So perhaps will begin using up stores and make B 'treats' so that he still has things to eat (rather than help himself to what's there is without letting me know, and then I find I have run out).  I've explained to B about my challenge and that he can still eat what he likes (within reason) but always to let me know first so that I can keep an eye on 'costs'.  It's no good me trying to keep within a fairly tight budget (tight only because the meat now costs more than I would normally spend) if B keeps pouring a quarter of a pint of cream over his desserts each day.  A pint of cream now is expected to last at least a week - if not longer.

Today am making a big pan of vegetable soup using up some of the chicken stock made - and oddments of veggies that need using up.  Also must bake another large loaf - B having eaten a lot of sarnies over the past couple of days (roast ham, bacon, cheese....) so better to make it today than leave it until we run out.  Hopefully B will have soup for his supper (maybe some sarnies later).  Also want to make some Flapjack as that is easy and fairly cheap to make (for B's 'snacks').  For myself might make a big pot of popcorn to crunch on (B also likes that so had better make a double batch), and really should make some more marmalade this week. 

Incidentally, weighed the gammon that I roasted, and it did lose more weight due to being oven-baked.  When simmered in liquid on the hob it hardly loses any weight and ends up much moister.  Not that the oven-roasted isn't good, the flavour is very good, but it is just a bit drier, and there is less of it than hoped for, but still plenty (over half has been sliced and frozen, the rest sliced and bagged up and in the fridge for B to help himself to).  In future will always cook the ham on the hob, and not bother to roast it, because I just want to end up with more for my money.

There is some ham 'stock' (drained from the roasting bag) that is in the fridge, set to a gel - with a layer of fat on top. Today will remove the fat, and then use it as the base for another soup (probably split-pea) that can be frozen.  The fat from the ham stock (and also the chicken stock) will be saved and used for frying. There is never anything wasted in the Good kitchen if it can be used.

Have smoothed out all the Christmas wrappings from gifts given to us, and also all the little ribbons and 'bows' that came with them.  So already have 'the makings' towards next Christmas.  Will do the same with the cards and other decorations once they have been taken down on Twelfth Night.

My thoughts are already turning to sorting out vegetable seeds, and very soon will be sowing a few in pots and containers so that I have a very early start with the herbs and especially the 'mixed salad leaves' (as the latter will grow quite speedily in the winter months as long as in the warmth of the conservatory).  They say the recession will get worse (before it gets better - if it ever does), so we should all take extra care so save as much money as we can, while we can. 
Am sure we all have hints and tips that help save money, so please share yours if they haven't already appeared on this blog - or remind us even if they have.  'Every penny saved is a penny earned'!

Anyway, that's it for today as want to get on in the kitchen to make the above mentioned.  This afternoon really have to watch the repeat of Downton Abbey as didn't see the original, choosing to watch The Royle Family' (on at the same time).  Will also put the joint of rump in the fridge, to start defrosting ready for roasting at the weekend.  If I add some clarified (bought) beef dripping to the roasting pan, am hoping that the juices from the meat will flavour the fat and turn it into the sort of beef dripping that B loves to spread on toast - with a sprinkle of salt!   If not, can always use it to roast the potatoes and cook Yorkshire Puddings.

It will be good to get back 'in harness' again, and hope by tomorrow I will begin to feel 'normal' again, these few days off have really unsettled me.  Almost wish it would begin to snow, but suppose that is something the country really could do without, there are enough travel problems already, floods and landslides cancelling trains and even air travel disrupted. 
Do readers of this blog in the US/Canada get to see on their TV (or in newspapers) pictures of the dreadful floods we are having in the UK? Yesterday there were well over 200 more flood alerts due to more heavy rain forecast.  It's getting worse, not better. 

But - as we say - whatever the weather, we try to make the best of what we have, and let us hope that all readers find things improving, one way or the other.  Please keep those comments coming, and let us know what challenges YOU will be aiming for.  I'm running out of ideas for new ones.

Looking forward to 'meeting' you again tomorrow.  If you can find time - see you then.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


It's (nearly) Christmas, so my last blog today until next Thursday 27th when the festivities will all done and dusted.  Only the leftovers to eat up.  Then sees the start of my new challenge - and I can't wait!!

They say things run in threes - well, B's car needs repair, and yesterday my electric hand mixer suddenly died on me just as I began to whip a pint of cream.  So what's next? Thankfully the last of the whipping (the cream cheeses, cream etc for the Tiramasu, and Cheesecake) had already been done.  Had to resort to whipping the cream by hand using a balloon whisk, and believe me, realised how useful the electric whisks are (or even the old-fashioned rotary whisks), as it took me at least 15 minutes continuous whisking to get the cream to even begin to thicken. 

Luckily our daughter was going to the club social, so she collected B and my desserts/quiches to take that evening, leaving me sitting at home feeling a bit exhausted - mainly due to the several weeks of coughs and colds more than the cooking.   Today feel much better, not a lot to do other than make bread (as B cannot now use his car to buy more), and a few other bits of baking this morning.   Will be meeting up with Eileen this afternoon, so am looking forward to that.

Decided to cook the gammon in the oven instead of simmering it in liquid on the hob as I normally do.  So put it into a roasting bag to cook.  Removed bag after the recommended cooking time, took off the skin and then smeared some of my orange and ginger marmalade - mixed with some whole grain mustard - on the fatty part of the gammon and then popped it back in the oven for 15 minutes to glaze. It looked really good and smelled wonderful.   However, the oven roasting seems to have shrunk the ham more than if it had been cooked in liquid, and so will have to find out how much weight it has lost.  There was about half a pint of 'juices' that came from the gammon (collected in the roasting bag) that I poured into a bowl and chilled - it has set to a gel to use as the base of a split pea and ham soup.  That with the fat will weight several ounces. 

Hopefully I'll be able to freeze some of the (sliced) ham before B eats it all (which he will if given the chance), and I'll be hoping to eat some too as I love ham sarnies.  Am a bit worried about the supply of butter in the fridge as have only about 8 packs left (B works his way through about 3 packs a week on his toast and in sarnies etc) as I'll be needing some for baking, although suppose I could use soft margarine instead.  Myself will make do with Flora pro-activ (until that runs out), and the Stork on my own sarnies.  At least having to restrict the amount of fat I eat to make it last longer will be good for my health.   When more butter needs to be bought am hoping I'll have saved a few pennies to afford it.

Yes, Cheesepare, the idea - re the new challenge - is to make the chosen Sunday roast last through most of the rest of the week (with a few vegetarian or fish dishes in between), like 'in the old days' of cooking.  Whether it will prove expensive remains to be seen. 
Our first 'roast' will be beef, the cost of this working out at £6.66p (half of a joint of rump that cost me £13.33 total - both halves in the freezer at the moment).  Enough meat on the one half to (hopefully) make at least four meals with maybe a few slices to freeze away for later. 

My aim is to spend no more than £20 on food each week (sounds a lot when you think there are only two of us, but have to start with the middle road then try to reduce the amount later), so the first week will have just over £14 left to spend on the veg and anything else 'bought' from my own stores. This in a way is a challenge in itself: try to spend less that what's left of the weekly budget.
Cost of fuel for cooking shouldn't be more than usual, perhaps even less as the meat used for later meals will have already been cooked and so just needs thoroughly heating through when turning it into other hot meals.  
Like most of my challenges, nothing is written in stone, so there could be difficulties (I like these as they give me something to overcome), and there could be pleasant surprises (such as spending far less money than expected).  It could be it all ends in disaster, but on the other hand be a triumph.  We will just have to wait and see.

That Maltese store opened near you Jane sounds lovely - especially the cheeses.  Wish we had something like that.
Thanks also to the other Jane (W), for her comment.

Have seen the trifle you mentioned, Janet.  Thought about making one myself, but preferred to set the social's trifle in layers (sponge cake, fruit, jelly, custard - then repeated, finishing with a pint of whipped cream studded with glace cherries, nuts and angelica).  This did look attractive, and easy to serve as the serving spoon could reach down and remove part of one layer instead of having to go right down to the bottom of the dish.  The Swiss Roll lined trifle dish is one I certainly will be making for family use.

As I have an unopened bag of Pudding Rice (called Carolina rice?) in my store cupboard, your mention of Rice Pudding Marjorie, has inspired me to include this pud during my challenge, esp as I have some UHT and also some evaporated milk in store (saves me using fresh milk which has suddenly gone up from £1.18 (for four pints) to £1.26.  Will this price rise be permanent, or could it be that Tesco took the opportunity to put up the price because it was Christmas). Then drop the price down again in a few weeks to what it was, just to make it appear it will be one of their special 'offers'?

Have quite a bit to do this morning, and no doubt all readers will be too busy to bother to read blogs, so will wind up now - returning again on Thursday.   All that remains is for me to wish all of you


Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Different Approach

Short blog today as still have some desserts to make/complete.  Hoped to have them finished by now - even stayed up all night to achieve this, but although they were not difficult, a couple were very time consuming.   Like the trifle.

I'd decided to make the trifle in one large glass bowl - and it was a BIG bowl, wide at the top, tapered towards the base.  My idea was to make the trifle in layers so they looked good seen through the glass, but had to wait for each layer to set before I could add the next - so base was trifle sponges soaked in a little red wine, topped by sliced strawberries  with strawberry jell poured over.  When set this was topped with a strawberry 'whip' (in place of custard).  When this was set, some more sponge was put on top, then more fruit/jelly.  When set another layer of am now waiting for this to set before I add the final topping of strawberry whip, finishing with a layer of whipped cream.

The Tiramasu has been made (sponge fingers drizzled with Limoncello, topped with mascarpone cheese whipped with cream and ginger syrup, this sprinked with chopped stem ginger.  Then more sponge fingers, more limoncello drizzle, then cream cheese topping, and finally the surface liberally sprinkled with grated chocolate and finely diced stem ginger.   Not a true Tiramasu, but I felt like doing something different. 

The peach cheesecake has had the crumb base made (am waiting for this to set), the later this morning will make the filling, using some 'peaches and cream' EasyYo whipped into the cream cheese/double cream, also spreading some of the yogurt on the top to hold sliced peaches.  The problem is with all - not enough room in the fridge to chill all at the same time.  But its pretty cold in the conservatory, and if it stays cloudy, the sun won't come out and warm it up, so the trifle can stand on the table with a plate on top and some 'ice-blocks' to keep it cold.  Then have room to chill the cheesecake.

The quiches were baked during the night.  Made a slight error by trying to shave off the overlapping pastry (cooked blind) while the pastry case was empty, and of course it cracked.  Luckily had some left-over pastry left so used that as 'patchwork'.  I left the other quiche base unshaved - this can now be done as the filling is cooked and cooled.

One interesting discovery made yesterday.  This to do with making chicken stock.  Previously always put the chicken carcase/bones/wings etc (whatever I've got) into the pot with a carrot (cut into three) a rib of celery (ditto), and a halved onion. Plus two bay leaves and some seasoning, then left it to simmer over the lowest heat for a couple (or so) hours.
This time I'd put half the pack of thawed chicken portions into my crock-pot, and no room for anything more but water to cover, one halved onion, and the bay leaves, then left it overnight to slow-cook.  The remainder of the pack of chicken - if you remember - I roasted, and once we'd eaten those (or saved some of the flesh), the bones went into the stock pot with the rest and I carried on slow-cooking it.

Because the crock-pot capacity was smaller than my stock-pot, did not use as much water, so the 'stock' made was fairly concentrated, but unfortunately tasted only of chicken (with a hint of bay).  No reason why this couldn't be used, but as I wanted to add the extra flavour of veggies, then put the stock in a normal saucepan (after draining and discarding bones etc), adding the veggies (carrot, onion, celery and also a leek) all diced.   These then cooked to tender after about 30mins simmering, and I drained off the stock (at the moment this is in a bowl in the fridge as a thick gel).

This is the interesting bit.  The diced veggies looked very appetising, so I put them into a shallow baking dish and decided to top them with some mashed potato and then browned this off under the grill.  The chicken stock had added extra flavour to the veg, and as they hadn't been cooked as long as normal (when making stock), they still retained much of their flavour (but enough going into the stock), and with the potato topping, this made me a gorgeous lunch.  Was so pleased - so think I'll now make my stock this 'new' way in future.

Forgive me for not 'rambling' on today, as still have much to do (plus the washing up - B having gone out until lunch - or maybe even later!!).  Have just time to reply to comments.

Thanks Alison for reminding me about how we can make up our own selection of veggies (and also other things) to be delivered by Riverford.  Had thought of doing this before, but having had some veggies that I thought we wouldn't like (then - as I had to use them up of course - found we really did like them), think I prefer to have what is on offer.   At least for the time being.  It's probably the only way I would get to try veggies that I've not bought before (and probably wouldn't order from them if they weren't included).

The German Market in Leeds - I believe - was pretty much like the ones in Germany Sarina.  All the stalls were manned by Germans (presumably English speaking) and they sold traditional German gingerbread, Stollen, and their range of breads and spiced meats etc., also cooking their sausages for customers to eat hot. 
There were other stalls with Christmas toys (usually wooden), and decorations.   I've seen on TV cooks travelling to Germany and being filmed in their Christmas markets, and they did look very similar to the one in Leeds, although having said that I was never able to 'see' it for myself, but there were plenty of brochures and articles in the newspaper about it, also heard 'word of mouth'.

We do like Stollen, and that seems to have been around for some years now.  Rye bread can also be bought, and I'm quite fond of pumpernickel - eaten with cheese.  One of my favourite cheeses is Wensleydale, and this eats really well with apples (or apple pie).

Looks like you're just about ready to start the new challenge Jane as you sound well-stocked.  Don't be tempted in January to go out and buy something just because it is half-price or on offer (I usually can't avoid such delights and inevitably one or ten would end up in my shopping trolley), and this is the main reason why I make myself stay away from the shops for as long as possible.  Also throw the supermarket 'flyers' into the waste bin without reading them, because this is another way to get us back into their store - and no point going just for one bargain, might as well buy more as we're there.  Well, that's what they want us to do.
When we still have food in the house that we can make a meal from, then we should always use that instead of buying more.  

Good to hear you have Christmas markets in Canada Margie, the one you mentioned sounded lovely.

Would you believe it - B has just returned home from the garage where he took the car the MOT "oh it'll pass" he said airily before he left.  Seems it has failed and has to have several things done, and it has now to be 'off-road' and not used until repaired early January.   That means I'll have to make arrangements to get the food delivered to the social for tonight, and the final shopping for Christmas at Morrison's that B was going to do for me tomorrow, has now had to be cancelled.  But of course we have plenty of food in the house already, the rest was just bits and bobs that are not really necessary.

We'll now have to take a taxi to go to our daughter's on Christmas Day (probably double fare on that day - serve B right),  and another thing - we have two sacks of rubbish (one food, such as chicken bones, fruit peelings etc), that were going to be taken to the tip today.  This is typical of B. He 'forgot' about his MOT until too late, and now it's reached the date he can't drive the car.  He just never EVER plans ahead and - as ever - his 'forgetfulness' causes me more work in the long run.
Still, that's a challenge anyway, and you know how I love challenges.  

Will be back tomorrow (perhaps later as Gill will be phoning at 9.00 for her Sunday 'hour-long-chat'. And then will be taking three days off to celebrate Christmas.   Then back again on the Thursday to begin the run-up to the new challenge that is planned to start the following Sunday.
Hope you can join me tomorrow for the final blog before Christmas.  TTFN.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Shortest Day

Have already been up a couple of hours and it is not yet 8.00am.  No sign of dawn as I look through my window (although having the light on in the room maybe hides any sign of light out there),  but then today is the shortest day and - thankfully - from now on we gain a little more daylight each day until mid-summer.  From tomorrow it will be almost as though a new year will have already begun. 

The weather has been dreadful again, not so bad here, but we have had high winds and quite a bit of rain.  A lot worse in other parts of the country where there are now 300 flood warnings, some trains have been cancelled and many roads closed.  We saw a car (TV news) sitting on a flooded road with water right up to the roof, what was amusing (an under the circumstances shouldn't have been) was that we could just see the tips of the windscreen wipers still working!  The car occupants had had to be rescued as the flooding happened so suddenly.

Hampshire seemed to get the worst of the flooding where - it was said - a whole village had to be evacuated as the river close by was about to burst its banks.   So it's not going to be a very happy Christmas for many residents in the UK, especially as more rain is forecast, although mainly on the eastern side of the country, and especially Scotland where they will also have snow.  It couldn't come at a worse time of year (Christmas shopping, family travel etc...). Let us hope by Monday there will have been much improvement in the weather, to allow last minute shopping and travel to be done comfortably and safely. 

Loved reading about your craft ideas Sarina.  There is so much we can make ourselves - quite easily - that would cost a lot to buy.  So as well as making for ourselves, am sure many of us could make a bit of 'pin-money' by selling some as well.   One good way to get a shop-keeper to be interested in our 'home-crafts' is not to ask them to buy them from us, but let them have them on 'sale or return'.  That way they don't have to pay up front, just receiving some commission for selling (less 'profit' for them, but more for the person that makes) this is almost guaranteed to get them to put 'our' goods on sale as no loss to them if they don't sell.  If any DO sell well, then the shopkeeper would probably give an order for more and pay on delivery - any unsold would not then be returned.

Was interested to read that you have German origins Sarina, and bet you miss quite a few of their traditional 'bakes'.  Germany has a good reputation for making bread of many different kinds, also wonderful cakes and gateaux.  The one traditional German food that I've never quite taken to is 'sauerkraut' - although it has to be said I bought it in a jar, and so it probably was not at all like the 'real thing'.
I'd always wanted to visit the German (Christmas) market that used to be held in Leeds every December (think it was there for about a month). Each year B promised he would take me to see it, but he never did.  Until the year I pleaded with him (almost every day) and when he eventually 'found time' (he was retired), when we got there discovered it had closed the day before and everything was being taken down.  So I never did get to see it.   These markets are held in various parts of the country, so anyone who lives close enough, do hope they get a chance to visit. 

Home-made chocolates are quite fun to make, and can look very professional if you have the moulds, but still look good even made 'free-hand'.   I used to cheat a bit by buying a pack of fudge, then cutting each square into four, dipping each into melted chocolate.  Did the same with Turkish Delight.  Marzipan squares (or balls) also dipped in chocolate.  You don't need much 'filling' to go inside a chocolate, esp. if 'double-dipped'.

Kneading a little peppermint food essence into some white fondant icing, then rolled very thinly and placed on top of a thin layer of chocolate (spread on baking parchment), to be covered with more chocolate, then left to set before being cut into squares or fingers is a way of making our own 'After Dinner Mints'.
Glace cherries, pr halved no-soak apricots, Brazil nuts, chopped nuts, all can be dipped to be included in a 'box of chocs', or piled up in dishes for guests to help themselves. 
Lakeland do some lovely silicone chocolate moulds, they also sell good chocolate, so a good idea to get some (or ask for some as a present) so we can already plan (if not yet make) some of next year's gifts.

Have made a note of the book you mentioned Sairy, and will ask B to see if it is the local library, if not he can request them to get it for him.  This is the good thing about libraries, as they have a central library that holds almost all the books published, so a request for a book can be asked for by a local library and it will be sent to them by 'central'.  Well, it used to be like that, and as B has already requested a book the 'local' didn't have - and they got it for him - presumably 'central' is still there.

Did not realise that my books were available in America Lisa.  Are they the three BBC books, or is it the Penguin book you have?  We can buy American cook-books here, but as the weights and measures are not the same as ours, not easy to convert the recipes.   More recently published cook -books now often give both metric and cup measurements.

Do hope that having your OH sleeping through the day (due to shift work) does not mean that you have to walk around on tip-toe and cannot play music, listen to the radio....  We used to have a neighbour (she lived in the other side of our semi-) who had a husband 'on nights', and she told me in no uncertain terms that we were expected to be to be quiet and certainly not let our dog bark during the day whilst he was asleep.  But then she was that sort of neighbour!!! Very dominating.  Myself just liked to keep the peace.
When I had spent a week keeping myself and dog extremely quiet, suddenly saw through our front window (about noon) the neighbour's husband walking their dog down our street.  And there was me believing the man was fast asleep in bed.  So from then on I took no notice of what she requested and lived my life as I wished. 

Couldn't believe what you said Jane (Willis), about mince pies being thrown away.  Why on earth do people buy so much food (of all types) when they must know they can't get around to eating it all?   We see a lot of this done in TV programmes, binned food that has just reached its 'use-by' date when everyone knows that one more day won't hurt (especially when kept in the fridge).   Some people are paranoid about dates, and this is why many dates are now being removed and just a 'sell-by' date left - although when it really matters, the 'use-by' date will still remain.

Even if we do have too much food left, we should always be able to make something with it that can be frozen.  There are many foods that can be frozen 'as-is', so there really is no excuse for waste of any sort. 
We should never feel that we are less fortunate having to 'scrimp and save' just because we use what others would chuck out,  for we are the lucky ones.  Why?  We spend so much less so end up with fatter purses. 

Dawn has broken whilst I wasn't looking, it's surprising how quickly this happens, in less than 45 minutes it's from dark to now light enough outside to walk around (and probably drive around) without the need for any torches or headlights.  It would be even lighter if the sky wasn't so overcast with heavy grey clouds.  Think the rain has stopped, but for how long?

Anyway - have a busy day ahead of me.  Already I've made a batch of chicken stock (overnight in the slow cooker), also made overnight a litre of 'peaches and cream' EasyYo yogurt (that's now in the fridge).  B and I ate some roast chicken portions for supper last night (B had his with roast spuds, string beans and gravy - I just had the chicken).  Have to say that roast chicken is SO much tastier than when 'poached'.  Perhaps it is the crispy skin, this seems to have such a sweetness about it.
Anyway the roast chicken bones were added to the crock-pot to cook with the rest of the chicken, and these have given the stock much more depth of flavour.   Today will boil it down to reduce by at least half so that it will take up less room in the freezer.

The ham has also been soaking overnight (in two changes of water) and have to decide whether to cook it on the hob, or roast it in the oven. Perhaps a bit of both (ending with covering the fat of the cooked ham with glaze then finish by roasting it).

Have to make three quiches today, partly prepare the trifle, make a cheesecake, and tomorrow must make a Tiramasu.  Or might do all today, or some today and the rest tomorrow morning.  Have to see how I get on. 
Having just remembered that is is Norma the Hair day today (change of normal appt. time due to run-up to Christmas), and she is coming mid-afternoon, that leaves me only this morning to do most of the above.  So once I've written up today's recipe then will take my leave.

This recipe for little tarts/cakes is useful in that it can make use of many 'bits and bobs' that are left-overs (cake crumbs, pastry...) and oddments left in jars (nuts, jam).   As with most recipes, using the full amount of ingredients means using a bit more than 'oddments', but not too difficult to make smaller amounts to use up what we have.   Experienced cooks will realise that these are similar to Bakewell tarts, but not quite the same.
The tarts can be frozen before baking and can be baked from frozen for the same length of time as when freshly made.  Useful when we are cooking something in the oven and have a spare shelf.

Plenty of ways we can change the recipe - use puff pastry or short pastry, a different jam, different (plain) cake crumbs.  Also omit the icing 'drizzle'.
Almond Tarts: makes 12
1 x 375g pack puff (or short) pastry
3 oz (75g) self-raising flour
12 tsp cherry jam (or flavour of your choice)
3 oz (75g) Madeira or sponge cake crumbs
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
3 oz (75g) ground almonds
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
half tsp almond essence/extract
1 oz (25g) flaked almonds (opt)
4 oz (100g) icing sugar, sifted (opt)
Roll out the pastry very thinly on a floured board, then cut out 12 x 9cm circles using a scone cutter (pref with a fluted edge) and place each circle into the hollow of a 12-section tart/bun tin.  Spread 1 tsp of the jam in the bottom of each.
Put the cake crumbs, flour, ground almonds, sugar, and almond essence into a bowl, then add the eggs, and beat together until smooth.  Then divide this between the tarts, making sure to spread it (with the back of a teaspoon) so that it covers the jam.  Scatter the almonds on top (if using).  At this point the cakes can be open-frozen in the tin for 2 hours, then wrapped in cling film and can be frozen for up to 2 months.  To bake from frozen, first heat the baking tin in the oven (180C, 350F, gas 4), then replace the frozen cakes in the sections, cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 - 40 mins, removing foil half-way through cooking time.
To cook from fresh - cook tarts in tin - again covering with foil as above, then (in both instances) cool slightly before drizzling with icing (if using)..
To make the icing: add a few drops of water to the icing sugar to make a runny icing, then drizzle this over the tarts and leave to set before eating.

Really have to trot off now and get on with my culinary activities.  Hopefully will have completed enough to allow me to return tomorrow morning to write more blog, bit if I 'disappear' you will know I've had problems.  Should be OK though, in which case how we all manage to 'meet up' again tomorrow.  TTFN.