Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Smart Cookie!

We had a very slight fall of snow yesterday, but it hasn't settled.  It is still extremely cold, so I'm not venturing out.

Busy at the moment compiling recipes for the Foodbank, one of my 'priorities'.  It's not easy, as there are so many foods we take for granted that don't appear in the 'allocated food' parcels, such as cooking oil, eggs, flour, cheese.  Everything has to be canned or packet foods (and these fairly limited as to variety).

Sorry that yesterday I missed replying to comments sent in.  Was in a bit of a rush and forgot (hangs head in shame).  Will add these to those that have come in since then...here goes:

A welcome (or is it welcome back?) to Elaine, who manages to turn an average sized chicken into 12 meals (to feed three). Well done!  Once we can detach ourselves from the weights that recipes suggest and use a little (or a lot) less meat - making up the shortfall with veggies - then our pennies go that much further.

Poor Jane W. with adult whooping cough, we all hope you are now well on the road to recovery.  What an interesting job you have, visiting stores, especially supermarkets. Plenty of chances to pick up many reduced priced foods. You need never pay full price again!

Your mention of missing 'fresh' veg jane puzzled me slightly as you say you have potatoes, onion and carrots.  To me these ARE 'fresh', but expect you mean something that has soft green leaves.  Another good winter veg that keeps well in the fridge is hard white cabbage and normally one of the cheapest vegetables,.  The red cabbage also.  In the 'old days' there were very little 'greens' to be had during the winter, kale perhaps being the one that survives the cold. 
Most fruit and vegetables are now available all year round in the supermarkets, and we have got used to them always being there, so feel we need them.  In the 'old days' we used to eat only the fresh local produce that was in season. Think I prefer it that way, for although we might think we are blessed by now having the 'unseasonal' all year round, we have lost the pleasure of having something to look forward to. 

Will see if I can find recipe for the pate and oatcakes Cheesepare, but it may take a day or two.  If not put up within a week, give me a nudge to remind me, as am discovering my mind cannot multi-task as well as it used to.  I do make memo-notes but then go and lose them.

The Foodbank seems to work on a voucher system.  The people entitled to use this 'bank' are those who have no money for some reason, maybe loss of job, or the benefit system has changed.  What happens is it usually takes the 'system' several days (often weeks) to sort out 'benefits', and while this is happening, food vouchers are given to be exchanged at the Foodbank.  There is a 'food allocation' set by the powers that be (think used by all Foodbanks over the country), and the amount depends on the size of the family.   There is no choice, other than that allocated, although if there have been donations of extras like 'treats' (biscuits, jam, chocolate...) the volunteers who box up the 'allocations', can pop one into the food parcel.

The set 'allocation' seems far too vague to be of much help. For instance 'four cans of soup' could mean any variety, the same with the 'three cans of meat'. To make the most of what is supplied  the flavour of the soup should complement the meat (chicken soup with canned chicken etc) as then they could be used together in (say) a casserole.  Also the suggested recipes were more of a suggestion that making a tasty meal (add two a can ofsoup to one can of meat, and one can of baked beans sort of thing,  so a novice cook might make a real hash of it.  No pun intended!). 
Am hoping to come up with recipes to help put the right mixture of foods together (this with the help of the volunteers who pack up the parcels).  Also make suggestions for what other foods could be included in the 'allocation' (pastry mix, bread mix for example).

Just because people are having to live hand to mouth for a few weeks, doesn't mean they have to eat unappetising meals.  In fact this will be a good way to explain how easy it is to make a good meal, and hope this encourages more home-cooking once more money can be spent on things like eggs, cheese, milk etc.

There are other organisations such as 'Fairshare', Salvation Army etc, who provide food for the homeless by way of a daily 'soup kitchen' so they can have one hot meal a day.  The supermarkets give a lot of the food that has reached its 'sell by' and 'use by' date to these charities as the food will be stored, but cooked/used that day.  The Foodbank supplies only foods that have a longer shelf-life.  So unless they have a few ££s to spend, the people who use the 'bank' have only the allocated foods.  Not a million miles away from wartime rationing I suppose, but in some ways worse as this time there is no cheese, eggs, bread, bacon...

A welcome to Muppet.  It is lovely when we have a newcomer to this blog, and perhaps there are more, but we'll never know unless they let us know via the comment box, but an 'invisible' welcome to newcomers anyway, and do hope you will drop us a line to let us know who you are.  We are a very happy band of 'cost-cutters', and becoming firm friends even if it has to be at a computer distance, but what with Facebook and Twitter, this seems to be the way the world of friendship is going these days. 

Have read the three books by Nella Last Marjorie, my favourite being her first, and have to say it felt almost as though she was me, and I was writing her diary.  We have so much in common, she looks at the world in exactly the same way as I do. 
Don't know if you have been able to watch the TV play  'Housewife 49" in Canada.  This is often repeated on one or other Freeview channels, and is the dramatisation of  Nella Last's life during the war years.  Think it covers much of her first two books.  Nella is played by Victoria Wood. 

Right, now to today's recipes.  We all like biscuits now and again, and although suppose I should be giving details of something more 'nutritional', a treat now and again does help to lift our spirits,  and - as mentioned the other day - as the 'recession' is expected to last ten more years, feel that we will need a lot of spirit lifting.

This cookie recipe is ideal for those who wish to leave cookbooks on the shelf.  Just write this one down in a notebook (along with other favourite recipes), as the one 'mix' can be used to make TEN different cookies.  Five variations given today, the remaining five tomorrow. 

As these cookies can be frozen, then perhaps worth taking a couple of hours one morning to make up the lot! Then freeze most of them.
The good thing about frozen biscuits is they are far less likely to be gobbled up by the family as would happen if they were kept at room temperature in the biscuit barrel. Frozen biscuits need to thaw for one 1 hour at room temperature (then add any extras as required) and as we can control how many can be available at any one time, the supply will last a lot longer.
Use the hard block margarine and not the softer, spreadable.  The hard marg. is cheaper anyway.

Basic Cookie Dough: (counts as one quantity)
4 oz (100g) hard margarine
8 oz (225g) plain flour
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
Rub marg into flour, then stir in the sugar and egg. Flavour and shape into variations (given below). Place cookies on greased baking sheet and then chill for 30 minutes before baking at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 12 - 15 minutes.  Leave on the sheets to cool for five minutes before transferring to a cake airer.
Note:  if you wish to make a larger amount of mix, it may need chilling for 15 minutes before shaping.

First variation uses Brazil nuts, but we could use a different nut if we wish (almond, pecan, walnut, hazelnut....
Brazil Thins: makes 40
basic cookie mix (above)
4 oz (100g) ground Brazil nuts
6 oz (175g) melted chocolate
Knead the cookie mix and nuts together.  Form into a 2"/5cm square block and wrap in foil.  Chill for 1 hour.  Unwrap and - using a sharp knife - cut into thin slices.  Bake as 'basic' but for only 5 - 8 minutes.  When cold dip diagonally into the melted chocolate and leave to set.

Peanut Crunchies: makes 30
basic cookie mix
5 tblsp crunchy peanut butter
salted, roasted peanuts, chopped
demerara sugar
Mix the cookie mix and peanut butter together until well combined, then place small mounds of the mixture onto baking sheets.  Sprinkle with the peanuts and sugar and cook as 'basic'.

Honey Pretzels: makes 40
basic cookie mix
1 tblsp set honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
1 oz (25g) caster (or icing) sugar
Knead the honey and cinnamon into the cookie mix, then roll into thin 'sausages', 7"/18cm long. Form each into a pretzel shape (take each end and cross them over, placing ends on the top curve - they should look like arms crossed with hands on the 'shoulders'). Place on baking sheets and chill for one hour.  Bake as 'basic'. While hot, brush with beaten egg mixed with the sugar.

Two-tone Swirls: makes 32
basic cookie mix
half oz (15g) cocoa
Take HALF the cookie mix and knead in the cocoa.  Roll out both halves to 8" x 10" (20 x 25cm) oblongs.  Place the chocolate flavoured on top of the plain and roll up from the long edge.  Wrap in foil and chill for one hour, then slice and bake as 'basic'.

Lemon Cookies: makes 24
basic cookie mix
lemon curd
icing sugar
Roll the cookie mix to 1/4" (5mm) thick and cut out 2" (5cm) rounds.  Using a smaller cutter, remove centres from half the rounds (the cut out bits can be used to make extra cookies).  Bake as 'basic', but allow only 7-8 minutes for those that have the centres removed.
When cold, sandwich two together with lemon curd and dust with icing sugar. 
Best to freeze just the cookies, and then fill with curd and dust with sugar after thawing.

For those who prefer a recipe for a 'real meal' (and NOT treats) am also giving a recipe for a vegetarian 'terrine' that can be eaten hot or cold.  As this is made from store-cupboard ingredients, ideal to make during our 'use what we've got' challenge.  As this is 'meatless', obviously cheaper than a 'meat loaf'. And 'cheap and easy'' is what I'm all about (apologies to Sunny Anderson for stealing her words as she ends her progs with a similar phrase).
As usual, if you haven't the exact ingredients, use something similar such as another hard cheese, different nuts, white breadcrumbs (or granary)....
Three Layer Terrine: serves 4
2 oz (50g) Cheddar cheese, grated
3 oz (75g) fresh brown breadcrumbs
2 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
3 oz (75g) peanuts, chopped
2 oz (50g) ground almonds
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper
1 x 400g (14oz) can plum tomatoes
Mix the cheese and breadcrumbs together, and moisten with 1 tblsp of the oil.  Put the remaining oil into a frying pan over low-medium heat and fry the onion and celery until softened.  Remove from heat and stir in the peanuts, ground almonds and the herbs, adding seasoning to taste.
Drain the canned tomatoes (save the liquid to add to soup or another dish) then liquidise or process the tomatoes to a thick puree.
Grease a 1.5lb (675g) terrine dish, or grease and line a loaf tin.  Press a layer of the cheese and crumb mixture in the base of the container, then add a layer of the peanuts, almonds, and celery mix. Follow this with a layer of tomato.  Repeat ending with a topping of cheese and crumbs.  Press mixture down well.
Bake at 190C, 375C, gas 5 for one hour or until firm to the touch.  Leave to stand for 15 minutes before turning out. Serve hot or cold with a spicy salsa and/or barbecue sauce, jacket potatoes and a green salad.

That's it for today.  Still have lots of work to do, so must get on...  Back again tomorrow and hope to see you then.  Am always ready to supply recipes and answer queries from both new and old readers, can't promise I can always give an answer but will try not to let you down.  Bye for now.