Sunday, May 12, 2013

Extreme Living...

A big feature in the Daily Mail yesterday re the lad who saved his mother hundreds of £££s when she went shopping.  Anyone interested will probably be able to read it on the D.M website.
The boy got the idea (I think) when he read about the way the Americans do 'extreme couponing', saving every money-off voucher/coupon they came across, then using these to reduce the cost of what they are buying.  The lad used to save many until the item was itself on offer, and apparently when the 'money-off voucher' is then more than the reduced priced item, the store allows the surplus money to go on other items (themselves then not actually costing anything).

From the photo with the article it did seem as though much of what was bought were what I call 'non-foods', beauty products, cleaning products, laundry powder etc.  Even so, when reading about the lad several days before, a list of items were given showing the savings and think much of this did include food. 

Not sure whether I'd be inclined to go to such 'extremes', although in times past would save every coupon I could find (a lot came through the door, and as we were the first house in the street, the person putting leaflets through the door often put the lot through the letterbox to save him bothering with the rest).  As long as the stores sold the foods, we didn't have to actually buy them to take advantage of the savings, the store would just add up all the 'money-off', and deduct it from the bill. Now, I believe, we have to buy the product to get the savings, and - buying on-line - we can't take advantage of vouchers.  Only the 'points' that we collect from the store itself.

Daughter and I went to the Clandestine Cake Club yesterday and it was a lovely day out.  Had a bit of a long walk from the car park to the big 'summer-house' where the meeting was held (this at the back of a garden centre), and my joints and muscles are aching this morning, but do believe that if I did more of this my lack of mobility would improve.

Thirty-six people were expected, but think there were only about 18 who arrived.  Each bringing a cake, and good to see that there was no competition, so many looked quite 'ordinary' (thank goodness), but all had to be made to fit into the 'theme' for that meeting, this being 'Gathering Nuts in May'.  Not sure whether all cakes really did fit into this as one I know was a lemon drizzle cake, but who cares - it tasted lovely.  I'd made a coffee and walnut cake which turned out a bit dry because I'd left it standing overnight before icing (forgetting to cover the two layers), but the icing tasted good.  Instead of using just buttercream (butter and icing sugar) used one part butter, two parts Philadelphia Light cream cheese, whipped together then adding enough sifted icing sugar to the thickness I required.  Used this to sandwich the layers together, then spread it round the sides of the cake.  I'd already finely chopped some walnuts and so put these into a shallow dish, picked the cake up and held the flat sides (top and bottom) between my hands, then rolled the cake round - like a wheel - in the chopped nuts.  This is a much easier way to coat the sides of a cake than throwing the coating up the sides.  When done, I put more icing on the top and covered that also with the chopped nuts, pushing 12 whole walnuts around the top, close to the edge.  

Once everyone had arrived and all the cakes were set out, we then were invited to go and help ourselves, so I did have a slice of two cakes, then another two, but that was enough for me.  I could have tried all if I'd wanted.   At the end of the afternoon everyone then was able to go and help themselves to what was left, each taking home several slices, each from a different cake, and also any left of our own we also took home. 

There is no charge to join the Clandestine Cake Club (there are many of these throughout the country and I believe they have their own website), and - quite honestly - when there are plenty of cakes to help yourself to, it is very easy to end up taking home more cake that you take yourself. Even better, each being different, if you live alone or just two of you, then you are not stuck just one cake to eat all week, you have a selection (some of which could be frozen).  Apart from the fuel it takes to drive to the venues (these change each month),  we could end up with more cake-value than we began with. 

Whether I'll continue with the Club is something I'll need to think about.  It's great seeing all the different cakes, and meeting new 'cake-makers', but being diabetic (as well as wanting to lose more weight) I really shouldn't be eating cake at all.  Have to see what the blood sugar results are next time I see the diabetic nurse (early June).

As I had a bit of a rush job on yesterday and my blog was shorter than normal, can't remember if I mentioned the health value of eating walnuts.  An article in the Daily Mail on Friday showed that scientists had found significant improvement in cholesterol levels, and as am trying to lower mine, think I'll have to try eating walnuts (although I'm not keen on the flavour).  However, it's not just the nuts that work, walnut oil also has beneficial effect and I could probably use that as part of a salad dressing.
The message given was "Eating shelled walnuts or some walnut oil four times a week ill certainly provide very significant benefits".  So, if I start now, by the time I see the nurse in June, let us hope there has been an improvement in my high cholesterol level.  It is 'normal', but being diabetic the nurse wants it to be even lower.  It will be interesting to find out, and will let you know.

Incidentally, the article also mentions "Walnuts can cut your risk of diabetes, ease stress, help prevent Alzheimers's and protect again breast and prostrate cancer".  Have a feeling, after reading this article, the sales of walnuts will rise, and this means - naturally - the price will also rise. 
Nuts do not have an overly long shelf-life as their oils turn rancid, but will be able to be stored for much longer when kept in the freezer.

Never did get to tidy my kitchen yesterday, so after the read of the Sunday Express, and the supplement that comes with it, will need to wend my way into the culinary quarter of our home, roll up my sleeves and get sorting things out.

Unless I get up early enough (doubtful), there will probably not be time for me to write my blog as we will be going to Barton Grange to buy the meat for the Indian Feast.  But will be back on Tuesday.

However, have go time to include a few recipes today, aiming to give more interesting ways to serve certain foods that we normally don't consider worth more than 'just a vegetable' etc...  The first uses 'greens', that term that covers most green leafy veg, so we have plenty to choose from, any of the green leafy cabbages, kale, leaf chard, spinach etc, even broccoli florets, adding peas and/or green beans. 

Bombay Spiced 'Greens': serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 tsp cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
half tsp black mustard seeds
3 green chillies, finely chopped
thumb size piece of fresh root ginger, grated
half tsp turmeric
1 lb (500g) shredded 'greens' (see above)
pinch of salt
soup spoon of water
4 oz (100g) frozen peas
zest and juice of 1 lemon
half tsp ground coriander
2 tblsp desiccated coconut
Put the oil in a large pan (or wok) and fry the cumin and mustard seeds for 1 minute, then stir in the chilli, ginger and turmeric and continue to fry until you can smell the pleasant aromas.  Add the greens and salt, the water and peas, and stir to combine.  Cover pan and cook for 4 or so minutes or until the greens have wilted (spinach wilts very rapidly), then add the lemon zest and juice, the coriander and coconut, and toss everything together.  Serve immediately.

Broccoli is not a favourite vegetable of mine (I'd prefer to eat Brussels sprouts!), which is odd considering I really do like to eat cauliflower.  Occasionally do include broccoli in some dishes (well, it's very good for us - nutritionally), and so sometimes make a Cauliflower cheese using both cauli and broccoli florets.  Something I always do when adding broccoli to a Chinese stir-fry is to include the cut-off stalks (the bit below the florets), and slice this to fry along with the tops. I do the same with cauliflower as there is as much flavour in these stalks as in the 'curds' themselves (same with cabbage etc, so never throw away stalks and cores, grate or shred and add to coleslaws for stir-fries.

Here are two more suggestions to use leftover cooked broccoli.
Cheese and Broccoli Dip: serves 4
9 oz (225g) cooked broccoli
4 oz (100g) sour cream or creme fraiche
4 tblsp Parmesan cheese, grated
4 oz (100g) soft cream cheese (Philly type)
4 spring onions, chopped
1 tblsp chopped fresh chives
tsp crushed garlic (opt)
Put everything into a food processor and whizz together until smooth.  Serve with toasted pitta bread or tortilla chips as a snack or light lunch/supper dish.

Broccoli and Olive Pasta Salad: serves 4
11 oz (300g) pasta shapes, cooked and cooled
7 oz (200g) cooked broccoli florets
2 tblsp green pesto
2 tblsp mayonnaise
2 tblsp natural or Greek yogurt
3 oz (75g) pitted and chopped black olives
3 oz (75g) Feta cheese, crumbled
Put the pasta and broccoli into a bowl.  Blend together the pesto, mayo and yogurt, into this stir the olives and cheese, and then pour this over the pasta/broccoli and fold together until combined. 

 As time is getting on and do have quite a lot to do today, just a reminder that I may not be blogging tomorrow (but might if up early enough), otherwise will be back again on Tuesday when I hope you will be able to find time to join me.   
A reminder that there is a new cookery series presented by my favourite chef Michael Roux, starting tomorrow (Monday) at 6.30pm BBC2 each weekday.  Will be watching in the hope of learning something new.  TTFN.