Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tell it as it is!

Thankfully, am now able to write my blog as I wish it to appear (the 'trials' have been OK anyway). But still not happy with the comp, but will get used to it.  Steve fitted a new hard-drive, a Microsoft 7 (one up from the previous one), but of course, the layout is different and a bit perplexing to a wrinklie like me.  It also wouldn't connect to the Internet, so Steve has lent me a 'dingle' (or is it 'dongle') that connects but with less power, so again lack of speed.  He is arranging for a new router to be sent to me and will come back in a few weeks to get it working again.  I cannot now get onto the Tesco webpage, and still probs with the camera.  Haven't yet checked whether the printer will work (and I bet it won't).

Have to say that on Thursday when Steve and partner came, the rest of the day was 'how it is now'.  Steve glued to our comp sorting things out, plus moving back and forth from his own lap-top to gain information on his as to why ours still didn't work properly. Steve's partner had brought her 'tablet' (is that what it is called, I was quite impressed with it), and she showed me some of her very creative knitwear on it.  Our daughter arrived with her lap-top and was using that most of the time (viewing pictures on Google Earth 'street-view' of the homes where she used to live.

Several days ago, our daughter had rescued a huge plasma screen TV from a neighbour who was about to take it to the tip (nothing wrong with it, he just didn't have room because his family had a larger one), and so we were able to purchase it for £20!!!  It is now in this room as 'B's personal TV ' and so while everyone was glued to their computers, tablets, and lap-tops, B was watching the TV.

Suddenly, it was as if I was watching a nightmare.  "Is this what the world is turning into" I thought. Everyone fixated with screen-watching?!  I went into the kitchen to prepare supper (planned for 5.30) and then sat in the conservatory watching natural life out there doing what it has done happily for no doubt trillions of years.  When supper was nearly ready, went to gather the family who were then ALL watching TV - 'Come Dine with Me' which they all loved and wanted tow watch it until the end (6.00!).  So I grumpily went back into the kitchen to have a sulk, drained the pasta and added it to the bolognaise sauce, mixed it together and turned off the heat.  OK, if the pasta was overcooked, then it was their fault not mine (it was OK as it happened).

I felt so stressed on Thursday night, first because this computer had not got rid of all its gremlins, and realised  that this age of technology MUST cause more stress than give relaxation.  Yesterday my next door neighbour came for coffee and she was telling me about when she went to the local butchers to buy a bag of potatoes (they also sell a small amount of vegetables), there was a customer there buying meat whose mobile phone rang, so she then began a long conversation with a friend, ignoring the butcher who was waiting patiently to finish her order.  My neighbour got so cross having to wait that she slammed a £2 coin on the counter and said 'that's for the potatoes, I can't wait any longer', and marched out of the shop.

What is this with mobile phones?  They are convenient when needing to contact someone urgently, or maybe order a taxi,  but can see no reason why they should be used every flippin' hour of the day just to have a chat.  Wouldn't life be much more pleasant if we arranged to meet friends and chat face to face?  But then perhaps life-styles have changed and everyone is now too busy.  Then comes the question 'busy doing what?'  Busy talking on mobile phones or tweeting or whatever it is called.

Some technology can be good, but in the wrong hands is very dangerous indeed.  Look at what is happening now, several youngsters committing suicide because of what has been said to them via a comment website.  People all over the world can be contacted via websites or texts and so now we see more and more uprising in many countries because of this.  One starts, then the message is sent out to others to do the same somewhere else, and the snowball then starts rolling....

But what do I know?  All I can say is I lay in bed on Thursday night unable to sleep, my mind going round and round, all caused by the return to 'computer-land' after several day of relaxation, and I thought that we were all able to live happily AND cook good meals without the need of any of this particular technology.  Having said that, I believe there are loads of websites that do show - with detailed photos - how to cook certain foods, and am sure these are very useful.  But if we could manage without them before, then hopefully we can still manage to cope on our own (perhaps with the aid of cookbooks etc). 

Yet there is me writing a cookery blog, and (once I can get the camera and comp. compatible) also starting a new website that has had to be on hold until I can take/send photos.  So call me a hypocrite if you like (I think I must be).

Anyway, back to basic domesticity with the only connection between me and the comp being this blog.  There was a recent mention of interest (still) in my £10 challenge, so I'll be continuing with this.  We've already  had the first week's supplies bought, many of these being enough to last over the second (and maybe third week), this leaving money left over to buy more 'food to store', and so it should go on. 

The best thing for me to do is now begin to suggest what could be made with the provisions bought, and give ideas for others that are worth having.  But - as always - it is YOU who makes the final decision as what I would buy will almost certainly not be the same as your choice.   Certainly I hope 'the basics': eggs, milk, bread, porridge oats, pasta, baked beans etc, plus carrots, onions and cabbage, then flour, sugar, oil, rice,  margarine/butter, chicken portions, celery,.... these, together with the canned fish (sardines/tuna/pilchards etc), and Beanfeast, can turn into many good and different meals.  and that's only week two.

From there we can begin to choose other foods for our store-cupboard such as custard powder, jellies, raising agents, stock-cubes, ketchup, mayo, brown sauce, lentils, couscous, split peas, and here begins another challenge within the challenge.  What would be YOUR choice? Maybe something I've forgotten to mention.

What I intend to do (maybe today) is go to Morrison's and see how much can be bought for £10. Not necessarily to live on for a week (it should last longer than that), but just to see what is sold at a really low price.  These can include foods from the 'reduced' shelves because these are nearly always available but not always the same.   Those who have a larger than £10 budget (and hope most of us do) might like to spend £5 each time they shop just building up a store cupboard (if they don't already have one).

You note I haven't mentioned tea or coffee or soft drinks.  That's because over the past weeks I've drunk mainly water (to prove to myself I can do without), although have to say that B has made me a coffee once or twice during that time.  I keep a bottle of water by my chair in the living room to drink as and when I want, and when in the kitchen just turn on the tap!  As I generally make soup for lunch each day, am not lacking in fluids.  

Do hope that many of you have been watching the food programmes on TV over the past week/s.  These certainly have high-lighted the way that convenience foods (esp. ready-meals) have taken over our lives.  In a prog. yesterday a girl spent a week eating these foods (the same than many people prefer to eat), and in just one week had gained 4lbs, 2" round her waist, got a rounded belly (looked as though she was in the early stages of pregnancy) and her cholesterol level had shot up, and also her b/p.  Her iron level was down, and  - quite frankly - she was suddenly 'unhealthy'.   As it was said, fortunately for her, having only been eating these foods for a week, she would soon get back to normal good health, but for everyone who constantly eats these processes meals, they would end up very unhealthy indeed, with a probability that children now will die at a younger age than their parents.

All we have to do is to stop buying the processed foods that are deemed 'unhealthy' to eat, and it has to be said that many foods that are deemed 'fresh' are 'processed' in some way or another (even milk).  So processing is OK up to a point.  Baked beans are processed and so can be called a 'convenience' food (well we haven't had to soak and cook the dried beans from scratch, have we?), the problem lies mostly with the 'ready-meals' that contain very little nourishment (read the label and see just how much meats they do contain, and how many preservatives and additives).  

If we can, by cooking the same meals at home, managed to end up with a lot more good food on the plate for half to one-fifth the cost, then we should all make an attempt to do this.  As I said before, it we decide to pocket  the 'profit' we have made, then why not if it is the incentive we need to get us back to cooking again.

However much I'd love to go back to suggesting cooking the meals as our grandmothers did, this really wouldn't fit in to today's life-style.  We have become so used to eating dishes from all over the world, and with most of the ingredients being imported, we can buy these to cook them ourselves.  The good news is that most other countries have often had to struggle to afford to put food on the table, but at the same time made sure that what they eat is enjoyable.  Here in the UK, in those days, we grew enough food, and produced enough quality meat for the people who lived here, but sadly didn't really bother much about the best way to prepare it.  Roast meats were excellent, but generally all the veggies were boiled to within an inch of their life.  We had it all, and just lacked the knowledge.  Now we have the knowledge but not the money to put the 'home-grown' to good use.  But at least we can enjoy the world cuisine and gain satisfaction from that.

Myself am finding (due to the £10 challenge) that the Italian dishes such as spag. bol( made with Beanfeast - so not truly traditional), can be incredibly cheap.  Myself just love pasta with pesto, and if we make our own pesto, that dish costs only pennies).  Second favourite is the Chinese stir-fry, this being made with the widest amount of veggies we have, but only tiny amounts of each.
Another favourite of mine is vegetable soup made with - what I call 'bendy' veggies, past their freshness', such as carrots, parsnips and celery, adding onions and potatoes, all diced and then cooked in home-made chicken stock (stock being free, made from the butcher's chicken carcases).

Other 'cheapies' I enjoy are coleslaw (shredded carrot, cabbage and onion), and 'dips' made with yogurt, with a selection of vegetable 'sticks'.

The other day, B staying in here to watch 'his' TV, I made for him some fork biscuits.  Then decided (because I had a jar of popping corn), to make a batch of popcorn for him.  5g of popcorn (£1.89p for 500g - so 5g = approx. 2p!!!!) - when popped - filled nearly a 2 pint jug!  With some left-over pastry and dried out cheese (grated) I made loads of cheese straws - more like 'twiglets' they were so long and thin).  Perfect nibbles for B, and yet really cost very little.  I throw nothing away when it can be used.
Incidentally, noticed in a brochure that 'popping' corn is on sale to grow our own.  Am going to soak one of the corn kernels to see if it will sprout, then next year will have a go at growing my own popping corn.  If dried peas and dried beans (bought for cooking) sprout and grow, then why not popping corn?  A few corn kernels(or peas or beans) from a whole pack wouldn't be missed, yet - when planted and grown - would supply us with ££s more seeds to dry, cook and some left to sow again the following year.   There is so much we buy that we could put to secondary (and good) use, but never give it a thought.   Do hope that readers can come up with more suggestions.

Well, I began this blog feeling a bit stressed. On thing that is happening is that there is now a back-ground noise (that  I can't get rid of), continuously annoying me.  It sounds a bit like morse code. But learning to live with it.  Probably not notice it at all eventually, like the tick of a clock.  We only notice it when it stops ticking.

Because I was a bit stressed (makes me cross) I then made my feelings clear about modern technology, and carried on about processed foods.   What I want to do is bring myself back to living life 'au naturel', especially when it comes to food.  So over the next weeks I'll be concentrating on writing about the £10 challenge, and giving suggestions on making the best use of the provisions we have bought.  I might have a moan now and again about something else, but then that's me.

A thank you to Anni who I believe is a new 'commenteer', so very welcome.  Thanks for the instructions on how to make condensed milk.  Believe I did give this a mention some years ago on my blog, but completely forgot about it.   I'd like to be able to give all three measurements with my recipes (imperial, metric, and the US 'cups'), but may stick to just metric.  However if readers want all three I will do my best.
You say you have scales Margie, so assume you now choose to cook 'metric'?

I've never had good results with kitchen scales as those that have a sort of 'clock' face and a 'hand' that moves to show the weight never seems to be that accurate, especially with small amounts.  At one time I preferred using my old-style balance scales - a brass scoop  at one end, and a platform to put on weights at the other.
A year (or so) ago I bought myself a digital scale that shows the weight in a window at the bottom front.  It is flat so can be stored tucked between cook book if I wish.  By pressing a button it can change from lbs and ounces, to grams and also mls.  If I place a bowl or pan on the scales and then switch on it sets it at zero, so I can add ingredients to the container, and then reset to zero if needing to add something else.  I find this very useful and now use only this set of scales.  One bit of technology I approve of.

With 'The Great British Bake-off' soon to be on our screens again, am sure we will all be forgetting Paul H's misdeeds (after all, his private life is his own affair), and enjoy the programme.  Your mention that he will be a the Bolton Food and Drink Festival, Kathryn, has made me wish we lived closer as I would really like to meet him because he is darn attractive.  Those eyes!!!

Well, let's hope this publishes as it should.  If it does, then there will be no stopping me.  However, I will still publish only a few days each week, not every day, so expect me when you see me.  Will do this because the freedom and relaxation it gives me by not HAVING to blog is paying off, both with frame of mind and more time to experiment with new ways to save money and still eat well.

We are due for a few days of dull and wet weather so will be able to find something to do in the kitchen over the weekend.  I will take tomorrow off blogging and possibly (probably) be back blogging on Monday.  Hope to meet up with you then.  TTFN..