Saturday, September 07, 2013

Whether I Like it or Not!

It had to happen sooner or later.  Yesterday, as I was grating cheese in  the food processor, the plastic spindle that holds the grating disc broke into pieces.  B took a look and said no way could it be glued back together, so from now on that means I'll be back to grating cheese on my mum's old grater, and have to grate carrots, cabbage, onions etc for the coleslaw.  It's a no brainer really.  Use God's own tools - otherwise known as hands!!  
At least the main slicing blade normally in the machine should still work, and so not all is lost.

Stores of my larder/fridge foods are rapidly declining.  Am now using long-life milk, and this morning have one tomato left and a quarter of a (50p) iceberg lettuce.  One tin of tuna.  One banana. A few onions and carrots and half a head of celery. Am now starting to drink tea again (using teabags I've had for years) to make the coffee last longer. 

B is OK for meals as he gets all the meat and with this usually goes veggies from the freezer (peas, Brussels sprouts, string beans etc).  I do have some small potatoes, canned potatoes and Smash (the last two B does not like), and plenty of rice.  Low on pasta but can always make that.  

Yesterday -  B made his stir-fry (which smelt wonderful because I was feeling hungry having not eaten all day).But as ever he had made enough only for himself.  As we'd run out microwave rice, I cooked some rice earlier, cooled it rapidly, kept it chilled until his supper time then he fried it with some egg to make a 'sort-of' egg fried rice to eat with his stir-fry.  I watched him eat it and my tummy began to rumble so went and sat in the larder to choose something for my own supper.  There were 'edibles' in there but did not fancy making another mug of tomato soup, or even eating a can of baked beans, so went and made a salad using a bit of lettuce, adding the last but one can of tuna, the last but one banana, the last but one tomato, and mixing it all together with some mayo and ketchup.  I added a dash of Cajun seasoning to 'pep' up the dressing, and this worked well.  I've also run out of my favourite chipotle sauces and really missing those.  

At least managed to bake a large loaf and four mini ones for B (I'm trying to avoid carbos myself) so he at least was catered for.  All in all had quite a good day in the kitchen as I also roughly chopped and cooked the fallen apples (after removing any bad bits), putting them in a pan with a little water, and with their skins/cores still intact, and simmered until soft.  I rubbed this through my mouli-mill and it made quite a big bowlful of apple sauce/puree which will be frozen in small containers.   Was wondering if the mouli-mill might be able to grate cheese, will try that later.

Decided to make B a trifle using a jelly (have plenty of those), some left-over dried-up sponge cake, and a few frozen raspberries.  Made a jug of custard (Bird's custard powder, sugar and long-life milk), and - when cold - topped the trifle with this.  Covered with cling-film and kept in the fre3idge, B can serve himself and then add the cream.  This way it will keep in a day or two longer than if topped with cream (or that's what I'm hoping).

Today am going to make up a couple more of Tesco's sponge cake mixes using the last banana.  Louise wrote in and said she'd tried adding the banana to a mix and it really did work well.   The Tesco mixes are really inexpensive (think 12p each?) and all that is needed it to add an egg and water.  As I want to try making a Battenburg cake, will use a little Strawberry Nesquick to flavour one mix, and a chocolate ditto to flavour the second.  The Nesquick I bought some time back as I use this to flavour home-made soft-scoop ice-cream, and also add to cheese-cakes when I want an 'instant' flavour.  Yes, I know this is yet another 'processed' product that - for health reasons - we should avoid, but used infrequently, doubt it will do much harm and it is 'useful'.   It is difficult to live economically and still have 'treats' without using some of the 'cheapies'.   It's the main meals that we should make ourselves from scratch (whenever possible) but even then see no reason not to use  gravy granules (or similar to make cheese sauce etc). 

I'd never heard that expression buttercup:  "on a £I a week one will live like a lord, another a pauper", but it is true.  It was only this week that I flicked through the book before I lent it to a friend, also another favourite of mine 'How We Lived Then" (during World War II), and myself am re-reading 'Nella Last's War'.   All these have 'grounded me', and made me aware of how different things are today.  Also inspiring me to make sure that I remember to approach my cooking with more thought and make even better use of what I have (even though I try to do this already, reading the books again show me that I'm not as good as I could be).

The problem today - particularly since rising prices and loss of employment - is that life for the younger folk (meaning anyone under the age of 40), is far more difficult and probably more complicated now than it was many years ago.  What we (oldies) never had we never missed, but towards the end of last century when MacMillan said "we have never had it so good" many of the 'working class' could afford most of what used to be luxury, from fitted carpets, to cars, to holidays abroad, not to mention being able to buy food that had already been prepared and just needed heating up.   All due to the generosity of banks and their credit cards.

It is understandable that today cooks such as Jamie O are slated due to him seeming not to understand the word 'budget'.  What we have to try to do is keep an open mind, watch and learn, and even if can't afford to make the meals that he makes (as Karen says - we may have no freezers to store left-over food), surely we can learn SOMETHING.   I've yet to watch a (good) cookery programme that hasn't taught me something new. 

The trouble with any prog relating to money, benefits, budgets, etc is that these are emotive issues, that are often too close to home, then we empathise or criticise.  Rarely we remain objective and view a situation logically.  One of the hardest things to do is realise the right that in something that seems so wrong. Or on the other hand find the wrong in what seems so right.

Somewhere I read that "we have to overcome an enormous instinctive urge to dismiss and reject everything about it before we can find the wisdom to see why some of it ought to be accepted and embraced!"  This sounds very deep, but am sure you all agree that we've all gone a bit overboard recently (myself included) about who does this and who says what.  All that matters is what WE - as individuals - do, and as long as we can sort the wood from the trees, the men from the boys, the good from the bad (you get my drift), then we are on the right road.

When it comes to cost-cutting blogs, we have those who take one road to economy, others who prefer to take a quite different route, one which may seem harder to some, and easier to others.  Along the way their path maybe littered with comments they feel deeply about.  I'm (almost) ashamed to think of the many postings I've written about my likes and dislikes.  Do people really want to know? The fact that I believe in what I say, and that others disagree is because we don't all stand on the same spot to look at the same view(point).  We should all be aware that there will always be different views to about everything we feel strongly about.  
This isn't to say I don't have unpleasant thoughts about the way supermarkets tend to rip us off, or how the nations manages it's own 'housekeeping', but do realise that many are living today with very heavy burdens on their shoulders, and unlike in the past have never known much else.  And it gets worse.

There was something seen on TV recently that gave me food for thought.  A reporter in Iraq was talking to some ladies there.  They all said how much better life had been (for them) when Saddam Hussein was in power.  True, he did dreadful things, but at grass-roots level the women then had much more freedom with dress code, education etc.  Now, under the new regime, they have been forced to give up all these things, and life - for them - is so restricted they find it not pleasant at all. The problem with wars between nations today they don't seem to consider what will happen once it is all over, civilian life is the last thing they seem to care about. 
I'm going out on a limb here (no doubt loads of hate mail coming back) - I think the world would run much more smoothly AND efficiently if women ran it.  They would not spend millions on space travel, fast trains, warfare.  The money would go to better use.  And - let us hope - that biologists/scientists would be able to get men to bear children and let their wives sit back and listen to the scream.   

Why is it that few (if any) youngsters listen to good advice passed on by parents?  I certainly didn't and it took me a long time to admit my mother was right, always right.  If I'd heeded in the first place I'd have been able to cope with life much more easily.  As it was I had to learn it all again -the hard way.  But it's always been the same.  Generation after generation parents have moaned about 'the youth of today'. Will it always be like that?  A couple of generations on and my mind wonders how it could get worse. 

Many folk today have never had - or needed - to save (because of credit cards) neither needing to learn to cook (because of all the 'readies' on sale that just need heating up), and without having any education to show them the way to cope with life today, what chance do they have?  What we need is free education - classes and clubs that people can go where they can learn to cook, learn life-skills, crafts etc, but in an enjoyable environment.  Make anything fun to do, and it will be taken up a lot more rapidly.

There is much talk about advancement and technology leading the way, and generally we are glad of it.  Why wash laundry by hand when we now have washing machines? Why make our own clothes when we can buy them?  Why chop wood when we have central heating?  Why walk when we can ride (bus/car?).  Why spend holidays in a wet and cold climate (as Britain can be at times) when it is cheaper to travel to a sunny beach abroad than it is to stay in Bridlington)?  Why cook when we can buy cheaper meals all ready made?  As we know, all is not always as good as it seems, so let me get off my soapbox and return to what really matters.  Cheap eats that really do taste good and healthy too.

The one website for cost-cutting foodies that I respect because it has no other axe to grind is'.  Not so long ago they were giving great recipes to feed a family of four for £25.  Have not seen it recently due to the old comp being too slow to wait for the site to appear, but must take another look now things have speeded up. Now that food prices have risen, maybe their budget has also gone up, but am sure still as low as you can get.

The recipes that that I give today are inexpensive because they are meat-less, and as this is the time of year for the various squashes, worth thinking about.  Pumpkins are usually only on sale around Hallow'een although butternut squash is on sale most of the year and keep very well (I've still got one in my veggie basket bought about 6 months ago, not used, but still fit to eat).  Apples too are in season and likely to be cheaper than at any other time, so anyone who has an apple tree (or knows a man that does), will find this recipe even more economical than most.

This is a good way to use up pumpkin after carving for lanterns, but butternut squash can be used instead.
Pumpkin and Apple Curry: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 - 3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb (450g) approx. pumpkin, peeled, cubed
1 lb (450g) approx. large potatoes, cubed
2 cooking apples peeled, cored, diced
2 tsp mild curry paste
1 inch (2.5cm) piece ginger root, peeled, chopped
2 bay leaves
18 fl oz (500ml) water
1 vegetable stock cube
2 oz (50g) raisins
salt and pepper to taste
yogurt to serve
Put the onion in a large pan and fry the onion for five minutes until golden.  Add the garlic, pumpkin, potatoes, and apple. Fry for a further minute then stir in the curry paste, turmeric, ginger and bay leaves. Add the water with the crumbled stock cube, raisins, and plenty of seasoning. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender. 
Spoon into bowls and top with a dollop of yogurt.  Serve with chunks of crusty bread for dipping into the sauce, or serve with rice. 

Here is another meatless recipe, and any vegetables that you have that can be roasted (peppers, aubergine, courgettes, parsnips, onions...) can be used to make this.  Alternatively, stick to the recipe. Although this is a pastry-free 'quiche', no reason why the veggies couldn't be used to make a 'proper' quiche, but then should be chopped finely so they mix in with the milk/egg to make a filling.

Crustless Quiche: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 yellow and 1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
2 courgettes, cut into chunks
2 large red onions, cut into wedges
4 eggs, beaten
4 fl oz (100ml) milk
2 tblsp pesto sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large frying pan.  Stir-fry the vegetables over high heat for a couple or so minutes then transfer them to an oiled 2 ltr (3.5pt) ovenproof dish.   Put the eggs and milk into a bowl and lightly beat together with the pesto and seasoning.  Pour this over the vegetables and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 25 minutes or until firm to the touch in the centre.  Serve warm with a crisp green salad.

It's not like me to avoid watching the Food Network, but the early morning progs have changed from decorated (wedding) cakes and Unique Sweets (both help to give me inspiration), to the 'three D's' and Man v Food, both of which I can do without (makes me realise how much food there is eaten in America compared to here that at times I find disgusting).
Today and tomorrow believe Food network progs are to do with Christmas eats/treats, but doubt I'll be watching - too much to do in my own kitchen.  Have run out of caster sugar so will have to grind some gran. sugar down in the blender or food processor.  Cheaper to do that than buy caster anyway. Once that is done will start baking.

Am finding that scones and biscuits are much the cheapest 'treats' to make for B as they use less fat, although the sponge cake mixes are definitely inexpensive, but once they have all been used up I doubt I will buy more.  Also running out of self-raising flour.  Funny how we get used to using s.r. flour and never think of using plain flour and just add the raising agents.  Something that I'll be doing as I still have two bags of plain and do have the baking powder/bicarb.

Another thing I've got used to is ring-pulls on cans.  I get quite miffed when I now find I have to open a can using a tin-opener.  Yet ring-pulls are not always easy to work.  I've snapped one off more than once even before it began opening the tin.  Thankfully was able to use a tin-opener to remove contents, but not all cans now are so easily opened with a tin-opener.  The more modern 'openers' often don't seem to work on some cans (that have ring pulls), but have found my old tin-opener still works well (so don't throw these away, you might find you may need it one day).

I do have a plastic 'thingy' that is sold specially for opening ring-pull cans.  It was very cheap and really does work well, although I have found that a teaspoon can  be used, but not as easy. 
The other day, when sorting out my box of 'sewing bits and bobs' discovered a huge 'key' that had a flat end with a slot in it, and remembered this was for opening cans that needed a key, when the originally key had fallen off. 
How often do we buy tins of corned beef and when home realised the key had disappeared (or maybe not on it in the first place).  Always check before buying, and if you haven't a 'master key' (such as above), unwind the metal strip from a key after opening a tin, then store the key in a safe place so you can use it when the can has lost its own key.  Corned beef cans are fairly small and not easily opened with a tin-opener.

Yesterday - as forecast - it rained, and for once I was pleased for my garden containers had just about dried out.  Today the weather seems better, but it is getting cooler.  Yet the forecast is that we will still be having warm weather in most parts of the country - at least for a few days.

Because the duvet was too hot for me to sleep, I'd changed to using a light-weight patchwork quilt, and because it was a bit cooler last night, covered this with another 'throw' that I tucked in at the end and one side of the bed.  It was just like old times being 'tucked in', and I've not had such a good night's sleep for years.
Think now I'll go back to how it used to be - a sheet covered by a blanket, and then when the weather gets colder, put the duvet on top like the old quilts used to be.  Duvets are good, they certainly keep me warm, but I'm forever getting my feet tangled up in the folds of the duvet cover.  Not sure why, perhaps I need a new duvet (have to keep shaking it back into shape).   Nothing nicer than slipping into bed between smooth sheets that are tucked in, at least tucked in part of the way round, it would be too much to ask B to tuck me in completely.  But even half a tuck (done by myself) works well as I discovered last night.

That's it for today.  Will be back Monday (if not tomorrow), as am out Tuesday and on Wednesday Norma will be back from her holiday.  So this next few days will be 'expect me when you see me'. But whatever I'm doing during the day, MUST be home to watch late afternoon TV, for now that Steve had re-programmed the TV can now get 'Drama' (Freeview 20) and am enjoying repeats of 'Birds of a Feather', and now especially 'Tenko' which began on Thursday.  After that I watch repeats of 'Downton Abbey'.  Like a good book, all worth reading (in this case watching) again.

Gorgeous sunshine now and lots of blue sky but a fairly high wind so will probably stay indoors and bake.  Did I mention I'd been out with Norris this week? Just a quick trip to the local shops to take a look at the new craft shop (and needed cash from the cash-point next door to the shop as had run out of cash to pay the window cleaner and Norma). Didn't buy anything other than some wide elastic to renew the elastic at the waist of some very old skirts of mine.  Make do and mend!

I've collected a year's gold sweet wrappers (Werther's Original sugar free that B buys me occasionally), and intend twisting then stitching the wrappers together with thread to make long strings to hang round the Christmas Tree along with other 'home-mades'.  The American idea of threading together popcorn with an occasional cranberry and using these as tree decorations is another option.  If I bake some gingerbread hearts and bells and perhaps blow and egg or three and spray these (eggs not g/bread) with gold and silver (I already have the spray),  who needs to buy decorations?  We have two huge holly bushes in the garden, so that's Christmas décor done and dusted.  But let's get Hallow'een over with before I even start thinking Christmas (other than making mincemeat, cake etc). 

Let's all make the most of the good weather while we have it.  Enjoy your weekend, but carry on cooking.  TTFN.