Friday, March 28, 2014

Second Uses...

Whenever I buy something - especially a kitchen utensil or whatever - I always look first to see if has a second use, then it could end up worth more than its money.   So a white plastic box with a clear plastic roll back lid does treble service, first as the cheese box it was intended for, then as a mini-greenhouse to hold tiny pots of seedlings on the windowsill, and - when not in use for either - it then is the perfect place to put a little hot water into the base and in this stand a loaf tin full of bread dough, lid down and leave it to rise in the steamy warmth. 
At the present moment it is holding my collection of empty mustard pots and tiny jars that once held jams and marmalade (given as a gift but very useful to fill with home-made preserves to give away).

The little mustard pots themselves prove very useful as just the right size to bottle up home-made lemon curd (some also to give away), and I have quite a collection on a shelf holding the last few fl.oz of spirits that I use for cooking (kirsch, limoncello, rum, brandy, vodka and also sherry).  These take up a lot less room than the almost empty large bottles (and frugal Shirley never bought any of this booze, always asking for these as either a birthday or Christmas gift).

One of these small bottles contains that split and chopped vanilla bean that was covered with a couple of inches of vodka, and now - after several weeks - the liquid has turned a lovely brown colour and it smells (and tastes) exactly like the expensive Madagascan vanilla extract, of which a little goes a very long way.

Empty Golden Syrup and Black Treacle tins are washed and when dry turn into holders for my pens and various other small kitchen tools.  With their iconic pattern they look very attractive on the kitchen table/shelves, and also make good holders for the smaller flower pots.

Goes without saying that all our 300g Nescafe jars (and some 200g) are always saved, then used as storage jars in the larder.  Must have a good dozen of each filled with various 'dry goods' and several more waiting to be filled.

Recycling is on my mind today (Thursday as I write) as 'Rip off Britain: Food' this morning was all about food wastage.  If the 'average' family can throw away £60 of food a month, and I throw virtually none away - like most readers (I hope), that means some families could be throwing away over £100 worth a month.

There was some useful chat about food label dating such as the 'display by', 'sell by', 'use by', 'best before', and a few others as well.  In most instances the food that should be used by a certain date was still fit for use for a short time after, especially when kept chilled. 

If you remember my mentioning the rising cost of sardines, I checked the date on the one sent with my Tesco delivery and it wasn't the same as the previous ones - in any case the colour/printing on the tin has been changed, the b.b. date as 2018, and oddly, there is not so much nutritional info on the tin as there was on the previous once.  All it now gives is the energy/calorie content. 
Had to smile when I read the list of ingredients as it said 'allergy advice is given in BOLD) - and the only BOLD print was as the beginning of the list where it said:  sardines (FISH).  Well, I really needed to know that didn't I, never knew that sardines were fish!!!!

Have to say that my grocery delivery was again worth it.  Because there were three items out of stock so was given substitutions that were more expensive, but still charged with the price of the ordered item so had a 'match refund' of £1.39.  My promotional savings were £7.23, and I by using vouchers/coupons also saved a further £3.50.   Had an email today to tell me that I'd also saved £3.23 (as certain items would have cost more had I bought these from one of the other major supermarkets).

On thing Tesco is doing now is to send money off (or extra points) vouchers to customers who regularly order certain products, and as you can see from the above, using only the ones for the food I was ordering anyway did save me £3.50, some of them last for more than one order, so can use them again.  I don't even have to keep the vouchers handy as they are listed on the site when I go through the check-out, so I can tick off those I wish to use, and store the ones I don't need at that time. 

As none of the vouchers are for products that I don't or rarely buy, the vouchers must be selected to give the offer on each customer's 'favourites'.   Makes a change from the 'flyers' that come through the door that try to tempt us with money-off foods we would normally never buy.  Most of these usually being what I call 'junk food' (but a few basics here and there).

Recipe today is for a risotto.  A risotto is such a useful dish to make as it can be as simple or as complicated as you wish.  Basically it is rice cooked in stock, then 'things' added towards the end (such as flaked cooked fish when I make B his Fish Risotto). 
The recipe below has peas and prawns added to the rice, but it's good with just the peas, and certainly I wouldn't use nearly as many prawns as the recipe states,  just a handful would be enough.  
Sometimes I dice a chunk cut from a red bell pepper and fry this with the onion before adding the rice - mainly because it adds extra colour to the dish, as well as adding a little more flavour. 
Myself ALWAYS use wine when making risotto, because this is the right thing to do, but of course if we have no wine, then we do without.  Instead use a well-flavoured stock.
The recipe gives a choice of stock, use home-made or a vegetable stock cube.  No mention of using chicken stock, but no reason not to use this, especially when not using wine.
As Parmesan is expensive, I'd also use a lot less - and maybe none at all.

Since that dreadful day when I discovered B had drunk all the wine in the boxes of 'cooking wine', I am now freezing some of the new batch in ice-cube trays, then storing the cubes in a box so that I've always got some white wine to add to a risotto, and red wine to add to a casserole.

Pea and Prawn Risotto: serves 4
1 oz (25g) butter
dash of sunflower or olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)
11oz (300g) Arborio rice
4 fl oz (100ml) white wine (opt)
approx 1.5 pts (800ml) hot vegetable stock
8 oz (225g) frozen small cooked prawns
4 oz (100g) frozen peas
salt and pepper
3 oz (75g) grated Parmesan cheese
Melt the butter in a large frying pan with the oil, then gently fry the onions until softened (but not changed colour), then stir in the garlic and the rice.  Keep stirring so the rice gets coated with the butter and begins to look translucent, then stir in the wine and cook until this has evaporated.  Slowly add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, adding more as it evaporates.  Continue the stirring throughout (but not necessarily ALL of the time - I sit by the pan with a glass of wine in one hand and the wooden spoon in the other - slurp, stir, slurp get the picture).
After about 20 minutes the rice should be almost cooked (al dente if it was pasta), so then time to add the peas and prawns with seasoning to taste.  Continue cooking for a further 2 mins, then add half the cheese when ready to serve.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

It's now Friday so time for bed.  Had a thought - if the clocks go forward an hour, this time next week it will be after 1.00pm, so not sure what that will do to my body-clock (or should I call it 'bloggy-clock?).  Could be next week's blogs may have to be written first thing each morning. Not even sure if blogger change the published time from GMT to BST. Not that I suppose readers bother to look at the date/time of publication.  Oh, flip - what does it matter?  I'll just keep blogging one way or the other. 
Busy day tomorrow (coffee morning and then Norma the Hair) but at least don't have to blog first thing, so maybe the 'night shift' suits me better.  Time will tell.  

Three days to go and it will be April, and with Margie telling us about the snow they are still having on the eastern side of Canada, we could still get some here (it's been known to snow here in June - but that's English weather for you).
Can't say I've smelt KFC, as have never eaten any.  Would like to have had some, but the nearest KFC is about 3 miles away from where we live and by the time it was collected and driven home it would probably have cooled down too much.  However, it reminded me of the smell of our traditional fish and chip shops, especially those that fry the chips in dripping.  Smells (and tastes) much nicer than when fried in oil.

Agree that Indian food smells gorgeous, but where we lived in Leeds we had many Asian neighbours, and when their houses were sold the complaint from prospective non-Asian buyers was (and is) always that everywhere in the home (including the wardrobes) smelt of curry.  It's almost impossible to get rid of the smell, although I suppose the occupants never notice it. 

Seems ages since we've bought new shoes Alison (Essex) but can't remember any smell.  Perhaps because they weren't made of leather.  Real leather smells lovely, and always reminds me of horses and their tack (saddles, bridles etc), the horses having their own warm sweaty smell. 

Don't think they are used nowadays, but do remember the smell of moth balls that used to come from the winter clothes that had been stored during the summer.  Many garments were made from pure wool, so - given a chance - the moths would spend months munching away.   We'd have to hang the garments on the washing line outdoors to try and get rid of the smell before we wore the clothes.  Can recall the many times as a child - when out walking - passing ladies who were wearing coats that smelled strongly of camphor.  Horrid smell.  Old ladies also smelled of lavender - another scent that I disliked at that time.  Now I'm an old lady myself absolutely love the smell and nearly every night spray a little lavender perfume onto my pillow as it really does help to send me to sleep within a very few minutes.

I've already sprayed my pillow which is now waiting for me to lay my head and start dreaming again, so off I must go or it will soon be time to get up.  Back again tomorrow - or have I already said that? TTFN.