Friday, January 31, 2014

Working Hard!

Apart from stopping for half an hour to watch Doctor's yesterday (1.45pm - 2.15pm) I worked non-stop from the time I finished my blog until 3.45pm, and all of it done in the kitchen. 

Mind you, I did get quite a bit done.  What took time was preparing the Tagine.  That's the problem with trying a new recipe, the instructions have to be read a bit at a time, the ingredients gathered, then prepared....  I needed to stop between each bit to see what should be done next.   Not surprising that most home-cooks have about five favourite meals they prepare, and these can be done without referring to a cookbook. 

Once the tagine had been completed up to the point of leaving it to simmer, I could then move on to rolling out pastry and blind baking a couple of cases.  One used to make a quiche, the other has been frozen.  To the pastry trimmings I added a few more (saved and frozen then thawed), and made 50 cheese straws for B to snack on (I think he has already eaten most of them, if not all).

There was a lot of washing up to do, a tedious job as our sink is so small, as is our draining board, and I do like to leave the washed pots to drain rather than dry with a cloth (learned this was the more hygienic way when I took the food hygiene course/certificate).  So it's wait a bit for everything to dry off (using very hot water this doesn't take long) then it has to all be put away, and the next bit of washing up done...

Quite a bit more tidying up also needed to be done, also a load of washing - this then had to be placed on airers to dry, and the larder also needed checking out.  All shelves in the larder have now big gaps where tins/packets have been used and not replaced, and it is now coming to the time in the challenge that I enjoy the most:  making instead of buying.  B fancies a pork pie, I'm now going to have to make one.  Bread of course IS made.   All I need at the moment is a large tray of eggs, B can get me one from M'son's when he goes tomorrow for his Health Lottery ticket.   He tells me that M's have a lot of things on offer that he thinks I could use (and I could), but I firmly say NO!

Pleased that you are managing to remove most of the grease from your gloves Kathryn.  And of course you are right, animal behaviour would be triggered by the longer hours of daylight we are getting now.  If the weather acted properly it would be getting close to spring - aren't birds supposed to mate on 14th Feb (Valentine's Day?), that's only two weeks away.

When I went into the garden yesterday to fetch some rosemary, I noticed that it was already beginning to produce flowers - that's at least a month earlier than normal.  The daffodil/tulip bulbs are also beginning to poke through the soil.  Have yet to see any snowdrops/crocus, but the bluebell leaves are appearing, and they flower in May.

Yesterday was reminded of a book given to me when first married.  It was all about how to look after a house, and I tried very hard to follow the instructions.  Each room had to have a light clean every day (dusting, carpet cleaning - usually with a Eubank), cushions plumped up, books put away, everything left tidy etc.  One room (a different one each day) had to have a really deep clean, furniture and windows polished/cleaned, carpets vacuumed,  wood floors (in those days we didn't have fitted carpets) also polished, mirrors and light-fitting cleaned.

As well as doing that had also to do all the laundry (and I had no washing machine then), the ironing, the daily shopping, the cooking and the caring for our children.   Most men believe that women who stay at home, raising a the family, have a very easy life.  Let me tell you that 'keeping house' is very hard work indeed. 
Today, those ladies who go out to work and still have domestic chores to do have all my sympathy.

After my day of culinary activities (and that was in only one room) I felt exhausted by the end of the afternoon, much in the same way as I used to feel some 50-60 years ago, even so it still felt good, in that I had achieved at least something.  But couldn't do it every day now - or could I?  Maybe that is the exercise I need.

Watched a couple of very interesting programmes on TV last night.  One was about fat v sugar, and the results were very interesting.  It didn't mention this, but it does seem that the easiest way to keep our bodies healthy is to eat that 'balanced meal', and if wishing to lose weight, just eat less of it.  The foods to avoid are those that carry both fat and sugar, as eaten together (as ice-cream etc) they can really do harm. 

Do remember watching Billy Connelly touring Canada, Barbara. He probably did cover the prairies, but all I can remember is the more scenic routes he took (mountains, forests, rivers...), and many thanks for giving me more details about the various regions of Canada, I will spend a few happy moments with Google Earth having a virtual visit.

Thanks to Sairy and Emma for agreeing that the Riverford boxes are good.  I must check out the seasonal boxes to see how they differ from the normal large box, although at the moment I do need the basic veg (spuds, onions, carrots...).

Have to go now as a busy day (coffee morning and then hair...), but should be back tomorrow.  The comp is playing up a bit, had a hard job to get on this blog site again,  but hopefully Steve can get it sorted in due course.  TTFN.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Beginning the Experiments

Very pleased to say the purple sprouting broccoli/cheese/walnuts recipe given yesterday was a success.  My 'Garden to Kitchen Expert' book has several pages of recipes using this veg as well as the ordinary broccoli (which really should be called calabrese - learn something every day).

Thanks to all who wrote in giving details of the best way to cook the  including Grub-lover who is new to this page, and to whom we give our welcome.

If  the Scottish make 'neeps' with swedes Margaret, and am assuming 'neeps' is a shortened form of turnip, do the Scots call swedes 'turnips', and if so what do they call turnips?  In the US I believe a swede is called 'rutabaga', and have a feeling that a veg in the UK called a Mangol Worzul (given to cattle) is almost the same as swede.

Apologies to Canadian readers: we welcome Margaret (from Manitoba) and also Margie (from Toronto who is already known to us) , for not realising that Canada has a lot of pasture land.  As so often happens, the only parts of a very large country that we read about or see on TV are the areas that are usually visually exciting (mountainous areas etc), and certain  tourist areas/cities (Calgary, Toronto, Quebec et al).  
Myself would love to visit Canada, but as I can barely walk from our back door to our gate, cannot even travel around our own country, let alone anywhere else.  Possibly the only holiday that would suit me would be a river cruise, with any optional expeditions being on a coach.  So am a bit tempted by the offers of cruise holidays on the Rhine.

Also thanks to Alison (Sussex) and Ali (Shropshire) for also letting me know the best way to cook the purple sprouting broccoli.  I cooked only the heads yesterday, but did keep the stems and leaves, so can probably use these in a stir-fry.  As the sent was in short lengths (about 3") and very fresh (looked as though it had only just been picked), seems that all of it can be used and NO WASTE! Yipee!

Reviewing my delivery again yesterday afternoon, I sorted it out as though I was going to pack it into small bags, the amount that would normally have a £1 sticker on them in the supermarkets.  As you know most veggies can now be bought prepacked, all seeming to cost £1 (even if they would be a lot less if bought loose).  I worked out that I could make up 20 bags (if I cut the savoy cabbage and swede in half) which would then cost much the same as the price I paid - and as supermarket bagged veg are NOT organic, then it seems I've actually got a bargain.  Or thereabouts.  I like to think positive.

Many years ago buttercup, my B used to use Swarfega to clean his very greasy hands, and it always worked well.  Think then it was a sort of paste, but possibly there is a liquid version that will also help to get rid of grease embedded into material.  Perhaps Kathryn will be able to get some.

If you have a small freezer Sairy, I can give you a tip on how to make the best use of space.  If bagging up minced meat, the first put some into a bag, then roll it flat using a rolling pin, these can then be frozen and if you only need a small amount of mince, it can be easily snapped off from the flat 'tile'.  Single slices of bread can be bagged up (bags can be reused of course), and these - when frozen can be packed into a freezer along the sides, back or base (as can the mince).  This leaves the centre of the freezer space to pack other things of a more bulky shape.
If wishing to make home-made stock, then boil it down to reduce (only the water steams away, the flavour is retained and then becomes very concentrated. Freeze this in ice-cube trays, and these can then be added to (say) half or a pint of hot water to thaw and use as stock in the normal way.

Tonight am definitely making the tagine, probably a bulk amount as it will freeze.  Will have a taste at the finish as every cook should do (checking the seasoning etc), but my supper will be some canned tuna (or maybe hard-boiled eggs) with coleslaw and watercress.  Plus an organic tomato.  Am still struggling to lose some weight.  My own fault, I couldn't resist eating one of my mini-loaves baked yesterday.  One batch of bread mix (that I did not extend this time) made six big baps and nine mini-loaves.  Enough to keep B going for a week (if I can keep away from it).  Much of it is being frozen, so that some can be taken out each day as then it will thaw as fresh as if just baked.

Spent some time yesterday grating quite a lot of cheese that has been hanging around since Christmas.  Double Gloucester,  Cheddar, Red Leicester.  Mixed together, some will be used today to make a cheese quiche (adding some crème fraiche that has not yet been opened but has just passed its 'use-by' date (sniff and taste will tell if it should not be used, but it will be cooked anyway). The rest of the grated cheese will be bagged/boxed up and frozen. 
There is still a bit of 'block' cheese left for B to eat as a snack, but soon will have to replace the cheese.  At least if I can wait a couple more weeks, then my expenditure since Christmas will be extremely low - even when buying cheese.  

The good thing about grated foods (cheese, veggies etc...) it goes a lot further than if served as whole pieces.  One chunk of cheese that B would eat in a very few minutes would serve three people if grated and used in a quiche.  The same with onions, carrots, white cabbage.  Eaten whole as hot veggies to accompany meat would serve one.  Grated into coleslaw (with the addition of mayo), would make enough for at least four servings.

Where has the winter gone?  Today we have blue skies and of course sunshine.  Still cold, but not below freezing.  Early this morning could hear the collared doves cooing, and yesterday saw the bluetits busily flying around also in and out of the nesting boxes.  Do they know something we don't?
Even I feel a sudden urge to at least THINK about spring-cleaning.   Wouldn't it be lovely if our weather began to behave as it used to, at least in my memory of my early childhood.  But they do say that wasn't normal anyway, we just thought it was.   All we can do is wait and see whether nature is in a good mood this coming year.  Wouldn't blame her if she wasn't considering the mess we are making of her world.

Have to go now as kitchen-duty calls.  First must blind-bake a couple of pastry cases, then make cheese straws out of the remaining pastry scraps, then bake a quiche, at the same time bake a Bakewell tart (or some dessert tart - if I had stale breadcrumbs, which I don't, it would be Treacle tart).  Also hard-boil some eggs, and try and fit in making a batch (or two) of marmalade.  PLUS slow cooking the chicken tagine.   Expect by then it will be late-lunch-time, and somehow or other must make time to watch 'Doctors' and drink my lunchtime soup', then if anything more has to be done, it can be done when that has finished.  Only when all done and dusted I'll be able to have a proper sit down - at least until 5.00 when I'll need to make the couscous and serve B his supper. 

So farewell for today, Norma the Hair will be here tomorrow afternoon (not morning) so even if I do have a coffee morning with neighbour prior to that, should have time to have a chat with you all, at least reply to comments if not much else before I start my 'social day'.  Hope to see you then.  TTFN


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Eat Better for Less?

Replying to comments before I get onto the nitty gritting of paying more for food, ending up eating better meals, but overall costing less.  At least that is my plan!

Lovely to hear from you Kathryn.  So pleased you have got rid of your stress, even though you have a busy working life at the moment. You didn't mention your allotment, but expect that not need much attention until March.   I do remember using Vim, and it was excellent.  Didn't know it could still be bought.  If so I will get some.
Regarding car insurance, do check with the various comparison sites as the insurance companies are very keen to get custom. My friend Gill did this and when her usual car insurance needed renewing, she got quotes from other companies, many almost half the price, and so she rang to cancel her insurance and when she told them the new quote they immediately reduced theirs.
My Beloved also had to recently renew his car insurance and went onto one of the comparison sites and got insurance at again half the cost of the original.  So very well worth asking around.  Money saved from this could possibly go towards buying a second-hand trailer, or at least paying for the MOTs.  Anyway, buying another (second-hand) car, it should have been MOT'd before being purchased.  If not, why not?

Not got many ideas about removing heavy grease Kathryn, but perhaps soaking in hot water with plenty of Fairy Liquid (or similar) might help.  It maybe will need more than one soak, and then a final wash in a washing machine.  If you can find 'Gloop' (as suggested by Pam) this might work.

Agree with you Alison, balancing expensive meals with budget meals does work well, after all we don'[t want too much of a good thing (to eat) all the time.  It's better to give our digestion a break now and again.
Do agree that milk deliveries work really well, especially if living alone or housebound.  The dairy products may be more expensive, but if they keep us away from the supermarkets, they not only save the money for transport, they also give us time to make more (and cheaper) meals at home.  Also no tempting offers that we might fall prey to.   Am myself considering going back to 'doorstep' dairy deliveries now one has just started in the area (he delivers to my friend next door).

Don't know if you have a freezer Sairy, but if so - do freeze some of your freshly bought bread in there.  If buying an unsliced loaf you could first slice half of it it to the thickness you require (thin for sarnies, thick for toast) and freeze the amounts you will need in small freezer bags.  Use the unfrozen half first of course, then use the frozen - this will thaw out very rapidly, and can normally be toasted from frozen.
As my Beloved has taken a fancy to my bread rolls in preference to me making a large loaf, I now bake about a dozen 'baps', then - when cool - freeze these in pairs, taking a couple out each day for him to eat with what he chooses.  Sometimes I also bake a small loaf at the same time to slice for toast, but B quite likes the baps toasted, so they have preference when baking.

Yesterday, for want of anything else to make - and needing to use up 'things', I made a 'Sairy favourite' by cooking the remaining half of a swede and mashing it with left-over cooked carrots  from the previous day, adding a knob of butter.  Seasoned well with plenty of pepper and some Welsh salt (this a gift), it really did taste good.  For B it needed a touch more magic, so I fried a finely chopped onion in a little oil then tipped the swede and carrot mash on top and let it fry until the base was crisp, then turned it over to crisp up the other side.  Of course it broke as I turned it, but as Jamie O says, this actually improves it as the crispy bits get mixed up into the mixture when it is flattened out again.   This was served with some hot sausages and a little jug of onion gravy. Plus a dish of watercress on the side (as B likes watercress and I had some).

Now we come to the organic veggie box delivered yesterday.  It cost more than I remembered (probably mixed up the price with the smaller box I used to have).  Even so at £20.45 there was a good variety and amount.   This is what was in the box:

9 tomatoes
a bag of watercress
a big bag of purple sprouting broccoli
2 large red peppers
bag of 9 baking potatoes
4 Portobello mushrooms
1 savoy cabbage
1 swede
2 large sweet potatoes
6 onions
8 carrots
9 parsnips

When I went to bed last night I spent a few happy minutes working out how long the above would last me, and could visualise the veggies making at least 40 meals, certainly enough for B for a month and some for me (as I'd use the peelings to make both vegetable stock and soup for own use).  So however much more the organic veggies have cost me compared to the much cheaper supermarket ones, it still works out at only £5 a week.

Now then, with my Donald Russell meat offers, that always make more meals than they suggest, cooking this very best quality still keeps the price of meat down to less than £10 a week (and this can work out a lot less when I occasionally serve B a vegetarian meal).  So am now at the middle of my 'supreme eats' ladder that moves me one rung further up as being able to serve both organic (and extremely tasty) veggies, with good meat for just £15 a week seems to be low enough cost to call it 'budget priced', yet at the 'Michelin star' level of eating (if you ignore the presentation and silver service).

Obviously there are other foods we eat during the day, but porridge for breakfast (B's choice at the moment) is very low priced,  I don't eat breakfast, just 'brunch' - this being a big mug of home-made soup.  B may have a bap for lunch (but he's working with his friend at the moment so is given a Mars Bar) and apart from a few mugs of coffee we both have during the day, the main meal is supper (and from now on will probably be a lot more 'meat and two' veg, than the normal curries, spag bol, and chilli con carne (well I have to use up the green veggies before they stop being 'fresh'.)

If this works well, and I have enough money left over from my normal (supermarket foods) budget, then I will begin having a doorstep dairy delivery.   Between the lot of them, this should keep me away from the supermarket, almost forever.  All I would then need to buy are the 'top-ups'  flour, etc for baking (cakes, breads, scones, biscuits etc).  Not forgetting sausage, bacon...and maybe a few other things I can't think of at the moment.  It all sounds so simple, but will it be? 

Thankfully, I've plenty of flour (of all kinds) that will keep me going for at least a couple of months (if not longer), also about a dozen packs of bread mix (both brown and white), that will - each time - be extended with some extra-strong bread flour.   One extended pack makes enough bread to keep B happy for at least a week (if not longer), and as I am keeping away from carbos  he can eat the lot.  As I said above,  surplus bread is frozen so there is never any wastage.    So the bread mixes will last for at least 3 months before needing to purchase more.

Since I now seem to be returning to our traditional meals (meat and two veg etc), feel there is a need to provide B with something to snack on, and have decided - as I have quite a lot of dried fruit in the larder - to make a heavy fruit cake that will keep for ages when well wrapped.  Also some Fork biscuits, and make up some scone mix so that I can bake a few scones when the oven is on for something else.  Also need to make marmalade (that I didn't make yesterday). 

However - today B has asked me to make him a Tagine, a recipe he has chosen (along with about a dozen others) from a Tagine cookery book (a Christmas pressie).   So - as I do have chicken thighs in the freezer, and all the makings, this is what he will have for his supper tonight. 
Tomorrow I really must make a meal that includes the purple sprouting broccoli as I've never cooked that before (or even eaten any before), so am looking forward to using it. 

As you can tell from the list above, most of the veggies are long-keeping so it's only the watercress that needs using first (B loves watercress and will eat it up as a sandwich with the baps), plus broccoli, the rest should keep well.   I've still got a lot of onions and several banana shallots, plus a few carrots from supermarket purchases, one cauliflower and a head of celery, some mini-peppers and a few vacuum packs of beetroot.  A handful of sugar-snap peas (for B's stir-fry), oh, yes, still al lot of a hard white cabbage left to use.  About 12 potatoes that have begun to sprout, and a few small potatoes (that I keep in the fridge), so I could have kept going for a week (or so) longer without the organic delivery.   But as my third organic box is to be 'free' (well, that was the offer given to me over the phone so it had better be), it seemed worth starting deliveries again.

The best thing about this veggie box is that it has made me think a lot harder about what meals to make.  No longer will it always be B's choice, but - for once - MY choice of what I'll be making as I need to use the veggies while they are still fresh, AND make the most of them.  This has given me a new outlook, no longer is cooking going to be quite as boring as it has been lately.

With the veggie box came a card with recipe on one side and a letter from the farmer on the other. The recipes were intended for seasonal veggies in the box, although my box did not include Jerusalem artichokes (not every box does - it depends what is grown in what region I suppose).
The letter was informative, because it told how weather conditions have affected the supply of certain veggies, so readers who buy from farmers markets might be interested to know that "the mild weather has brought leeks, kale, cabbages and cauliflower ahead of schedule; great for now but leading to potential shortages in March and April.
Spuds and onions are fine, right on plan, but carrots will be short (they never really recovered from a dry summer and were more affected by carrot and root fly than planned)."

It could be, because I use a lot of carrots, I may need to purchase more from the supermarket when I run short.  But as I still have quite a few from past purchases (they keep for ages when kept in the bag they were packed in AS LONG AS THE BAG HAS BEEN SPLIT A BIT TO LET THE AIR IN (or they turn soggy and start sprouting hairs. and out of the bag they begin to wither)  it's a matter of waiting to see if I can make do with what I've got, what has been delivered etc.  There should always be some other vegetable to eat, it doesn't always have to be a carrot (I tell myself).

As B is quite fond of pasta dishes (well, spag bol anyway), think that this recipe might be just the job for both of us.  Instead of the normal broccoli, could use the sprouting purple.  B loves walnuts and as they are said to be very good for lowering cholesterol, they would be good for me also, even though I don't care much for the flavour.

This is a recipe that I've marked as already given, but it is worth a repeat. I don't have the creamy blue chees, but do have a bit of stilton left and some Philly cream cheese, so maybe will use both mixed together.
Broccoli and blue cheese Pasta: serves 2
7 oz (200g) pasta penne
8 oz (225g) broccoli florets
2 tblsp olive oil
4 tblsp walnut pieces
4 oz (100g) creamy blue cheese, cubed
salt and pepper
juice of half a small lemon
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, and 4 minutes before end of cooking time, add the broccoli.  When cooked, drain but reserve a cup of the cooking water and set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the walnuts over low heat for 1 minute, then add 4 tlsp of the reserved liquid to the walnuts, followed by the cheese.  When this has melted add seasoning to taste, and finally add the lemon juice (again to taste),
Tip the pasta and broccoli into the above-made sauce, tossing well so that everything is coated, then serve immediately.

You know, I think I might make the above for our supper for today.  B can have his Tagine tomorrow (my excuse being the chicken thighs hadn't thawed out in time - well they wouldn't anyway as I'd have had to thaw them in the microwave).   Now must just look up how to cook purple sprouting broccoli (do we cook/eat the green stalks and ribs or only the purply bits?).   Tomorrow will let you know if all went well.   I just LOVE having some new ingredient/produce to work with.  That is the joy of cooking. Hope you all agree.

Please join me again tomorrow, and by then will have found more purple broccoli recipes to tempt you with.  Enjoy your day. TTFN



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Look and Learn...

At long last, a cookery programme really worth watching.   Yesterday we saw the first of the latest series of 'Food and Drink'.  Hosted by my two favourite cooks: Michel Roux jnr and Mary Berry, the programme dealt with what to do with left-overs and any food that might normally have been thrown away.  You can imagine I was in seventh heaven watching it.  The point also made that by that by using up foodstuff instead of throwing out, we have then saved enough money to buy a bottle of wine to serve with the meal. 

Next week they will be serving budget meals, but have a feeling their budget will be set around the normal TV standard for such meals, as we saw meal made with an inexpensive cut of meat that worked out "at only £2 a portion".  Well, that's over twice the amount I would expect to spend on a 'budget dish', although have to say that I occasionally serve B his favourite lamb shank (£2.50 for the shank) with small/new potatoes and peas. 

However, nothing wrong in serving both expensive (to me) meals and really low cost meals as long as they amount spent averages out over a week, and as I eat different meals to B (always cheaper as I don't eat much meat, or as large helpings as B - and no desserts), it is easy enough for me to keep my costs the right side of wrong.

It amazed me to hear how so much bread ends up in people's bins.  That's something that has never happened in the Goode kitchen.  Maybe this was due to memories of wartime when bread was rationed and people were fined a great deal of money (like a month's wages) if bread had been found to be thrown in dustbins. Even seen throwing crumbs to birds would bring a (smaller) fine. 

As Mary B is almost the same age as myself (and don't I wish I looked as good as she does), we both have the same respect for food, and using it up.  Although I haven't yet used cubed bread on top of a fish pie (what a good idea), at least I do use stale bread to make croutons, and also dry the cut-off crusts in the oven.  These crusts I leave whole, bag up and then store in an airtight container.  They can then be crushed if I wish to make crumbs for coating things, or - as I prefer - I use them as 'breadsticks' to plunge into the many dips I like to make.   I used some of these as 'dippers' only the other day, and they must have been made at least six months ago and still as crisp and 'fresh' as ever.

As ever, a big thank you for sending in more comments.  Hope shabbychic,  you don't mind me still calling you 'shabbychic' , as otherwise we'll get mixed up between yourself and our other regular Eileen.  If you prefer me to use your real name, just add another letter at the end or area you live then I can include that in my reply and we won't then mix you up.

A welcome to Clari who requests the name of a book mentioned.  As I'm always mentioning books I'm reading, not sure which you mean, but the one most recent (on cleaning products etc) is the Reader's Digest 'Hints and Tips from Times Past'.  ISBN 0-276-42559-6.  You may be able to get it from your local library.  It covers a host of things from natural health remedies, to beauty products, to around the house,  kitchen secrets, gardening etc.

Possibly the price of Canadian milk Marjorie is dearer than the US because not so many cows are reared (I've always believe Canada to have many mountains and not a lot of grazing land, and most of the cattle reared for eating.  Also both being huge countries, it would cost a lot more in transporting milk from area to area).  Here in the UK (a very small country) we have plenty of cows, but even then I believe we import cheaper milk from mainland Europe (France I believe) that is used in hospitals, institutions, and - I understand - made into some UHT milk.  I always read the info on a container of milk to make sure I buy British.  Have to admit I haven't checked where dried milk comes from - it probably says 'packed in Britain' which means only that, and could be bought (dried) in bulk from any country that has plenty of cows I suppose.

British milk sold in supermarkets is very inexpensive compared to the milk still delivered in some areas by a milkman, this being around 50p a pint.  It's natural enough for people to wish to buy cheaper milk, and this has led to the supermarkets controlling the amount they pay to farmers, and not enough to enable many farmers to keep going as the price of cattle fodder keeps rising, the amount they are paid for their milk does not.  So many dairy farms have had to close down. 
We now have a milkman delivering in our road again, and am sorely tempted to buy my dairy products from him and not the supermarket, but having worked it out (milk, eggs, cream....) it would cost me more than double what I normally pay, and at the moment cannot afford to do this. 
However, if the organic veg-box is manageable, then am hoping to change to returning to door-step milk deliveries in a few months for between them (and buying meat from DR or local butcher) I really would have little need to use a supermarket except - perhaps - three or four times a year, just to stock up on the 'dry goods'.  Almost like returning to the good old days.  Like the thought of that.

Yesterday made B a 'sort of' beef casserole for his supper.  He'd brought back a peeled swede from the Burns' Night social as it wasn't needed, so I used some of that.  He'd raved over the mashed 'neeps' (made from swede but traditionally should have been turnip!), so I cooked some of the swede and mashed it up with plenty of seasoning to serve with the 'casserole'.  Can't say it would have been my favourite mash, but each to his own.
As I was able to use pre-cooked and frozen stewing meat, I was able to thaw this in the microwave while I cooked the carrots, swede and potatoes all in one pan.  I fried a chopped onion in some bacon fat that was already in the pan, then added some Bisto Best gravy granules that I'd blended in a mug of water, when this had thickened, then added the now-heated meat, then then carrots and potatoes. Mashed the swede with a little butter, plus the seasoning, and it made a very warm and comforting supper for my B. 
Myself ate some fish-sticks (a little past their use by date but I'm still alive), with coleslaw and a dressing made from low-fat mayo and Thai sweet chilli sauce.   Am determined to lose a few more pounds weight, although my scales are still being stubborn.

It was yesterday that I discovered a packet of dried milk in the larder, and while discussing the cost of the cost of our fresh milk compared to that in the US/Canada should have considered this as an alternative, so am wondering if dried milk, sold in the US and Canada, would be cheaper than their fresh.  If so worth using as a substitute for the fresh when baking (as I often do).  For instance we can add some dried milk to instant potato before making up with water, or to custard powder or flour -  and again using water instead of fresh milk-  when making custard or pancake batter.  I've tried it when making Yorkshire Puddings but fresh milk gives a better rise.  \Dried milk works well when making 'milk loaves'.

In my very early days of coping without any cash to spare, I used to reconstitute dried milk and then mix it with fresh milk (half and half) and then pour it into the glass milk bottle (we used then to have doorstep milk delivered) and put it back in the fridge.  When the family used to pour this milk over their cereals, they never realised it wasn't all 'fresh', yet they certainly would know if it was only the reconstituted dried milk  (which they really didn't like).

Minced beef we tend to use to either make beefburgers, Cottage Pie, or dishes such as spag.bol and chill con carne. All very good and tasty (when made properly).  But we could go one step further and serve the mince as 'pauper's posh nosh'.  So - when you have mushrooms to spare (with mince and puff pastry in the freezer) why not make this dish. Please note that it serves eight - so either reduce the amounts by half to serve a family of four, or plan to serve it at your next dinner party .  As this can be made a day before cooking, time then to make something else the next day to cook while the oven is on - making use of those spare oven shelves can save us a lot of money - as mentioned by shabbychic in her comment).

Ground Beef Wellington: serves 8
2lb 4oz (1kg) minced beef
4 oz (100g) tomato ketchup
4 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
3 fl oz (75ml) water
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried sage
handful chopped fresh parsley
1 oz (25g) butter
 7 oz (200g) mushrooms, finely chopped
1 x 500g pack puff pastry
Put the beef into a bowl with the ketchup, 3 of the eggs, seasoning, and the water.  Stir together then add the onions, half the garlic, and the herbs. Mix well to combine, then tip onto a baking sheet and shape into a thick sausage-shape approx. 12" x 4" (30 x 10cm).  Bake at 200C, gas 6 for 20 minutes then set aside to cool.
Heat the butter in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms for 3 minutes, then stir in the remaining garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes.  Tip into a sieve to strain away any liquid, then set aside.
To assemble the 'Wellington', roll the pastry into a rectangle large enough to wrap up the beef (I find it easier to use a sheet of baking parchment as 'pretend' pastry, then wrap this round the beef, cutting it to the size needed, then roll the pastry out to the same size as the paper).
Beat the remaining egg with a little water and use this to brush over the pastry.  Spread the mushroom mix in a strip along the middle and place the meat 'sausage' on top.  For an attractive presentation, cut the pastry lying either side of the meat into strips, then criss-cross these over the meat. Alternatively just wrap the meat up in the pastry, either way making sure the ends are covered with pastry.  At this point it can be left overnight to cook the following day.
Brush with more egg then place on a baking sheet and  bake at same temperature as above for 40 minutes.  Serve with vegetables of your choice/

Final recipe today again uses mince, but this time pork (pork mince usually cheaper than beef). Quite different to the above, this dish has an Oriental flavour, and with any luck uses ingredients that many readers already have in their larders.  If not - improvise!
The original recipe suggests using 10oz (300g) thin rice noodles, but I prefer to use those very cheap (11p pack) Chinese chicken flavoured noodles.  As the chicken flavour is in a sachet, we can save this to flavour something else, and for this dish just use the noodles.

Pork Satay with Noodles: serves 4
2 packs Chinese noodles (see above)
sunflower or sesame oil
1 lb (500g) minced pork
1 clove garlic, crushed
8 oz (225g) mangetout peas
3 tblsp peanut butter (pref crunchy)
1 red chilli, seeded and chopped
2 tsp light muscovado sugar
1 tblsp soy sauce
2 tblsp warm water
Cook the noodles as per packet instructions, then drain. Drizzle a few drops of oil over the noodles, tossing to prevent the noodles sticking together, then set aside.
Meanwhile, using a wok or large frying pan, cook the pork over high heat for 10 minutes, or until any juice has evaporated and the pork grains begin to crisp. Add the garlic and peas and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
Whisk together the peanut butter, chilli, sugar, and soy sauce, then stir in the warm water.  Add the noodles to the pan, pour over the peanut sauce, then toss everything together.  Stir-fry for a further minute, then serve in individual bowls.

Reading yesterdays newspaper it seems quite a lot of the country has had some bad weather, with photos of massive hailstones, in some areas, snow in others, and of course more rain.  So far, where we live we have been more fortunate, it rains, but not a huge amount, the wind has dropped, and all we are experiencing is slightly colder weather.  It could be a lot worse, and there is still time for this to happen, but by the end of the week it will be February and a feeling that in another month winter will have given way to spring.   Or let us hope so.
In my youth the seasonal weather was when it should be and you could pretty well plan ahead picnics and holidays as we could almost guarantee summer months would be warm and the sun would shine. In the winter the snow would fall for sometimes weeks, and we would have severe frosts with ice thick enough to be able to skate on ponds and small lakes.  Now we cannot be sure what weather we will get from day to day.  

That's it for today.  It's taking me a couple or so days to get back into my routine, but had better make a start on sorting out what's left in the larder, and also the fridge as am expecting my first delivery of organic veggies today.  I still have a few veggies left from those bought before Christmas - such as carrots, potatoes, parsnips, celery, but need to keep removing the sprouts from the spuds, so these really need using up a.s.a.p and am sure that potatoes will be in the box.  Can let you know tomorrow what has been sent - and the price charged.
I don't mind paying extra when veggies are really fresh (as in the box) as their flavour is superb.  But when working out the cost of a recipe, a carrot is a carrot, a potato is a potato, and whether it is organic or bought and imported (from a supermarket) is immaterial.  It's my choice whether to buy the better quality, or stay with the norm, and as nutritionally there is no difference between an organic veg and any other-way grown,  when push comes to shove and money is very tight, then I'd always opt for the cheapest veg (these usually grade 2 that are mis-shapes and just as good as the 'perfects').

Suppose it's the same with meat.  All meat of the same 'cut' has the same protein content (as well as anything else - minerals etc). Yet there is a vast difference in the flavour of well-hung (and dearer) meat than the cheapest.
Myself feel this is why 'budget' meals shown on TV work our more expensive than they could be.  The produce the cooks use is probably the best (free-range eggs for instance).  So if we wish to make the same dish we could almost certainly make it cheaper - but it may not taste quite as good.  Having said that, how many of us have been lucky enough to know what really good food tastes like?  Cooking meals from scratch (at home of course) puts us half-way up the ladder of sublime eating for a start.  So let's keep on climbing.
With that thought in mind, must now go and bake a fresh lot of bread for B, and also make a batch of marmalade as there is only one teaspoon left in the last bottle of Lemon and Lime....and no orange and ginger at all.  Horrors!  Time I pulled myself together and acted like a proper cook (pity that includes having to do all the washing up - that seems to take more time these days than cooking).

Will be back tomorrow, usual time.  Hope you all have a good day.  TTFN.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Another Week Begins....

Another bit of 'catering' all done and dusted.  Seemed it went very well, food much enjoyed.  The club is having an extension to the club house so they will have a much larger kitchen - so there won't be any more evening meals provided until completion (expected to start in a couple or so weeks and take about 3 months).  So I'll have to find something to do (that's of  any use) to keep me busy.

Had quite a few comments in since I last wrote.  Several won't be seen as they referred to past posts (using a comment box on an early post will be shown only at the bottom of that post, not the current one).
Also had one or two from 'anonymous's, and not needing a reply.  A couple more just promoting their own site.  So today my replies are to the genuine readers.

Not actually sure who the first  comment was written to or by.  It came from 'shabbychic...' and began with 'hello julie'... and signed off 'Eileen', but it seemed to refer to some things I'd written about in the past, so perhaps if a Julie or a new Eileen (we already have an Eileen) you could write again.

Seems your US milk is more expensive than here in the UK Pam.  If we buy the milk in small containers (pints or nowadays usually litres) it is more expensive than the usual offer of 'cheaper if you buy 3 x 4pint containers (often £3 for the 3).
It's just crossed my mind that your pints are only 16 fl oz whereas ours are 20fl oz.  So a US gallon (8 pints) would be about six and a half pints compared to our 8 pints.  Making the US milk even dearer.

Do hope the cleaning/room fresheners recipes worked Jo.  Please let us know if they did, or failed dismally.

Lynne's request for more tips to help lose weight came on the right day, for yesterday there was an article in our Sunday supplement (to the newspaper), that was talking about weight.  Seems that being overweight is not always bad.  Problem is more to do with the amount of bad fat we carry (esp around our organs), and many slim people have more of this that would be expected, while some plump people carry it more on the outside of their bodies.  The only way we can find out is by having a scan.

However, it seemed that the one thing that works well to remove bad fat is to exercise regularly, and it did give a list of calories that would be burned off PER HALF HOUR for different activities.
Personally I find the list hard to believe.  Not just how many calories burned for the more active work (house cleaning, brisk walking, cycling, sports etc...) but how many we burn off when asleep and watching TV (not much difference between the two).
Apparently we burn off 30 calories per half hour when we sleep (37 watching TV).  Just working on sleeping it is one calorie per minute.  Over 24 hours that is 1440 calories, and that is a lot more than I would normally eat during a day.  And still no weight loss (now).  

Perhaps I don't eat enough and my body has gone into starvation mode.  Dare I eat a bit more each day and hope that my personal pounds will drop off?  Maybe give it a try.  Actually I did eat more yesterday (still within the calorie level for the 'sleep' limit), and today my scales show no gain.  That's something I suppose, I really did expect to have gained back at least 2 lb).

Some time back Cheesepare I said I'd decided it was too much hassle to 'buy' food from my larder, and had decided to base my savings on the amount of money NOT spent on food during the challenge. So far have managed to go a full month, so that's saved over £100 that would normally have been spent on both fresh foods and top-ups for the larder.

With plenty of meat/fish in the freezer, and still enough canned food to last for at least another month (probably longer), also quite a few long-keeping veg (carrots, celery, onions, potatoes...) there is no real need to buy anything at the moment although B did bring in a container of milk (which we didn't need as I have UHT).
Tomorrow will be the first of a monthly delivery of organic food from Riverfordl.  More expensive than supermarket 'fresh' but will be locally grown as I'm trying to be more patriotic when purchasing fresh foods.   Believe the price is around £12 a box, but that is only £3 a week which won't make much of a dent in the £10 a week I'm allowing for topping up the 'fresh' (milk, eggs, and cheese will be occasionally want buying).

So now I'm working out how much is actually NEEDED to be spent during the challenge.  As I said, just one container of milk so far.  Am planning to use UHT this month.  Will need more eggs this week.  Have plenty of bread mix in plus extra-strong bread flour that I use to extend the mix, so we will be OK for bread, and I still have plenty of butter in the fridge/freezer.

It is almost impossible for anyone to follow my version of the challenge as I am on my 'eat very little' diet (mainly protein - eggs being the cheapest - plus veggies), drink mainly water, so at the moment am very cheap to run.  So obviously the food in store is mainly for serving one person, not two and naturally last a lot longer.  l
The main thing is - however few or many we have to cook for, using only the food we have already in store (and buying no more other than milk, eggs...), the fact we are controlling our food budget, keeping our purses tightly locked, should prove to us that it is possible to make ends meet by using food that we might normally throw away, and by doing so still manage to serve really tasty meals.

Perhaps all we need to do is - next time we decide to go to the supermarket to stock up - is to ask ourselves "have we food in the house that we can use to make a meal?"  If so - they just use it.  Save the shopping for another day.  The next day do the same.  As long as we can make a meal, then there really is no need to buy food is there? 

It's easy enough to day this, but I'm like everyone else - I get into the habit of buying food regularly from the supermarket.  When I had a car I'd go food-shopping at least once a fortnight, now - with no car and house-bound, I would normally order once a (calendar) month, on-line, and have the food delivered.   My monthly budget would rarely be exceeded, and once the reductions/offers/vouchers taken from the total, would be less.   So no real reason for me to cut down (other than to have money left to cover rising fuel prices).

What is important to me is to stop taking the wide variety of foods on sale for granted.  We could probably feed ourselves extremely well if 80% of the food disappeared from the shelves.  All we really need are the 'basics', and then learn how to use them to the best advantage.   That's how things used to be, and can still be now.
So, when money is needed to other things than food, the only way to save for this is to cut the food budget.  This doesn't always mean we buy less food, just choose different foods.  Instead of steak, buy cheaper cuts.  Instead of eating meat every day, serve a vegetarian meal on alternate days.

The recipe today is one that can use up oddments of winter (long-lasting) vegetables.  Choose from any (or all) of the following:  celeriac, carrots, potatoes, leeks, or sweet potato, parsnips, swede, onions, turnips, butternut squash.... 
If you wish to freeze this casserole do so at ***, then thaw overnight in the fridge, and bake as given.

As with any recipe of this type, especially when we are aiming to use up what we have, obviously we have to leave out what we don't have, but might be able to add a reasonable alternative.  Cream cheese instead of crème fraiche (or even yogurt). dried mixed herbs instead of a specified one, and just any very dried out bits of hard cheese will grate down to use as 'parmesan'.  If no ground almonds use more flour.  If no butter, use marg or oil.

Crumble-topped Veggie Casserole: serves 6
14 fl oz (400ml) vegetable stock
approx 3 lb weight of assorted veg.
1 x 200g tub cream fraiche
2 tblsp plain flour
1 tblsp mustard (pref whole grain)
half tsp dried thyme leaves
crumble mix:
2 oz (50g) butter, diced
2 oz (50g) plain flour
2 oz (50g) ground almonds
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 oz (25g) flaked almonds
Put the stock into the pan over a medium heat.  Peel chosen vegetables (if necessary) and dice all (slicing the leeks). Add the veggies to the pan, leeks on top, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile beat the crème fraiche with the flour, mustard and herbs, then stir this into the vegetables until thickened.  Spoon into individual dishes (or one large if you wish).
Make the crumble by rubbing the butter into the flour and ground almonds.  Add seasoning to taste then stir in the cheese and flaked almonds. Sprinkle this over the top of the veggies. **** (can be frozen at this point. Wrap in cling film, then foil.  Freeze for up to 3 months.  Thaw in fridge overnight then bake as below).
To bake: Place in a pre-heated oven (190C, gas 5) and bake for 30 - 35 minutes until golden.

After a spell of fairly mild weather, strong winds and some rain, it seems that winter is about to give us a visit. Much colder weather and maybe some snow as well.  It certainly seems colder this morning, but so far only a few spits of rain on the window and the sun is trying to break through.  Certainly the time to serve a warming casserole, so will probably be making the one given above for both B and myself to enjoy tonight.  But who knows, I've been known to change my mind (several times) during the day. 

Will be back again tomorrow and hope you can join me then.  TTFN >

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Making Ends Meet

One (financially) main advantage of losing weight is that clothes that were too tight, now fit again and can also be made smaller.  Even belts (with gaps of inches between ends) now meet in the middle.  Another month and I hope I'll be able to fasten them with room to spare.  We can always hope.

Making ends meet works also with food.  The past few days I've been really busy in the kitchen, not even giving a thought to B's supper until he arrives home at 4.30pm asking me "what's for supper".  I'd love to suggest he cooks his own (stir-fry) but after a hard (?) day's work, that really wouldn't be fair.  After all, I'm used to it, he's not.

Thankfully, my pre-cooked and frozen minced beef made a quick Chilli con Carne.  I thawed the beef in the microwave (8 minutes on High), while I cooked a pack of Mexican Chilli 'Beanfeast' in a frying pan (and for once didn't first fry onions to include, I just couldn't be bothered!!).  With the dry mix, a can of chopped tomatoes, some more water and a bit more chilli powder to add more 'heat', adding the mince when the mixture was cooked, along with a can of red beans, there was enough for four portions.  B and I had one each, two were frozen as 'ready-meals'.  #

I know we are not supposed to re-freeze anything that has thawed (with the exception of plain cake, bread and pastry), as the meat was thoroughly cooked (again), this made it OK.  Well, I think so anyway.

Yesterday made B quite a good meal of some cooked chicken (taken from chickens that had been simmering in pots for a couple of hours - to use for the Cock-a-leekie Soup).  In a separate pan I cooked some small potatoes while I made gravy in a small frying pan (using Bisto Best chicken gravy granules).  As I cooked big chunks of carrot with the chicken, I fished those out and quartered them (B likes his veggies really soft anyway), added those with the chicken to the gravy, plus the now cooked spuds, and in the spud water cooked some frozen peas.  Took about 20 minutes to prepare/cook/assemble the meal, but a lot faster than if I'd made it 'properly'.  It looked good on the plate (surplus gravy poured over the meat), and B thoroughly enjoyed it.

Today I'll be finishing off making the chicken stock (keeping it in the fridge to cook tomorrow with the leeks and pearl barley), also chilling the cooked chicken that will be added during the last 5 minutes of heating-to-simmering.  
Must then turn my thoughts to making lemon and lime, and orange and ginger marmalades for the club to sell to members (they keep asking for some).  Will also thaw out some fish to make B a Fish Risotto for his supper.

Not sure yet whether we will be having visitors tomorrow (won't know until later today), but as I can't make the desserts until Saturday, will just have to gather together the 'makings' so that I won't have to waste time doing this on the Saturday morning.  Need B on Saturday to ferry the soup to the club in the morning, the desserts in the afternoon, also go to the tip to get rid of all the rubbish, and now he tells me he'll be busy part of the day as he'd made appointments to go to the optician and elsewhere. 
It'll all get sorted. 

This means that almost certainly I won't be blogging tomorrow or Saturday, and as I normally take Sunday off (Gill phones me for an hour during the morning), I won't be back with you until Monday. However, if I do have an hour or so to spare late Friday evening, I may write a few words (to be read the following day), so as always - I say 'watch this space'.

Our front door bell now won't work, our back door bell hasn't worked for ages, new batteries don't help, so it looks like we'll have to buy new ones AGAIN.  We seem to need a complete new bell every couple of years. Maybe it is the damp that is the problem. Can't do much about that.  Does anyone know of a reputable bell that will work? 

Thanks for comments.  We have a good local bakery here in Bare Granny G.  But have only been in once to buy a couple of small cakes as a treat for B (and as they charge around about £1 each realised that home-made is far cheaper).  Probably most of the shops seen on 'Britain's Best Bakers' also charge quite a lot, but then that is not out of the ordinary.  Trouble with me is that I always know how relatively little  the 'ready made' can cost if I make the same myself.   If I was 'in business' then of course I would charge a lot more (to cover all the overheads). 

Every time we buy anything, we pay more than the cost of ingredients/materials used. We pay for the skill of the maker, plus any advertising, delivery, and all the many other costs that have to be charged (rent, rates, fuel, wages....) sometimes I wonder how on earth some things are sold at such a low cost.  Slave labour?  Cheap and nasty ingredients/materials?    Perhaps better we make as much as we can ourselves then we can use the best for less expense.

I've seen Cravendale milk on Tesco's on-line site jane, but as you say - it is more expensive.  Tesco's milk I find will keep for up to a month in the fridge (our fridge set at 5C).  As semi-skimmed (and skimmed) milk will freeze successfully, I often do freeze some in smaller containers so that I have more room in the fridge.  I freeze it when it is newly bought, not when I've had it for a week or two. So if wishing to save a few more pennies, we could buy/freeze milk when on special offer.

How lovely that you now have your wood-burner fitted jane, and bet you are enjoying sitting around enjoying the warmth.  Am sure you could burn other things as well as wood (meat bones burn particularly well, as does dried citrus peel, pine cones....). 

One recipe today that is an upmarket version of the wartime Woolten Pie.  Being meatless a good serving should cost us not much more than 50p each (depending on how many of the cheaper veggies you choose to use and less of the more expensive ones).
This seasonal winter pie can be frozen (but no details for this given in the original recipe).  My suggestion is make-to-eat, using up the veggies you have.

Mid-winter Vegetable Pie: serves 4
2 tblsp olive oil
2 onions, sliced
1 tblsp plain flour
2 large carrots, cut into batons
half a cauliflower, florets only
2 - 3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes plus...
..1 can of water
4 oz (100g) frozen peas
2 lb (900g) potatoes, cut into chunks
approx. half pint (150ml) milk
salt and pepper
Fry the onions in half the oil over medium heat until softened, then stir in the flour and cook for 2 mins. Stir in the other veggies and herb and cook until they also begin to soften.  Add the chopped tomatoes with the can of water, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, then remove lid and cook for 15 minutes more or until the sauce has thickened and the veggies are cooked.  Add the peas, give a stir and cook for a further minute.
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until tender, then drain and mash with the remaining oil and enough milk to give a fairly soft consistency.  Add seasoning to taste.
Spoon the vegetables into a heat-proof pie dish, topping with the mashed spuds, forking it up to give a rough surface (this will help to crisp it up).  Place under a pre-heated grill for a few minutes until the top is golden and crunchy.

That's it for the time being.  Am now taking a few days off blogging but will return on Monday (unless I can't wait and need to have a relaxing chat with you around midnight!).  Keep sending comments so that I will have something to reply to (recipes requested, queries to answer etc).  Enjoy your weekend.  TTFN .

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Counting the Cost - Again!

It certainly seems that our current challenge to use up food we have, rather than go out and buy more, is stopping me watching many TV cookery progs.  Am not even bothering to watch 'Taste', as the first two episodes were pointless in my opinion - they didn't show us how to cook what was being served, and we didn't even get to see what it should look like if plated up.  It was all to do with the taste of the food, and that is something a viewer will never be able to experience when we don't know the recipes.

Occasionally I watch the 'Baker's Challenge' (ITV 4.00pm) as they professional bakers do show how some quite simple bakes can be made to look impressive. 
At least did find the two programmes 'Are you addicted to sugar?', followed by 'Food Unwrapped' very informative, as the first one showed how manufacturers are removing fat from certain products to make them more 'healthy' for us, but adding (more) sugar in its place.   Seems the sugar is more unhealthy than the fat, so what's that all about?
With the cost of 'healthy products' being more expensive than the 'normal' ones, it benefits us to make our own from scratch then we can reduce the fats and sugar to a recommended level.

In Food Unwrapped, was very pleased to learn how we can make our own vanilla extract (chop up one or more vanilla pods and cover them with vodka, then screw on the lid and leave them to soak for several days/weeks.  Give a shake of the jar from time to time, and presto! you have make your own superb vanilla extract - as good as but much cheaper than the best Madagascan extract.

Have heard more than one person Granny G,  muttering about the aid we give to China when they obviously don't need it (spending billions on their own space activities, rather than on their people).  More and more it seems that a nation is far more interested on spending trillions on warfare, space travel, even supplying aid to other countries when many of their own people are in dire need.  

On our local (TV) news last night there was a bit about Foodbanks and how the numbers of outlets and 'clients' have more than doubled in 12 months.  Even nurses are said to need to use their services from time to time.  It's not that people are always out of a job, it is the rising cost of everything else (especially fuel) that uses up any money left over after the main bills are paid (rent, mortgage etc).

Thankfully, we seem to be getting through our winter without the temperature dropping below zero (C). Apart from an occasional frost here and there, and a bit of snow in the very north of Scotland, our main weather problems have been rain and the flooding this has caused. 
At the moment we are going through a fairly settled spell of weather, but the forecast is for stronger winds and more rain over (our) western side tomorrow and maybe over the weekend.  But at least not THAT cold.

Although I do buy UHT milk Sairy, this is more for 'back-up' and normally buy 3 x 4pt containers of semi-skimmed over a month (£3 when bought together - it keeps well in the fridge).
Several of the empty containers are kept to use in the way you suggested, and I always keep three of them in the conservatory -  filled with water - to come to room temperature, so the plants don't get a shock as tap water is normally colder than they are during the winter.
I might well use one or two of the containers to hold 'back-up' chicken soup (base), with some leeks and chicken in another container to add if needed.

With a request from Jo (New Zealand) have managed to find some suggestions that I hope will suit her needs. 
The first is a room freshener, perfect for anyone who lives in Australia, and am just hoping that the same trees grow in N.Z. as we can also grow them in this country, mainly for ornamental purposes, so here - in the UK - we can make this too.

Tip:If you don't possess a special burner to vaporise air fresheners, then pour into a saucer (if oil based add water first so the oil floats) and place on a sunny windowsill or on top of a warm radiator to allow the freshener to vaporise.

air freshener:
7 oz (200g) fresh eucalyptus leaves
1.75 pints (1 ltre) vinegar
Place the leaves and vinegar in a jar that has a screw top.   When needed, heat a few spoons of the mixture in an oil burner (see above tip) and leave to vaporise in the room.

Lavender 'sticks':
Take a few dried lavender stems and place in a holder.  Light the ends with a match, and allow them to smoulder (not flame) and they will act like 'joss sticks' giving out a lovely scent of lavender.

Essential Oils:
Use lavender, rose or other essential oils sprinkled over dried flowers (rose petals etc). Leave in a bowl, tossing occasionally, and these will help to scent a room.
Alternatively, sprinkle a chosen essential oil over cotton cloth and hang them up around a room - especially good when placed in a draught (in front of a window etc).

When it comes to caring for furniture, we could start by preventing dust from settling too quickly by wiping the furniture with a cloth that has been dipped into the following:
1.75 pints (1 ltr) water
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon glycerine
Mix together, pour a little of the mixture onto a soft cloth and wipe over furniture.

This simple polish can be used on all sorts of veneers, but only suitable for wooden surfaces.
veneer polish:
7 fl oz (200ml) olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (filtered)
Use a funnel to pour the oil and juice into a small glass bottle.  Seal with a cork or cap and shake vigorously.  Apply polish to a wad of cotton wool, the cover this with a piece of linen or tea-towel.  Twist to make a firm pad then use this to polish the veneer using a circular motion.  Dry with a clean cloth.
This polish will keep for several weeks, always shake the bottle each time before use.

Traditionally, furniture polish was always made using beeswax, and this wax can be bought in craft shops (where they sell the makings for candles).  I suppose, if we bought a jar of honey - still in its comb - we could remove the honey and melt down the wax to use for this polish that is best poured into shallow containers for ease of use so we can rub a cloth over the surface to gather up some of the polish.

furniture polish for light wood:
2 tsp beeswax granules
4 fl oz (100ml) soya bean oil
Put the beeswax and oil into a basin standing over a pan of simmering water.  When the wax has melted, whisk together.  Allow to cool then pour into a metal or glass container and seal.  This polish will keep well for up to 6 months.

polish for dark wood:
1 tsp beeswax granules
1 tsp lanolin
4 tsp soya bean oil
1 tsp turpentine
Melt the beeswax in a bowl, then beat in the other ingredients.  Store as above.

A busy week for me as you can imagine, and as long as I work slowly and steadily, everything will get done in time and also giving me time to relax.  But - as so often happens - the unexpected may happen.  Heard yesterday that we may be having visitors on Friday, so I'm having to make sure I allow for that should it happen.  
If fortune favours me, then I should still find time to blog tomorrow (Friday and Saturday uncertain).  Much depends on how I get on today.  Keep watching this space,  a shorter blog is better than none at all.   Enjoy your day.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Putting it into Perspective

After watching several back-to-back programmes about how the Universe works (Quest channel) the other evening, all I can say is that I'm just glad to be alive.  We fret and fuss about things that - in the great scheme of things - really don't matter at all.  Yet, I suppose there has to be a reason why we are here, and have the ability and intelligence to even realise our limitations - and do something about it.

What I can never understand is how all the astronomers are always trying to see further and further out to the edge of our known universe, but never looking back inwards towards where the Big Bang was supposed to happen.  Surely there must be a big black gap there now.  I gathered from the prog. that what is puzzling the scientists is that our universe is supposed to be expanding, but should be slowing down as it does so.  They have now found it is expanding faster and faster.  Could it be they have it the wrong way round and that everything is actually falling back to where it began, and speeding up as it does so? 

Perhaps we spend far too much money on learning about space etc, when we should be spending it on making our own world more comfortable for everyone to live.  But would we ever be satisfied? 

No point in me trying to work out why I'm here at all, best thing is to get on with life while I still have some left.  The good thing is - there is always something new to learn.  As yesterday, when B - after years and years of telling me he didn't like sausage and mash for his supper, was given a version (crushed potatoes fried with onions and served with sausages)- for this I apologised to him as I'd been really busy making umpteen shortbread and oatcakes for the weekend 'do', and no had time to think up anything more interesting to eat.  After eating it, B then told me that I could make the same for him any time.  He loved it.  

Granny G's mention of free school milk, orange juice and cod liver oil reminded me that we seemed to do a lot more for youngsters in the 'old days' than we do now.  Free school dinners would be a good idea - as long as the youngsters ate what was served.   'Picky eaters' seems to be something else that has happened over the last few decades.  In my youth you ate what you were given, and if you didn't it was served up cold for the next meal (and the next until it WAS eaten).

Ciao also mentions being given cod liver oil at school, and my B was one of the few who actually loved having his spoonful, probably because it was 'cod liver oil and malt'.  The malt flavour hid the fishy taste I suppose. 

Interesting thought Kathryn to use bottles to transport the soup, but it would only work to carry the stock, anything solid would get caught in the narrow bottle necks.   I'm going to tie the saucepan lids onto the pans as tightly as possible, then wrap each in kitchen foil, then put into a plastic bag, so am pretty sure the soup will be able to be transported safely.

Those bottle peppers I mentioned Cheesepare are (skinned) roasted bell peppers. Large slices of peppers.  Peppadew are tiny hollow peppers sold bottled, some can be sweet, some slightly hot, some very hot.

As to alternative dressings to serve with goat's cheese.  You might like to try the following:

herby vinaigrette:
whisk together 3 tblsp olive oil with 1 tblsp red wine vinegar, and a small teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Then add 1 tblsp chopped herbs (chives, parsley, or mint).

oil-free dressing:
whisk 3 tblsp lime juice with 1 tsp lime zest, 1 tblsp honey, and 2 tblsp white wine vinegar.  Add seasoning to taste.

mustard and maple dressing:
whisk together 1 tblsp maple syrup with 3 tblsp olive oil and 1 tsp wholegrain mustard.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

balsamic onion dressing:
1 tblsp olive oil
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 good tblsp balsamic vinegar
1 good tblsp runny honey
salt and pepper
Fry the onions in the oil over medium heat until softened and just starting to colour.  Stir in the vinegar and honey with seasoning to taste, then cook until syrupy.  Serve this drizzled over baked goat's cheese.

I'll certainly find some recipes Jo for home-made furniture polish, room fresheners and other cleaning products that you might find useful.  As many use 'herbage' that grows (often wild) in the UK, am hoping that you have much the same where you live.  But not everything is made from plants, some ingredients are normally available world wide.  Hope to give suggestions/recipes starting tomorrow.

Am well on track with my Burn's Night fodder.  It does help to do a little at a time, not try to make almost everything on the day of the feast.   Yesterday had quite a pleasant hour or two sitting by the oven, cup of coffee at my elbow, listening to the radio, and continually having a peek in the oven to make sure the shortbread was cooking without getting too coloured.  Worked well both for the shortbread and the oatcakes.  

Later this morning the Tesco order will be delivered. Mainly the produce/ingredients needed for the 'do', only adding things like milk/eggs/butter for our own use.  Even with the two of us, I KNOW there is enough in the freezer/fridge/larder to keep us going for about 3 months, and if I lived alone, probably a great deal longer than 6 months.  Having acknowledged this fact, it does seem to prove that I probably over-stock (some would call it 'hoarding'), but feel the need, especially during the winter months, to have enough food in store in case of emergency.   A habit left over from the time of war-time rationing I suppose, and certainly did need it when we had no income for many weeks.

It was only because I had a (very slight) knowledge of how to cook that we managed at all. It was then I was forced to teach myself (from books) how to cook not just properly, but how to make almost everything once I'd run out of what I'd normally have bought (bread, pasta, yogurt, soft cheeses, even butter and cream).  But that's a story that I've told more than once, and doubt anyone would even want to bother going to such extremes today.   But I'm very glad I did for if I hadn't I wouldn't be sitting here chatting to you now.

Got up early this morning to write my blog as this is going to be a slightly busier week than normal, and the earlier I can start working in the kitchen the more I can get done and out of the way - leaving me the rest of the day to relax.    Will be blogging again tomorrow, and hope you can find time to join me in our chat. TTFN.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Lessons to Learn

I read that Edwina Currie has put her foot in it again.  She has been pointing a finger at those who are forced to use food banks, and - as so often happens when we generalise (as I sometimes do), any criticism of a few is taken that everyone is tarred with the same brush.  
Personally (and feel free to hate me when I say this), I believe that much of Edwina's criticism was right, her main point being that when people did have money, they wasted it on having tattoos - this being one thing she mentioned (personally, I never see the point of tattoos, little ones are OK but great armfuls look so ugly, and if I'd had a large tattoo done I'd make sure that when I died that bit of my skin would be removed and made into a lampshade or something to remember me by, then at least some of the cost wouldn't have been wasted).  Edwina went on to say that in times past people (such as her parents and grandparents) would always make sure they put a little money away regularly to save for a rainy day.  Also today people haven't even bothered to learn how to cook.

Today it seems that it is common to spend 'disposable' income, for doesn't 'disposable' mean to get rid of? We've even been 'groomed' to do just this, as after the war, when our nation needed to raise itself from the ashes, there was much need for industry to sell products to get the country back on its feet, and we were all urged to buy new instead of making do.  As those were the days before technology had moved robots onto the factory floor, there was little unemployment, so more money to spend, and - bless their little cotton socks!!! the banks helped by introducing credit cards so we could all buy now and pay later (and keep on buying and paying...).  We cannot blame the present generation for this is how life has become.  When a recession bites, those who know how to cope have probably gone to the great kitchen in the sky.  Today cooking can seem quite an alien skill, and I would feel exactly the same if I was suddenly expected to learn how to keep our car in running order, I wouldn't have the slightest understanding of how to, and even given books to read to learn what should be done, quite honestly would never wish to even make a start.  Let someone else do it. 

As ever, I blame the government and banks for the situation as it is today. Once the war and rationing was over, quite rapidly the 'working classes' had a great improvement in their standard of living,  so wives and mothers then went out to work to earn more so they could improve their already good life even more, and to ease their domestic work-load many varieties of convenience foods and 'ready-to-heat' meals began to be sold.  There was no real need to learn how to cook any more.  This is where we stand today.   There have always been recessions, but in the 'old days' people managed far better as they had learned enough skills to cope until things got better.  Needs then were not so great, holiday abroad had not been invented (except for the very wealthy), cars were only for the rich, clothes were patched, socks were darned, meals were always home-cooked, and a lot of fruit and vegetables grown on allotments or in gardens.  No TV, no computers, DIY was what everyone did, from carpentry to home-decorating.

Today it seems that many people don't even bother to read books.  Certainly I read a lot less now I have TV to watch, but still read some books (mainly non-fiction), and back reading a whole lot more now B regularly goes to our local library.
This last weekend have been re-reading a book of mine I unearthed from the bottom of a cardboard box (filled with books we had brought with us, but still not properly unpacked).  It was packed full of suggestions and recipes for what people used to make in the  past, but that manufactures now make and expect us to buy (and buy we do).  Things like cosmetics, room fresheners, cleaning materials, laundry softeners, and lots more.  I was amazed at how we are surrounded by 'the makings', but not having the knowledge then spend our money (over the year quite a lot of money) buying the 'ready mades'.
My greatest delight was finding that horse chestnut leaves and conkers really DO have a (not edible) use, and this next autumn I'll be making use of them. 
If anyone is interested in making and using some of these preparations, then I'll pass on the really useful recipes.

It's sad that Edwina Currie has upset so many people (mainly organizations). What wasn't said was that foodbanks supply foods for those who - for many reasons - don't have enough money AT THAT TIME to buy food.  Maybe they would have just managed if food and fuel prices hadn't risen so much over recent years/months.  The blame should be place more with companies who keep putting up their prices, and make enormous amounts of profit by doing so, this putting more money in their share-holders pockets, not to mention huge bonuses for their directors.  Am afraid that greed comes first these days. 

Reminding myself that it's not for me to say who is right and who is wrong (there is always another side to an argument), it was good to see 'a girl named Jack' doing a commercial for Sainsbury's.  That girl has gone a long way since she began her blog, and all power to her elbow.  If nothing else, it just goes to show that even when life is really hard, and you have to turn to using foodbanks, it is still possible to make this work FOR you, not against you. 

Sorry to hear you have not been feeling well Margie.  Do hope you will soon be better.  Am sure your soups will be comforting and 'do the job'.  What is it they say about chicken soup?  'Jewish penicillin' it is called, even the medical profession are admitting it does seem to help in curing colds and fever.
Let us hope the Cock-a-Leekie soup I'll be making for the Burns Night works as well, it's very similar in the making.
Like Margie, I do find adding a bit of spice to soups etc (Fiery chilli ketchup in may case) really does help to give us 'inner warmth', and there is nothing like a bit of this glow on a cold day to five us comfort.  Even found I don't need to put the central heating on for several hours once I've had my spicy soup.

A welcome to Carole. Can't really give advice re controlling diabetes, other than to say follow any you have been given by your diabetic nurse.  Even these can vary in what they say.  The one thing that has worked well with me is losing weight.  Still got more to lose (am at that dreaded 'plateau' at the moment), but hopefully my next check (in 5 months) will show even more improvement. 
The one thing I have found (after many years of yo-yo dieting) is that when we diet we always have a time when however little we eat, our weight stays the same.  But this is fine because at this time our bodies still seem to shrink, so we can feel/look slimmer even if our scales don't show a loss.  Maybe it is nature's way of giving our bodies time to tighten up the slack skin.  
Another thing is that if we reduce our food intake too much, then our body goes into starvation mode and stores every last little bit it can to see us through hard times (much the way we should save money to do the same).  If we then increase our calories slightly (eating extra protein is the best way) our metabolism then increases and our internal fires then begin to burn again more brightly.  For those who remember how real fires burn (in home grates) will remember that they burn very slowly when packed down with 'slack' at night, and shut down any draughts.  Next day, rake out the ashes, open up the vents to let air in, and the fire then begins to burn more brightly.  Perhaps that is what exercise is all about - just making us breathe more deeply to burn up our personal 'coals'.  Maybe I'll try standing at an open window and have an hourly deep-breathe to see if it has an effect on my weight.  Could be I'll have invented a new way to keep fit without ever needing to go to a gym. 

As I've only used one on-line meat supplier Emma, can only give Donald Russell a recommendation, but their meat really is excellent.  Far too expensive for most people, but certainly comparable in price to local butchers when on offer. Take a look at their web-site.
Their recent offer that tempted me has now expired, and am glad to say I didn't (this time) need it, as I still have plenty of their previous offers still in my freezer.  In a couple or so months I'll have saved so much money (money that would normally have been spent buying food), that some can be used to pay for D.R. 'offer' meat.  My way of getting quality meat using money 'deliberately saved' (and to me anything bought with this money feels it is almost 'free').

Other readers may be able to recommend D.R. meat (the more people who recommend someone the better), or may prefer another supplier.  In which case please let us know the name/s.

My one concern this week is how on earth I'm going to get 25 pints of soup to the social club without it being spilt.  I've borrowed several deepish cooking pots from the club house, so those with mine should just about hold it all, leaving room at the top for the swishing around of the soup.  Problem is the steep hill the car has to drive down to reach the club house.  Maybe if I use wide (plumbers) sticky tape to glue the lids down it might help. 
An alternative is to make the chicken stock (base) really concentrated so it sets to a gel, then it goes in the pans like that, the (cooked) chicken and leeks to be placed on top.  More water can be added to bring it to the right height in the pan, and when heated, the lot can be stirred together.

Today I'll be making the oat cakes and the shortbread.  Tomorrow I have the Tesco delivery of all the food I'll be needing for the 'do'.  Wanted to have it delivered on Wednesday, but there were so many offers (on things needed) that only lasted until Tuesday, that I thought it made sense to take advantage.  I've been a good girl and not ordered anything for myself that wasn't 'fresh' (top-up etc).
Hadn't the room in the fridge/freezer anyway as I need spare shelves to chill the 'club grub'.

Yesterday toasted the oats for the Cranachan, also made an EasiYo Rasberry and cream yogurt (to use in 'Tipsy Laird'.  The more I can make in advance the easier it will be for me. 
Still have to work out what to make for B's supper tonight, as ever it will be made from 'using it up'.  Maybe soup would be the easiest.  Or I might make a chilli con carne using pre-cooked mince beef from the freezer.  See how I feel once I've got the oat cakes and shortbread made and put away.

Time is moving on so must take my leave of you, should be back again tomorrow so hope to see you then.  TTFN.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Worth Having a Go...

Lovely comments to read this morning.  Thanks to all who sent them.  Loved hearing how Shayna's mum used to say a casserole was a 'posh' stew if it contained peas.  Maybe in those days peas - being seasonal - were considered almost a luxury (like chicken was at that time), now with frozen peas and chicken one of the cheaper meats, almost a U turn.

Mandy, you were fortunate it having such a good economics teacher in the '80s, as by then cookery seemed to have been almost a lost art in schools.  As Alison says, schools must have varied a lot at that time as she didn't fare so well when it came to cookery lessons.
In those days I believe teachers had much more of a free hand in what they taught, nowadays there seems to be a set curriculum that every primary/secondary school has to keep to.

My heart goes out to you Lynne (Australia) having to cook a hot meal (bangers and mash with Yorkshire Pudding) in all that heat.  Of course we never do experience the heat you are having at the moment, but last summer was almost 'normal', quite warm and with plenty of sun, and have to say cooking anything more than perhaps frying a steak/chicken/fish on the hob - served with salad was all we could face.  Although curries (again cooked on the hob) were enjoyed. 
The only time I used the oven during (our) summer was when I cooked bread (or maybe a quiche).

Thanks RAY for giving your name.  It's lovely to hear how all your sons learned cooking from an early age, and now your very young grandson.  Was cooking a hobby of yours or was it your profession?

Yes Alison, I do remember Grace Mulligan, can't quite place her visually, but think she made up the trio of 'home-cooks' who had TV series, was it in the 60's/70's?
Bacon Pudding sounds horrendous, but like many other not-enjoyed-at-the-time meals, eating them again now brings back memories, and nothing like a bit of retro food to do that.  Think I'd even enjoy a dish of prunes and custard (having not had them for the last 65 years).

We live at the east end of Morecambe Kristen, in Bare.  Once a village it still keeps the community atmosphere, especially in the Crescent where are most of the shops (the butchers at the top end on the right, driving up from the prom). They also sell a few vegetables and some fruit.  If you want any chicken carcases to make stock, they now sell them (not give them freely) but they are very cheap and Tuesday is the day they usually get a delivery of them (some customers want them to cook to make stock or to use the meat from them for their pets).   They also have a small deli there where you can buy cooked meats and they have other 'treats' (sticky toffee pudding, ice-cream etc).  I can recommend them.

The shopping precinct is lovely, but sadly many of the older shops have closed down to be replaced by estate agents, solicitors, opticians etc.  But a new craft shop has opened, and there is a bakery, a charity shop (lovely bargains in there), a pharmacy, Post Office, hairdressers, and one or two fashion shops.  Also a café.  Bare is worth a visit as it is a very pleasant area.

Now for the foodie chat.
Most of us buy food because we enjoy eating it.  How many of us buy purely because of a food's nutritional value?  Even so, it is always worth knowing that little bit more about some of the fresh veggies we buy just to make sure our money gives us the best (health) value.

onions: these contain a compound that acts as a natural anti-histamine, helping to dampen the effects of hay fever etc.  Also good, eaten raw to ease a cold.  Garlic, another member of the onion family, helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure and eating regular amounts of garlic also seems to help the body fight off infections.

mushrooms: a very good source of B vitamins as well as minerals (such as selenium), vital for a strong immune system.  Also rich in protective antioxidants that help to defend us against certain health conditions, and may help to minimise the signs of aging.

green cabbage: gives the body plenty of fibre and also vit.C.  Two types: Savoy, and bok choi are especially rich in beta-carotene that helps to beat cancer and heart disease, these two also useful sources of calcium, helping to prevent osteoporosis and also in controlling blood pressure.

tomatoes: unlike most vegetables, this is one that benefits us more when cooked.  The more concentrated the tomato (its water having evaporated) the more lycopene per unit (than in a fresh tom), this acting as a natural sunblock, helping to prevent sunburn.

apples: the old saying 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away' is now proving to be sound advice.  Eating an apple helps to prevent muscle loss, helping to keep us toned and fit.

Marmite: rich in B vitamins (esp. B12 - normally found in animal products), also folic acid and riboflavin. If you are the one that hates it - learn to love it.  I do.

canned salmon v tuna:  if you have the choice, then choose canned salmon as it is higher in omega fats than tuna.  Also eat the salmon bones (soft enough to crush) as they contain a lot of calcium.

Maybe expecting too much for every reader to have the same foods in their larder as myself, but anyone that has either canned coconut milk/cream or those sachets of coconut cream (that need dissolving in water), desiccated coconut, and some cornmeal/polenta, then this is the recipe for you (and very useful if you do have these as a way to using them up). A bonus is it contains no eggs, and it can be frozen (un-iced).
Coconut Cream Cake: serves 10
5 oz (150g) butter, softened
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
1 x 200ml carton coconut cream
5 oz (150g) plain flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3 oz (75g) fine or medium cornmeal
2 oz (50g) desiccated coconut
zest and juice of 1 lemon
5 oz (150g) icing sugar, sieved
2 tblsp toasted desiccated coconut
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add 5 fl oz (150ml) of the coconut cream and the remaining ingredients, beating lightly to a soft and slightly wet consistency.
Spoon into a greased and lined 7" (20cm) round cake tin and bake at 180C, gas 4 for 50-55 mins, until the top is golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin.
When cold, remove cake from the tin, peel away the paper (it can be bagged up and frozen at this point). Or continue by mixing the icing sugar with enough of the reserved coconut cream to make a thick but flowing consistency, and spread this over the cake, allowing it to fall over the sides.  Sprinkle the toasted coconut over the top and leave to set before serving.

Final recipe today is one for oatcakes (I'll be making something similar for B's sailing club's Burn's night). These contain both nuts and raisins, and although walnuts are the recommended ones in this recipe, we could use other nuts(or a mixture) as long as they are finely chopped.  As these are meant to be eaten with cheese, then stick with the recipe, but if intending to eat them on their own - as a snack - then you could use chopped no-soak apricots or other larger dried fruits in place of the raisins.
The dough can be made and frozen unbaked, either frozen in the piece or, rolled out and cut into shape before freezing.  Once cooked store in an airtight container.
Raisin and Walnut Oatcakes: makes 40
half tsp. baking powder
4 tblsp milk
6 oz (175g) butter, softened
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
11 oz (300g) rolled or porridge oats
5 oz (150g) wholemeal flour
2 oz (50g) raisins, chopped
2 oz (50g) walnuts, finely chopped
Dissolve the baking powder in the milk. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then mix in the oats, flour, fruit, nuts and milk to make a firm dough.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the biscuit dough to about 1 cm thick and cut into circles using a 5cm scone cutter.  Place on a greased baking sheet and bake at 180C, gas 4 for 15 minutes until light golden.  Leave to cool on the tin.  When cold store in an airtight container where they will keep well for 2 - 3 or so days.  Good served with cheese.

That's it for today, and as no blog tomorrow will be returning on Monday.  Hope you will be able to join me then.  Enjoy your weekend.  TTFN.