Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday Tittle-tattle....

Just popping in while I remember what I did with the microwave chips.

The other day fancied eating some chips, the only ones in the freezer were 'oven chips', so I heated a box of these.  Despite following directions to the letter, the chips still ended up what I call 'soggy', so decided to heat up some more (not many in a box anyway).  This time I tried heating them up in a pre-heated dry frying pan, oil already covering the chips, and although it took longer than in the microwave, I did end up with a lovely crispy surface to the spuds, with the innards nice and soft.

So - even though the box tells us the contents should ONLY be microwaved, seems that we can improve on the result.  I did some more yesterday, serving them with Tesco's Vegetarian Lincolnshire Sausages.  There should have been 6 sausages in the pack but there was an extra one!!!  Cooked the lot for half their time (12 minutes total, 6 mins half-time),  then added a pack of crinkle-cut microwave chips.  When the sausages were cooked, I removed them from the pan, raised the heat to full and gave the chips and extra couple of minutes to really crisp the surface.  Worked well.

The above veggie sausages - I find - taste more 'meaty' when left to eat cold after cooking.  Or eaten hot with a good meaty (and onion) gravy.  Am partial to pork sausages, but they are not the healthiest of foods, so recently have been buying the veggie sort, and only the Lincolnshire variety of these seem to suit my palate, perhaps it is the herbs in them (preferring Tesco's rather than any other brand).

After several good days of sunshine, but still quite cold, we've had some pretty unpleasant weather.  Did not see any snow in our area (when do we?), but it has been very wet and windy, reminding me of a narrow-boat holiday that we (plus three others from family/friends) took about 15 years ago.  It was at the very end of April - the last week being a scorcher, so we didn't take warm clothes, other than jackets. 
Once on the boat, after a night's sleep we woke to a change in the weather.  It had turned very cold indeed and was actually SNOWING.  So we spent most of the week huddled inside the boat, sharing the couple of heavy jackets that we had taken when it was time to open the locks, or drive the boat.

As we slowly drifted (4mph max speed allowed on the canals) along, we could see loads of tiny lambs leaping around, also great clumps of primroses along the banks, and one wonder and huge bluebell wood in full flower towards the end of the week (it then being first week in May this was the time to see bluebells). 
A few years later it seems we can never be quite sure what will be in flower at the right time. 

Am managing to keep sorting out my larder and have also cleared space in one of the freezers, and don't intend refilling the gaps with anything but milk (or water), so that I have space when needed.  So things are slowly getting better and once something is cleared up it now tends to stay cleared. In the old days I used to wish it could stay tidy, but my Beloved said it felt more like home when he could leave his stuff where it fell, so now I would give anything to go back.

Thanks for your comments. The Remoska does sound good T.Mills, although wonder if it is worth me getting one, as am not so short of money that I need to save fuel. Will have a think about it.

Several of you have commented/enjoy the series 'Back in Time for Dinner', but have to say that even considering how limited the variety of foods in the early decades of that series, we didn't seem to feel deprived, isn't there a saying something like 'what you never have, you never miss'?
Also, Granny G. myself feel that our now over-abundance (foods from all over the world) could give us that 'truly blessed' feeling, but myself (and I'm probably alone in this) feel we have far too much variety, and this in itself causes us to buy more food than we really need (to keep us healthy).  Yes, it was a struggle in war-time and right up until 50's when rationing ceased, but if anything, it made us think more about nutrition and what dishes could be made from simple basic ingredients.   But then we 'ate to live' not as today 'live to eat', so meals were not given so much importance as they are today and we had to clear our plates whether we liked the food or not. 

Today it seems everyone wants to eat a meal that is a favourite, and often the cook (usually a working mother) provides different meals or foods for each member of the family (for one won't like this, another won't eat that) and solves the problem by buying the ready-prepared - that costs more and not always good for us. 
Naturally I am old enough to remember how it was, and how it still could be, but will anyone listen?  Take the easy way is today's motto.

Having mislaid my tin-opener Kathryn, I'm having to resort to an older one, but not as old as the one shown in the above series.  Having one of these years ago can confirm they did work well.   Now I've become even lazier and always moan if I get cans delivered that don't have ring-pulls.  Not that these always work, all too often they snap off and I have to struggle to open the can using a tin-opener again, often difficult if the tin is not round (like Spam!!!).

Think many homes bought their first fridge in the early 60's like yourself Jane.  Ours was quite tall, retro style, and it was still working well, as was our chest freezer (bought 1969) when B decided to dump them both and buy an American style fridge/freezer to take their place.  Haven't really forgiven him for that (it was on offer, and he could never resist and offer), but it turned out the freezer capacity was quite small, although the fridge size was large.  B 'thought' the freezer part was large, but he had forgotten it housed all the 'working's for both sides.l   In the end had to buy a four-drawer front-loading smaller freezer to take the surplus frozen food.

Still, with only the two of us, didn't really need too much freezer space, and it was only because of the catering for the various clubs and charities I used to do that I needed the shelf-space.  Now - on my own - doing less cooking for others, I suppose I could manage with just Boris (the name given to our US fridge-freezer).

When we lived in Leeds, our next-door neighbour used to run a B & B and often bought catering packs of mixes (scone, cake, pastry mix, custard, bread etc), she sometimes gave me some to try.  Have to say the majority of them tasted more of the 'additives' (raising agents....) than if home-made, but they were easy to use, all needing nothing but added water.

Once or twice I would buy a cake-mix from the supermarket.  Usually a Betty Crocker one for Brownies, chocolate cake etc.  These needed liquid adding, which included an egg.  Apparently the mixes could include dried egg, but the manufacturers felt that if the housewife added an egg she could then say the cake was home-made.  Amazing how we can fool ourselves at times.

Nowadays I believe cake-mixes (including scone mix, pizza mix, pastry mix, cookie mix......) are much improved, so when time is short no doubt if I was a busy mum I would use one, but have to say the last time must have been over 30 years ago, and then mainly 'for research purposes' (a true reason but still an excuse).

An interesting two page feature about Mary Berry in last Saturday's Daily Mail.  Don't know why, but I expected her to be an ordinary mum, with maybe a cleaner once or twice a week.  Seems she has quite a large staff, but then her work-load has increased dramatically over the last years (mainly due to '....Bake Off', so although not at all jealous, am truly envious of her life-style and what she has done in her life.  She and I are not that far apart in age either. Makes me feel ashamed of myself.  All power to her elbow I say.

That's it for today. As I write there is a man fitting a much larger step and grab rail by our back door so that I can leave the house safely (without slipping/falling).  Of course he came to the front door, and by the time I had reached that had walked round to the back door.  Takes me ages to get from one to the other, even using my zimmer frame.  He doesn't need me to oversee what he is doing, so I've left the door locked and asked him to get on with it.

That's it for today, visitor tomorrow and Friday, and not sure about Thursday, so it might be the weekend (is that Easter?) before I'm blogging again.  As usual, ask you to 'watch this space'.  TTFN.


  



Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saturday Catchup

It's been several days since my last blog, and for this I apologise.  It's been an odd sort of week, firstly I needed to take time off to get over the previous week's marathon dessert cooking, then had several visitors drop in, and also wanted to spend time watching TV various progs re King Richard III.  

Add to that sorting out the kitchen/larder and I've had a really busy week.  Of course I did watch other TV progs, as do like to see the repeats of those 'oldies' during the afternoon ("Three Up, Two Down", and "Hi-di-hi" (plus the soaps and the 30th anniversary prog of Neighbours).

What IS annoying me is that this last week they showed several progs of Hi-di-Hi out of sequence, so the story-line was mixed up, we knew what happened before it should have done if you know what I mean.   "Three Up...." seems to have finished to be replaced by "Are you Being Served" (another old favourite).

Not everyone watched our UK soaps, but am wondering if those that do are as much annoyed as I am by the way that many of the characters in both EastEnders and Corrie have a habit of not looking directly at the person they are talking to, but sit there with their eyes slid into the corners.  I don't think I've seen Shabnam (EastEnders) look at anyone straight on. Her 'father' (Masood) does the same. Liz MacDonald in Corrie almost always has her eyes stuck in the corners of her eye sockets.    Other actors seem to manage to look straight at each other, so am wondering if (like Terry Savalas/Kojak) they are reading from a script placed behind the ear of the person they are supposed to be speaking to.   If memory is bad, this occasionally happens.   Trouble is, I'm now watching eyes and not taking much notice of what is said any more.

Apparently not as many people turned up at the Opening of the Club a week ago, despite posh invitations being sent with RSVP  (many ignored responding), so there was quite a lot of food left apparently, but according to my daughter (who did go), most of my desserts were eaten, with no wastage as remainders were kept chilled and then frozen.  But I could have made two less which would have eased the week for me.

Thanks to those who wrote in re the chimineas.  We have a large garage (one end was kept for B's handy work), so a chiminea could be kept in there during the winter. 
Interesting to know about the cottonwool/Vaseline used as firelighters Kathryn. When I visited another of our daughters (in Ireland) there were only blocks of peat to start the open fire in the living area of the rented cottage (next door to daughter), and it wouldn't light unless it had kindling burning underneath, so I tried pouring a little (left-over) cooking oil in a tray and standing peat blocks in this to soak up a bit of oil, then later set fire to the 'oily' side, and it worked like a charm.

When in Leeds I used to save the very last bit of candle wax in those little tea-lights (originally used for heating trays on the dining room table), and then either melt the wax and pour it over dampish logs, or just throw a pile of the lights onto the fire along with dried orange peel and these too worked like fire-lighters.

What type of stove do you use in Canada Marjorie?  We do have multi-fuel ones here or log burners, but tend to use an AGA for cooking, or Rayburn (similar but also heats water) based in the kitchen. 
When watching old films, the North American type of stove is often called a 'pot-bellied', probably used for heating with a round disc on top that can be removed (or not) on which to place a cooking pot (boil or simmer).   I'd love a stove, suppose could have one fitted in here (our only usable chimney), but don't think it would work for cooking as this is our wood-panelled dining room (fireplace has marble surround, this in turn framed by a Gillow's mantelpiece).

Reading about chiminea on the Internet, it seemed that home-made 'fuel' could be used, and the suggestion was blocks made from compressed wet paper (then left to dry), but could also be made from dry paper. 
Do let us know how you get on with the Dressage on 4th April.  Am sure Dolly will do you proud Kathryn.  The one thing I used to HATE doing was continually having to clean the tack after each use. Surely all that polish rubbed in would last more than one outing?

A comment from an Anonymous mentioned cooking a whole chicken in a Dutch Oven on the hob, and I can believe it would work well.  I was once given one of those, a huge and very heavy iron pot plus lid.  This was given to one of my bridge friends by her son, she didn't need it as it was too large (she lived alone), so gave it to me.   Several years later her son wanted it back, so she asked me to return it, and although I used it very often (and could have kept it - it was a gift) I did return it and how I miss it.

There is an appliance in the Lakeland catalogue (a regular item) I think called a Remoska.  Have been tempted to buy one in the past, and it would be useful  for me now, but do I need yet another pot?  It does seem that there is always something new that might be useful, halogen cookers for instance. But if I can still manage with my old stock, then why spend more?
I've recently seen a gadget/appliance that is electric and makes 'spaghetti' from vegetables, yet in one of my drawers (I have yet to find it, but did see it a month or so ago) a little plastic thing that you screw into a veggie (carrot etc) and it comes out with thin spaghetti-like strips.  No difference in the end result between the very expensive and the very cheap. 

Am enjoying those progs that show us how we cooked during the last 50 years, decade by decade. This last week think they were working their way through the 60's and were making up abd serving the Vesta (beef curry, chow mein.....) range.  Don't think they enjoyed eating it though.  However, do believe it is still on sale, so by now must have been 'new improved'.

Black Forest Gateau was of that time, but have always found that it has never gone out of fashion, probably due to being liberally laced with kirsch syrup, and stuffed with cream and cherries.  Men in particular just LOVE chocolate cake, so when I make this cake it is always eaten up (often seconds and thirds requested).

Am surprised you didn't get to see much of the eclipse Cheesepare, apparently Cumbria had one of the best views, but even a few clouds in the wrong place and the right time can spoil the effect.  Thanks also for your views/use of a chiminea.    Whether I get one depends on my health during this year.  At the moment am thinking of employing a gardener to at least get the garden looking good - such a lot needs to be done, and if the garden is the only place I'll feel comfortable in 'outdoors', then it might as well look nice.   Have always to think of the future, and if the apartment/garden look their best, then it should make for a quicker sale.  'Upstairs' flat has been for sale two year and no-one wants it 'because it hasn't a garden', so having a garden is a bonus.
Considering the flat above us has been reduced in price (a lot) several times (they wanted to move as after a few years here they expected a baby - which is now old enough to talk and run around, not that we used to hear anything as we have sound insulation), am surprised it's not been snapped up.  Well worth the money.  Yet two huge hotels have been closed near to where we live, pulled down and flats built instead (at twice the price of the one above us), to me this doesn't make sense.  The 'new' flats have smaller rooms, further away from the shops..... we are very close to a great shopping parade AND a small railway 'halt' (between Lancaster and Morecambe), plus a lovely park (with bandstand and the prom at the bottom of the main road through what is like living in a village with all amenities.

And there is me, now stuck indoors with little chance at the moment of enjoying any of the above. But let us hope there will be an improvement.

At the moment have moved from kitchen to bedroom where I'm sorting out all B's clothes/books etc. After washing/ironing, many will go to charity shops/Sally Army etc, and am loath to get rid of any, but no point in keeping them.  Not enjoying this particular work in hand, but need to get it done as soon as possible.  This means this coming week I have no idea when I will be blogging, just have to hope I can grab an hour (or two) to bring it up to date.  As usual, expect me when you see me.

Tonight the hour goes forward, then Easter the following weekend.  You'll all be busy then enjoying your long weekend holiday break,, so doubt you will miss me if I don't blog.  But will be back. TTFN.

 



        

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Mutterings

Thought I'd better start the day with blogging as otherwise never get around to it.  It's been quite a seven days all told.   Have to say I've found great satisfaction in having a reason to cook (in bulk) again, and most of the time thoroughly enjoyed it, although by the time Saturday arrived I felt I'd done enough (but still had a lot to finish off).  In fact never left the kitchen from the time I got up (first usual ablutions etc), until the desserts were taken to the club - making 10 hours in all!!!

Surprisingly I stayed in bed until mid-day on Sunday, too exhausted to do anything else, this then led to an early night (for me) which in turn led to one of my (almost) sleepless nights, but today I feel a lot more energetic.

Haven't heard how the Grand Opening went, not even sure how many visitors were there.  First I was told to cater for 100, then some days later the numbers were said to be around 40, then was told it could be 100 after all.  On Friday I phoned and told they expected it to be 60, so I settled for 60 good portions that would feed 80 if necessary (my daughter was also taking a dessert so there should have been enough.

In the end I made 2 x Tiramasu, 1 x Sicilian Cassata, 2 x Black Forest Gateau (oblongs to make easy slicing), 1 large Tropical Fruit Cheesecake, and 1 big Fruit Flan (with strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries).  Each served at least 10 portions, some served 12-15.  My plan to male a Paris-Brest (or Banoffee Pie, or Treacle Tart) was shelved as there seemed no reason to do the extra work if the portions were not needed (my excuse).  By then I was too tired anyway.

As ever, there seemed a lot more washing up to be done than actual prep/cooking/assembly on the day. Thankfully most of the work (if not all the work) could be done sitting down.   However, it did prove to me that I can do it when I try, and so part of yesterday I spent sorting out the kitchen (again), and putting things like electric whisks in handier places (normally kept on a high shelf).  Today I will continue doing that, and probably the rest of the week until everything is in its rightful (useful to me) place, and cooking will become easier for me.  This didn't matter before, but does now.

As well as the cooking, last week (and yesterday) had other things of interest.  Such as the eclipse.  In Morecambe this turned out to be a damp squib as around 9.00am it was a sunny if somewhat hazy start to the day, then at 9.15 it began to get a bit darker as though there were rain clouds gathering, but in a very few minutes the sky lightened again and no way would anyone have thought there had been an eclipse, although (according to the TV news) some areas did go very dark.

Yesterday there was the procession of King Richard III through the streets of Leicester, and as many readers will know that was my adopted home town (although I was born in Coventry).  My mother was born and bred in Leicestershire, as was my Beloved, so I felt part of it, although deep down I felt the King should have been buried in York Minster or even Westminster Abbey, as were most of the medieval kings.  

There was a lot of controversy over King Richard III mainly with the help of William Shakespeare, and it was interesting to hear how at least one of the two princes in the tower was taken ill at the time of his supposed murder, a doctor being called, so he could have died 'naturally'.  In any case it was written that the two princes were bastards and couldn't claim the throne anyway, so why the need to kill them anyway?  Also that the King did more for his people in the few years he reigned (777 months I believe) than any other monarch during the same time-length after their coronation.  So he wasn't all bad, if bad at all. 

The basic recipe Margie for Tiramisu is to dip sponge fingers (sometimes called Boudoir biscuits), into strong coffee, then place the undipped (sugary) side down in a dish in a single layer.  Cover with whipped marscapone cheese and cream, slightly sweetened with icing sugar, and top with another layer of the fingers flavoured with Marsala, finishing with whipped cream and a topping of sifted cocoa.  Chill for several hours, pref overnight.

There are many variations, and although I normally start with the coffee, this time I dipped the sponge fingers in Limoncello, beating a little more of this liqueur into the marscapone along with some 'light' Philadelphia cream cheese.  Then topped with more biscuits, finishing as above with cream and cocoa.

Although not a traditional Tirimasu, as long as we use the Boudoir biscuits, layered with marscapone cheese/cream, we could use a different liqueur/spirit/wine, and probably the Internet would come up with some suggestions.   I tend to play it by ear.

Sorry to hear about your Dad having a fall Kathryn.  I've known quite a number of people (some elderly, some younger) who have had pacemakers fitted and they work brilliantly.  Add years to their life I'm sure.  However, it is a good idea to not have stairs to climb, so a ground-floor annexe for your Dad seems a good idea, also land outdoors that is easy to walk around (shallow steps etc).

Your herbal jellies and jams sound mouth watering, so this could be a way you could make a bit of pin-money.  Up on the hills overlooking the sea (about 20 miles from Morecambe) there is a wind-swept farm, mostly sheep roam around outside the stone walls, kept in the open fields nearby by cattle grids across roads.  Too windy for cattle I think. 
However, outside the farm-gate (the road/track runs close by) is a trestle table, and on this are jars of jellies, jams, eggs for sale.  People are trusted to help themselves and put the money in a box at the back of the table.   Perhaps it is because car-drivers who come to look at the spectacular views of the distant Bay) and the many walkers that are the people who pass by who are expected to be honest.

It's still quite cold, but with a high pressure area expected mid-week the signs are a rise in temperature from Wednesday, and am looking forward to warmer weather so that I can zimmer myself outside to sit in the sun for a while.  That would be bliss.
The hour goes forward next weekend, so I'll have to alter as many clocks as I can (B used to do this) and just remember the oven clock will be wrong by an hour (I don't know how to do this one).

Speaking of the oven.... Have realised that no longer can I use the larger top oven for heavy things (like roasting a chicken)  as it is too high for me to pull out the tins safely (B used to do it for me - how I miss all his help re these things).  But as I'm now on my own should find the lower (small) oven quite large enough for my own needs.   Just have to tray-bake things one at a time in that, rather than cooking three at a time in the oven above.   It could be worse.   Hardly use either oven anyway.


That's it for today, still lots of work to do and I want to continue working as hard as possible as each day I find I can do that little bit more without getting over-tired (as long as I take one day off a week).

One query. Those garden 'heaters' called chiminers (not the right name but am sure you know what I mean).  Am thinking about getting one and need to know if food (pizzas) etc can be cooked using them, and also whether I could use it to burn surplus paper, chicken bones,  twigs etc.  I've such a lot of rubbish that needs burning (B would normally take it to the tip), and far better to make use of the heat from the fire than burning it in a 'bonfire' cage.

What is the best size, and best material (do they do iron ones that won't crack in the frost although I could be protected in the winter I suppose).

Won't be blogging tomorrow as have visitor, so hope to return on Wednesday.  TTFN.






Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wednesday Update

Just grabbing a few minutes as tomorrow I'll be busy, also Friday and Saturday, so it will be Sunday (or even Monday the next time I blog - unless of course I managed to get things done in rapid time).

It's amazing how much I'm able to do at the moment, think this is because life has become 'interesting' again, and it's a real pleasure to be able to cook for others.
Yesterday went to collect all the necessary alcohol to add to desserts (BFG has kirsch, Tiramisu has Limoncello, Sicilian Cassata has Cointreau...!!!), and found I had none of each.  Was able to find a recipe to make my own Limoncello using Vodka, sugar and lemons.  It worked well.  Needs keeping for a month before using, but as luck has it suddenly noticed some small jars (that once held  Colman's mustard) in which I had poured the last ml of the above missing liqueurs, so I have enough without having to buy any more, the home-made Limoncello is a bonus!

Need to make more sugar syrup tomorrow.  This I make by measuring (let's say) half a pint of caster sugar, putting it into a pan with the same measurement of water, then heat gently, swirling the pan from time to time (DO NOT STIR), until dissolved, then bring to the boil and boil for 3 - 4 minutes until syrupy.  Leave to cool then bottle in sterilised jars.  It keeps for ages in the larder.  A little will be mixed with the kirsch, and some also went into the Limoncello.

This morning baked a square chocolate cake for the BFG.  Didn't want it to rise too much, so baked it at 160C, then after 30 mins turned it down 20deg for a further 15 minutes.  It stayed flat, and tomorrow I will slice it in half horizontally so on Friday the halves can be drizzled with kirsch syrup before being sandwiched together with whipped cream and a can of cherry pie filling.  The top will also have cream, more cherries (the frozen ones thawed) and a scattering of grated chocolate.

Depending upon numbers (not yet known) I MAY fill a (bought) sponge base with custard/cream, top this with assorted berries (a row of strawberries, then a 'blue fruit' (cherries, or blueberries or blackberries) and alternate with rasperries and redcurrants.  Glaze top with QuickJel.  This will be made up on the day.  It really does look quite special and a good way to use up oddments of some soft fruits that are in the freezer, the QuickJel holds their shape and prevents them going soggy.

What an amazing lot of veggies you were able to buy for a relatively small amount of money jane. Carrots freeze very well when blanched and I used to cut them in various shapes, thin circles, batons, or cut diagonally - any shape you like.   Onions too freeze well when peeled and chopped.  If planning to eat them within a month they don't need blanching.

Jane also sent a comment, but I've made a note about making Limoncello under her name in my notebook and as I've already mentioned it above, no need to repeat it.

It's been another lovely day again today, but still cold outdoors despite the sun.  Heard on the news that there was an excellent display of Northern Lights last night, seen as far down the UK as the south coast with a special mention of Cumbria.  Hope that Cheesepare was able to see it.

That's it for today, I'll be back again as soon as I have the time.  Hope you get a chance to see the eclipse - me, I'll be too busy cooking!!!.  But like a lot of eclipses and at least one 'lights' once seen, I can say 'been there, done that'.  Don't need to see it again.   TTFN.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Spreading the Load

Am still feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, so perhaps I've now turned the corner and life has some meaning again, due to having the making-of-the-desserts to look forward to. 

Yesterday I sat in the kitchen and sorted out all the ingredients that I would need. Stacked these on my double-tiered push-trolley, including the containers that would be used.
Even went so far as to grate a bar of chocolate (using my 'Y' shaped veggie peeler) to add to some of the desserts (or for decoration).    Today I will be making the chocolate sponge for the Black Forest Gateau.  Friday will be 'assembly day' for all desserts and these will remain in the fridge until taken to the club late Saturday afternoon.

So far jane, the chosen desserts are:  Tiramisu; Sicilian Cassata; Tropical Fruit Cheesecake; and Black Forest Gateau.  As there will be a lot of portions needed will probably make a Lemon and Ginger Treacle Tart as well.  Have to wait until Thursday/Friday for final numbers.  As the desserts are freshly made (not frozen), any surplus will freeze if kept chilled beforehand (they have big fridges at the club-house).

You made an interesting point jane when you mentioned discovering a lot of frozen food you had forgotten about.  You, like me, tend to hoard all types of food then use it up, but now I've been on my own for nearly 5 months now have bought very little, ending up using (or giving away) a lot of what I already have, and I haven't felt like re-stocking the shelves as I used to do.  Perhaps this is the best way - use what we have, save the money we MIGHT have spent, and then re-stock, but with less than formerly.  Or buy better quality. 

If we can (or should by now) be able to make really tasty meals that cost very little, using up 'what we have', then we really don't need as much food in store as we think we do.  This is completely contrary to my early days when I felt I needed to keep a good stock of almost everything (one in use, one in store ready and waiting, and four (or more) as back-up!!!! 

So I'm going to keep emptying my shelves and freezers until I have only the very basics (to me this means canned tuna, sardines, chopped and plum tomatoes, baked beans (incl Heinz 5 beans, and read kidney beans). Canned fruits.
In the fridge - vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, small potatoes, celery, cauliflower, white cabbage, vacuum beetroot, salads (lettuce, cucumber, radishes....), berries in season.  Cartons of fruit juice, milk and cheeses. UHT double cream and milk.
The freezer will have fish (smoked haddock, white fish, salmon, cooked prawns, smoked salmon, smoked mackerel), minced beef/lamb/pork and poultry (chicken portions). Also frozen veg such as peas, string beans, Brussels sprouts, sweetcorn, oven chips.
Onions and baking potatoes in bags in the kitchen.  Eggs and tomatoes also kept at room temp.
Fruit bowl holds easy-peel clementines, bananas, apples, and other fruits when in season (plums, peaches....) also avocados.

Larder 'dry goods' will be the usual plain/SR flour, bread mix etc, assorted sugars, syrup, treacle, honey, jellies, oats, and the usual dried fruits, dried grains etc. Various ketchups, chutneys and relishes and salad cream/mayo (in the fridge once opened), and probably a lot more I have at the moment but not planning to replace. 

That's how I intend my food stores to be in the future.  We will have to see if I can stick to it, and what I do with it when I've got it.  So watch this space!

A downstairs annex (with use of bathroom) sounds perfect Kathryn.  Until needed by your Dad (who might be living upstairs initially) it could be a 'holiday let' (or used for B & B)? 
Two thoughts came to mind when you mentioned the possibility of buying close to a wind farm.  Firstly this may keep the price low (who wants to live near one?) and - perhaps more importantly - wind farms are placed in known-to-be windy areas  (I am prejudiced because I hate wind) .  Not the best site to grow things, poly tunnels could blow over etc...and could be very chilly in the winter.

If the property was sited in a little valley surrounded by hills that had the wind farm on top, well that's a different matter, you would be sheltered.
In 'Escape to the Country' they seem to advise talking to residents in the area of choice to get the pros and cons re amenities, weather etc, so you would get a better idea of what could be grown, what the winters are like....  So when looking at property, aim for the local pub/post office and have a chat to who might be your neighbours.

As to island units in a kitchen Kathryn.  I've always wanted one, but would need a kitchen large enough to allow me plenty of room to walk round.  some of these units have a surface wide enough to fit stools under one side, so you can sit and eat as though it was a table.  Ordinary seats would be too low (a working surface is higher than a table top - unless you are a short person).  I use our kitchen table as a work surface, sitting in a normal chair, but then have to keep clearing the table to make room to serve a meal (unless taken into the dining room).  Perhaps you could build an extension to one end of the kitchen to use as a dining area if necessary.  I believe you don't need planning permission if the new area is under a certain size.

Have to get on and make by chocolate sponges.  Hope to be blogging tomorrow, all depends on what else I have to do.  Will be back a.s.a.p.  TTFN.

   

Monday, March 16, 2015

Week Begins...

Firstly, must apologise to Cherry Baby (to whom we give a big welcome), for not replying before Mother's Day.  I was tied up with visitors and being very tired on Saturday decided to wait until this week before I did my next blog, so did not see the request for brunch ideas until too late.  I feel very guilty for being so lax - I really should have checked the comments.  Will do so in future.

The price of pony carrots by the sack (referred to by Kathryn) is very much cheaper than the 'value' carrots (1.5kg) sold at Tesco, so always worth taking a look to see what we can buy in bulk, sharing with family, friends and neighbours if necessary. 

When I used to take my friend to Tesco's (in Leeds) we often shared food that we would normally both buy.  We would divide in half (if necessary) when I took her home and we sat and had coffee and prided ourselves on saving so much money doing this.  If there was a Bogof of bags of potatoes, one of us would get them, then we each would take a bag and pay back half price to the one who bought it.  Same with the very large veg such as whole white cabbage (cut in half), cauliflower (ditto), heads of celery, bags of value carrots/onions etc. Anything that was sold by the unit (rather than weight), so we chose the largest/heaviest and any Bogof we would normally use, and ended up quids in.

Thanks to Karen and Joitsie for their comments.  Yesterday I felt so much better (after weeks of not) and certainly well enough to go out, so my daughter took me for a drive.  Still finding it a bit difficult to walk, so although I did take the walking frame with me (and two walking sticks) decided to stay in the car, but thoroughly enjoyed the drive through the local countryside seeing all the crocus and daffs in full bloom.

This was the first time I'd been out of the house other than funeral, hospital, medical centre since late October last year, so this made it even more enjoyable.  We ate fish and chips in the car, followed by strawberry ice-cream. 
Today I again feel fairly 'with it', so able to deal with what needs to be done around the house.  I've just learned that the Sailing Club 'do' this next Saturday expect 100 visitors, so I'll be busy making lots and lots of desserts.  Thankfully, most of them can be made up to 2 days ahead as long as kept chilled (they improve with keeping).  Just keeping my fingers crossed I'll not get a 'relapse', and will be laying out all the dry ingredients ready to use, and keeping the others (together) chilled in the fridge so no need to rush around trying to find them when I am ready to assemble. 

This means that towards the end of the week inc Sat (the 'do' is during the evening), I'll probably be too busy to blog, as much of that day I'll be putting the final touches to the desserts. Should be able to catch up on Sunday.  Believe there is to be an eclipse of the sun on Friday, but this shouldn't stop me working in the kitchen.
The following weekend the hour goes forward and it will then really feel like spring.  Wonder if we will get a heat-wave early April as we seem to have had these past few years.  Do hope so.  TTFN.

 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Midweek Must Do's....

Already Wednesday and my 'must do's' are piling up.  At least am doing quite well sorting out all the 'not now needs' from the larder, and able to pass them on rather than let them go to waste.

As I had to place a small order to be delivered from Tesco (ingredients needed for the Sailing Club desserts), decided to treat myself and bought several items I (previously) used to love to eat.  When I started to eat some of them found they tasted awful - due entirely to my taste-buds not now working, all I got was a bitter tastes of what seemed like additives.

Even some of the fresh fruit didn't have the flavours I remember.  Braeburn apples had no flavour at all, the ripen-at-home peaches (one nearly ripe) also no flavour.  Thankfully the 'easy-peel' clementines I could taste but even then only just.

Perhaps a blessing in disguise (as I shouldn't be eating them at all) is that the crunchy prawn crackers (I used to LOVE these) also tasted awful, even the popcorn!   I'd even bought some scones (to see how they compared to home-made) and these too were not nice.  Not nice to me, to everyone else would probably be OK.  So don't take your enjoyment of eating a flavoursome meal for granted, one day you too may lose your sense of taste, and believe me I'd (almost) be happy to have continual gout if I could taste food again.
At least that meant there was another load of goodies for my daughter to take home for her own enjoyment, and also pass on to others.

One good thing, I needed black cherries for the Black Forest Gateaux I'll be making, so ordered some canned cherries, but also noticed that Tesco sold the frozen pitted cherries, so ordered several packs of these, and some I will soak in a little kirsch, the rest will be eaten by me, over time, keeping some especially for my next gout attack.

It was an absolutely beautiful day yesterday and my daughter wanted to take me out for a drive and stop for a cup of tea and a cake etc.  I agreed, but we first sorted the (above) foods, and I was feeling so very tired I just couldn't be bothered to go out - too much effort to put on my jacket, shoes and walk those few yards to the car (even with the help of my 'walker frame').  Felt almost as though I was about to have a panic attack.
Perhaps, as I've not left the house (except for a couple of surgery appts and once to the pharmacy - taken by car) since my Beloved passed away (4 1/2 months now), perhaps I'm getting a fear of leaving the house (is that called 'agrophobia'?). I've not even been into the garden, always using the cold weather as an excuse I suppose. 

Perhaps, once I've cleared away a lot of the clutter that is in the house, I will feel different, and if I can force myself to move around a lot more, even if only walking round and round the dining table (like the Bronte sisters used to do for exercise in bad weather), doing one more round each day, then perhaps my legs will start working again properly.    However comfortable it is just sitting in my easy chair, it is becoming too much of a temptation, so it's up to me to do something sensible and get moving again.

Thanks Christopher for sending that write-up about 'The (Shirley) Goode Kitchen that was in that listing of Radio Times programmes.  It made it sound worth watching.

Not sure how long that letter was that I wrote to you in the 80's Pam, but you could refer to it and copy it out to send as a comment, then we can all read it.  Unless of course it was private.  I can't remember writing to you, but then I wrote to many interested viewers at that time.
Hope your weather soon improves,  here today we are supposed to be getting some severe gales and rain over on the western side of the UK, not necessarily as far down as we are, mainly in Scotland. At the moment the sun is shining although there is quite a strong breeze.  A hazy sky with bits of blue showing.

;How lovely Joitsie to be able to buy your fresh fruit and veg from an Amish community.  Is this in Pennsylvania? The Amish have a lovely and natural way of life (I love watching the film 'The Witness'), and especially their use of pony and traps.  We have had a few programmes (documentaries, fly on the wall sort of thing), about Amish families and I love the way the little children are taught to help as soon as they can toddle.  It's very much a culture shock when a few of their teenagers come to live in the UK for a few months, and vice versa.
Believe now that many Amish are entering the 21st century in their use of some electrics such as washing machines, even the use of telephones and cars.  Let us hope they don't start using computers. 

Today's 'work' is to check I have the ingredients for the desserts, and make a list of those I need to order later (the 'do' is on the 21st of this month).  Also STILL have to sort out the freezer/s.  Yes, I know I was going to do this weeks ago but for some reason never got around to it (OK so I'm lazy). But I now will need the room to freeze some pre-baked chocolate sponge cakes ready to fill with cherries and cream in a couple of weeks. The more I can do now, the easier it will be closer to the time.

Have a visitor tomorrow morning, also on Friday, so I probably won't be blogging again until the weekend.  All depends on what free time I have.   If I'm fitting in 'having a walk' round the dining table, might feel the need for a sit at half-time, so might even choose the computer chair and while sitting, write a bit of blog - or at least reply to comments.  Just have to wait and see.  TTFN.


Sunday, March 08, 2015

Quick Catch Up...

Seems we are getting wet weather this weekend (North West), rest of the country having dry and more spring like weather.  Temperature up to 17C, so seems that winter is now over and done with.

Another load of larder food has been moved on for others to use up.  Not sure why, but this has cheered me up quite a bit, maybe it is the sight of a lot of empty spaces on the shelves that can now be filled with non-foods.  Those days of stocking up to give a feeling of security, seem now no longer necessary. 

Still have the freezers to sort out as I need at least one large drawer to store my cake bases etc, and also some (home-made) ready-meals.   That has to be done bit by bit as it is mighty cold sitting in front of the tall freezer when the door is open, the smaller freezer (with four separate drawers) can be sortied drawer by drawer, each taken to the table and contents less likely to get hidden at back of shelves.

Am always grateful for your comments as these can be replied to - even if I have nothing else to write about, and have to say that spreading pesto over a pizza base is a very good idea Margie.  Traditionally it was always tomato (pizza) sauce, but recently I've seen the American cooks (in diners etc) spread pizzas with a white sauce (cheese based?), so perhaps time we changed the normal to something different.
American readers may be able to give some suggestions.

Like the idea of using balsamic vinegar (with sherry) to pickle beetroot Cheesepare although I tend to prefer eating unpickled cooked beetroot in sarnies (from vacuum packs).  Sandwiches made with the soft 'Philly' type cheese topped with beetroot is a favourite. 
For those that don't already know, eating beetroot helps to lower blood pressure.  I also like drinking beetroot juice (surplus can be frozen), and chocolate cakes/brownies made with choc and grated cooked beetroot are wonderful.  Children love them.

Not sure how much mushy peas cost, depends on the quality I suppose.  Cheap cans of the mushies can be improved if a little melted butter is mashed in with a pinch of seasoning. 
Have found that those packs of 'quick-cook' dried peas do make wonderful mushy peas (adding butter and maybe a pinch of sugar as well as seasoning according to your choice of flavour) and I make up a whole pack then freeze it away in small tubs to eat (with fish 'n chips') as required.

Normally I don't reply to a comment from 'Anonymous', but as this queried an old recipe of mine thought I'd give it a mention.
Yes, my original pan-fry-pizza had a base made from flour mixed to a dough with yogurt, and it worked very well as long as eaten once the topping had been heated under the grill.  If left too long the base then became a bit soft.   If the pizza was to stand for longer, then perhaps the bread-dough type base would be a better choice. 

Even as I write my mind is visualising making a pan-fry-pizza using either a naan bread or a tortilla/chapatti as the base, just heated through in the pan and then given a smear of tomato ketchup/paste, pkus plenty of toppings, grated cheese on top - under the grill and then this could be wrapped up in half (a bit like a calzone), or even rolled up to eat as a hot snack.

When 'The Goode Kitchen' was being shown on TV I did tape all the episodes Christopher, but somehow they got taped over (mistakenly by one of the children), the same thing happened when I taped the many 'live' Pebble Mill cookery spots that I did, also 'Bazaar'.  Suppose I felt they were not important enough to keep, but wish now I had.  At least have the books.

When we first moved to Leeds my next-door neighbour ran a B & B (she shouldn't have done, her house was council owned, but not my problem) and she used to buy a lot of her food from cash and carry, especially vegetables where she would go to the Leeds version of Covent Garden (wholesale greengrocery), and buy sacks of carrots, onions, spuds etc for a really low (wholesale) price.  Anyone can go to these wholesalers and buy what they want as long as the produce is by the sack, box, or crate (not by the kg unless normally sold that way). 
Nowadays soft fruits such as strawberries are usually sold by the punnet, even though the punnets are (at the wholesalers) sold by the crate, but in those days the fruit was sold loose in trays, and it was possible to buy fruit that was past its best, very low cost, and then make jam with it.

The only snag with buying in this way is that you need to be at the warehouse very early in the morning (about 4.00am) to get the best produce at the best price.
Leeds Market would sell some produce very cheaply at the end of the week (late Saturday) when they knew it wouldn't keep until the following Monday - such as fresh berries, tomatoes, mushrooms, salads.... so another good way to get cheaper produce is to hover round the fresh food markets late on Saturdays (and this can include meat, poultry, even bakers for bread etc).  All we need is time and persistence.

Have to say I'd rather spend time on making meals from fresh produce, even if it does work out  slightly dearer, as the way my mind works is that time equals money, so as long as one way (or the other) will make a saving, does it matter which is chosen?   If I was desperate, I'd probably do both, then end up exhausted by the end of the day.

Well, that's my quick catch up, as ever not much to chat about these days, but at least I'm feeling a lot more positive.  My gout has nearly subsided, but - being me - I've now developed a very stiff neck.    Those were the days when I woke up having no pains at all.  And wasn't this taken for granted.  We don't know how lucky we are/have been until too late.  Keep telling myself things could be a lot worse.  TTFN.  

Friday, March 06, 2015

Friday Thoughts

Have taken a look at that website link that Margie mentioned.  Great similarity to the smallholding that Kathryn is hoping to set-up, so info given that may help cut a few corners for her.  How I wish I was young enough to start self-sufficiency all over again.   Life isn't nearly as much fun now I can afford to buy what I need (even sometimes what I want). 

Yesterday filled my trolley with another lot of unwanted food from my larder, this too will be collected by my daughter and be shared around.   Am still finding my taste buds have disappeared and so almost anything I eat I now don't enjoy, in many cases even dislike what I used to love.  On the good side I have developed a great liking for Brussels sprouts!  

At least the much smaller portions of food that I do manage to eat are helping me lose weight, albeit slowly.  Water retention now seems under control, the doctor did say it would take some weeks for the heart pills to kick in (the extra strength of these are helping, as well as fluid retention pills).  All I need now is to take something for depression, eating for comfort doesn't now work.

At least I have the sailing club desserts to occupy my mind, but doubt very much I will go to the 'do' as my Beloved spent so much time there it as if his personality was soaked into the place (too many memories), and I don't think I could cope with a lot of people coming up to chat and see how I am coping.  Have to wait until the day to see how I feel.
My daughter is going so she will take the desserts and me too if necessary.

Thanks to jane, Kathryn and Sarina for giving prices for those sacks of pony carrots, also good to hear that onions can also be bought cheaply by the sack.   Both veggies store quite a long time (carrots in fridge, onions in a basket in the kitchen....).  Are there any other veggies that can be bought cheaply by the sack (and keep for several weeks/months) from farm stores/pet shops?

The Poor Knight's of Windsor is a very old and traditional recipe Janette. It may have other names in different regions of the UK.  Suppose it is basically a cross between a jam sandwich and eggy-bread and in more recent years, given different fillings, can end up either savoury or sweet.

Have to say that even though my left foot is still 'gouty' (seems to have moved into my big toe now), am not finding it too much trouble to walk around with the help of sticks or zimmer frame.  Or maybe just getting used to it.  Things could be worse.  I suppose.

Although not yet back into the 'recipes each day', that I used to give, perhaps better to give one occasionally that really does make a good meal while using up left-overs and store-cupboard ingredients.  Here is one that can make use of roasted vegetables (the ones given are red onion, yellow bell pepper, courgette... but of course you could use any Mediterranean veggies that you would normally have roasted.
This is even easier than my original 'pan-fry' recipe where the pizza dough was made using yogurt.

Roasted Vegetable Pan-Fry Pizza:  serves 4
Roasted yellow pepper, courgette, red onion
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
salt and pepper
pinch of dried mixed herbs (opt)
2 tblsp olive oil
4 - 5 tblsp water
5 tblsp tomato sauce (or puree)
2 oz (50g) grated Cheddar cheese
Cut the roasted veggies into even-sized chunks, slices or wedges, and drizzle with a little of the oil.
If roasting from raw, once cooked (beginning to char), remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Heat the grill to Medium, then season the flour well and mix with the remaining oil and enough water to make a soft dough.
Knead gently for a few minutes, then roll out onto a floured surface to form an 8" (20cm) circle, then lift this onto a non-stick frying pan and fry over medium heat for 4 - 5 minutes until the underside begins to brown.  Then turn it over and fry for a further 4 minutes.
Spread the tomato sauce over the upper surface of the base, scatter with the roasted veggies, the sprinkle the cheese on top.   Grill for 3 - 4 minutes until the cheese has melted.  Serve sliced into wedges.

It doesn't take much imagination to alter the topping to suit what you want to use up such as ham, or tuna and sweetcorn, bacon, chorizo, mushrooms, onions.....  If necessary, cook or part-cook toppings before placing on the cooked base.

That's it for today, hope to be with you again over the weekend, if not it should be Monday. TTFN







.   

.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Week Moves On...

As I had to be at the comp to check emails, thought I'd grab a few moments more to reply to comments and do a bit more 'blog-chat'.


A bit disappointed yesterday when I had my second email from 'Contact the Elderly' (re hosting tea-parties).  Apparently they don't - as yet - do these in Morecambe, but have put me on their list.  By the time they do I'll probably be too old to cope (nearly am at the moment).


However, it turned out that a lot of the now unneeded foods I was hoping to get rid of (from my larder) were able to be given away to a couple or so people who could make good use of them, so not wasted.  I can now sort out the rest today, plus the freezers and hopefully dispose of this food in the same way.  That made me feel a lot better.


As to  how I got interested in painting Granny G.  My Dad was a very good amateur artist, and I used to watch him paint. It was when I was 13 I suddenly felt the urge to paint a picture myself, so asked my Dad if I could borrow his oil paints, and he let me take them up to a spare room and set about painting a picture.  It took me all day, and I missed both my lunch and my tea because I could not bear to stop what I was doing.  My Dad understood and told my Mum to leave me to get on with it. 
My daughter still has the picture, and considering my age and it was my first attempt, have to say it was quite good.  Probably painting is in my genes.


From then I used to draw on small picture in a book each day when I returned from school, usually something simple like a Disney character, but more complicated as the months went by.   My daughter now has that book.
From there I began to paint larger pictures, usually in acrylic (it dries much faster than oils), and painted loads of flowers, my favourite being roses.  Did a few landscapes, but liked to include animals such as larger animals: horses, elephants, leopards....    Later I was asked to 'paint' pictures of friends dogs, copied from photos given, and for these I used pastels.  Probably some of my best efforts.


Was able to sell quite a few pictures, but charged only for the cost of materials/postage etc,  my enjoyment came from painting, not making money. 
Not quite sure why, but was not able to paint well all the time.  It seemed to come in phases, and when I felt like painting that was all I did for about 6 weeks, the very next day I couldn't do anything right at all and it might be 10 years before the mood came over me again.   At the moment am waiting for this 'mood' to strike.


Had thought of making a Rum Baba for the Sailing Club Jane, but they usually ask me to provide desserts that I have made before and that have been a great success such as Tiramisu, Sicilian Cassata, Tropical Fruit Cheesecake.... and I've also suggested Black Forest Gateau, Pavlova, and Profiteroles.  Will have to wait to hear their final choice.
There are many other desserts I'd love to provide such as Banoffee Pie, Key Lime Pie, Lemon Mousse.... but this year am leaning towards desserts that can be prepared in advance (such as making chocolate cake to freeze, then assemble later for BFG), and need an overnight chill in the fridge before completing/decorating.   This will make things much easier for m as I'm still not able to work at full stretch ALL day.


Those 12 portions for £3 (25p each) is amazing jane, and giving your costing for each ingredient has proved just how simple (if you can call it that!) it is to make a cheap meal. 
Many home-made meals can be a lot less expensive to make than we think.  The trick is first do the costing. 


Ready-meals often seem incredibly cheap for what we get, but we have to remember that the ingredients would have been bought in bulk, far cheaper than we would pay per kg. and not always the best quality.  This doesn't mean to say that fresh foods have to be perfect.  I understand that a large sack of 'pony carrots' (small, misshapes, but perfectly edible) cost very little (remind us of the price Kathryn and where they could be bought).


When we buy quality ready-meals (read on to find it is sometimes worth it), then wait until they are reaching their sell-by date as yesterday my daughter brought me a Marks and Spencer ready-to-microwave meal (curry), and we all know how good their meals can be.  This was reduced in price to £1.55 and I ate it yesterday for my supper and it was gorgeous with tons more flavour than something similar from those companies who provide and deliver frozen-to-microwave food for the elderly (at double the price). So am lucky to have my daughter to shop around to see what is on offer especially at M & S.


Had thought about keeping a pet rabbit Cathy, but prefer guinea pigs, mainly because they will 'talk' to you (rabbits don't).  We used to breed guinea pigs (aka cavies), and I also judged them at pet shows, so am especially fond of them.   They are very 'homing' little animals, and discovered (more than once) if they managed to escape from their run and hide somewhere in the garden, the pet ones would answer when I called them by name, or - at dusk - would return to their run and hutches all by themselves, where I would find them early next morning.  Even the baby ones could do this.


The advantage with guinea pigs (also rabbits I suppose) is that their hutch could be kept indoors (at least in our conservatory) during the colder months.  Have to have a think about it.


That's it for today. Nothing much of interest - for which I apologise - but thought I'd keep in touch. With maybe visitors tomorrow, and certainly one on Friday, then the weekend, it may be a few days before I return to blog.  All depends on what time I get up I suppose.  These cold mornings bed seems too good to leave.  TTFN. 















Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Whatever the Weather....

One minute it seems like spring, the next it is snowing.  Yes, proper snow, here in Morecambe, for on Sunday afternoon I looked out of the window and saw huge flakes of snow falling slowly down, even settling on roofs, sadly didn't last long, but the next morning it happened again.  Sadly, when the sun came out, it all disappeared.  But at least we had some.


It's still very cold, and has been extremely windy, but by the end of the week we are supposed be having a high pressure area, higher temperatures and a lot more sun, expected to last several days, so maybe by then spring really will have arrived.


I've had an email back from 'Contact the Elderly' to thank me for offering to volunteer.  Not even sure I'm up to doing much (if anything) but will give it my best shot.  Should be contacted by one of their representatives shortly.


Hadn't heard about kidney's being bad for gout Juhli, but as I don't like them anyway, easy enough to avoid. 


It's interesting how some pills that help to prevent gout seem to work for several readers, but not for Les.  Maybe it's a man thing.
Am sure our pharmacist will point me in the direction of what I could take, they are very good at letting me know I can't have certain pills (such as Ibruprofen etc) as they clash with the medication I take regularly.  We are getting quite a few 'flyers' through the door, and see ads on TV re using the pharmacy for general queries instead of cluttering up the waiting room in GP's surgeries.


CTMOM's comment on keeping hens (again) has tempted me to consider doing this.  As readers know I've always wanted to do so, but B wouldn't let me.  Trouble is, could I cope with them on my 'bad days'?  Yet I really do want a pet of some sort.  Perhaps I should keep one or two guinea pigs again, I used to love these little animals, and they do 'talk' to us.  My favourite ones used to toddle across the room and sit on my feet, to be lifted onto my lap for a cuddle.


Am, Granny G,  very impressed with the Big Painting Challenge, am nowhere in their league, as unfortunately my style of painting is very exact/accurate, rather like the Dutch artists.  Give me a photo and I'll give you a picture that resembles it to the last 'pixel'.  Not too bad at still life, and so I might try painting some 'edibles', rather than landscapes, people etc....


Don't forget that cooking and sewing are also skills, and can be very creative.  Suppose you could call 'artistic' being the icing on the cake sort of thing. 


Had heard that cherries are good for gout Eileen.  In fact bought several packs of dried cherries for my once S.I.L, am sure I have a pack in my own larder.   Think I will buy a couple of cherry trees that can be planted either on the patio or in the garden this spring, but keep them netted or the birds will eat the fruit.


The sun is shining, yet I see it is also snowing, or perhaps hailing.  It won't last.


Yesterday spent a happy hour in the larder clearing out all the tins/packs of 'dry goods' that I am unlikely to use.  Most of them still just within 'b/b/date'.   The others slightly past it, but being 'b.b' and not 'use-by' am sure are still OK.  All had been bought to serve to B and of no interest to me, so am hoping my daughter can use some at least.  They do not have enough 'dates' left on them to be given to the FoodBank (they only accept those that have at least 3 month's b/b/ date left on them).


After writing up the recipe yesterday (using left-over sarnies), saw a recipe where cheese sarnies could be dipped in the egg, then laid on top of a savoury filling (in that instance it was baked beans and sausages I think) to be baked in the oven until crisp on top. Even without the bangers and beans, the cheese sarnies alone could be cut into triangles to fill a dish, then egg and milk poured over to make a savoury 'bread and butter pudding'.  It doesn't take much imagination to think of this as a type of 'lasagne', but using tomato sandwiches, the bread taking the place of pasta, with a cheese sauce poured over with a sprinkling of grated cheese, then crisped in the oven (or under the grill).


My thoughts still keep going to Kathryn's forthcoming move (am SO envious), with my imagination putting myself into a similar situation where I would certainly hope to have enough land to have a big greenhouse and some of those plastic 'tunnels' where some produce could be grown throughout the year.  On some TV progs I've seen owners move their chickens into these 'tunnels' for the winter, so they can help fertilise the land within, and also give them room to run around under cover in the colder and wetter weather (protect from foxes).


With me, everything would have to be almost instant, so my small orchard would have been planted, giving enough blooms (pollinated by the bees from the hives beneath) to give loads of perfect fruit. A couple of sheep would keep the grass down beneath the trees so no need to mow.  The sun would shine during the day, rain would fall at night, enough protection from wind, and a good stream running through the land, with maybe a small lake that will also hold fish. My idea of heaven I suppose (that includes enough 'helpers' to do all the hard work while I sit and watch! In retrospect I think I'd have made a good farmer's wife in the old days).


Enough daydreaming, time for me to keep working through my food stores.  I need freezer space as have been asked to make several desserts for the Morecambe Sailing Club Grand Opening at the end of this month.  Much can be prepared in advance, then assembled on the day. 


Think today is Tuesday (all days are the same), so should be blogging again later this week. See you then.


 







Sunday, March 01, 2015

May the Force Be with Me....

Sad to hear of the death of 'Mr Spock'.  Let us hope that some of the 'force' he spoke about still has power for us all.  I could do with it.

Last week has not been a good one, a mixture of depression, perhaps due mainly to my gout.  There is nothing worse than having painful feet.  OK while sitting down, but sooner or later have to stand up and move around and at times like that life doesn't seem worth living.

It's not been all bad.  Did enjoy watching 'The Best Marigold Hotel' (and I bet I've got that title wrong).  Even watched some of the repeat yesterday evening, mainly due to it having some of our best actors.

'Bake Off' was good, so was '...Sewing Bee', also other cookery progs.  Maybe I've already given them a mention. 

Decided today to take the bull by the horns and this morning have sent off my details to Contact the Elderly (re hosting tea-parties, and also volunteering to give talks on cost-cutting cookery).  At least it will give me something to plan for/think about if they are interested.

Reply to comments, am realising that perhaps I don't give enough information when I talk about some things.  Les has sent good advice, but the difficulty with me is that my freezer is full of food that was bought for my B (and that I don't like - kidney's etc). Also the freezers cost less to run when they are kept full.  I could - of course - fill boxes full of water to freeze to fill any gaps when the food supply runs down.

Another problem is that I have lost most of my sense of taste, this means I've also lost my appetite, so end up eating less anyway.

Regarding Wiltshire Farm Foods.  The ones mentioned were going to be a present from my daughter, but probably I'll ask not to have them anyway - at least until my appetite returns.  Of course they will be more expensive than home-made, but a great deal cheaper than eating something similar at a café.

Yes jane, it was John Seymour's book on self-sufficiency that I was thinking about.  We had a copy of that and I used as much of the advice as I could. As to (the other) Jane, keeping goats, myself would prefer to keep a Jersey cow, but suppose much depends on how much milk we could manage to deal with - each day.

The chemist wouldn't let me have Ibruprofen/Neurofen to help my inflamed foot as they clashed with pills I already take.  Was told paracetamol was best to take - which I do - but these don't take much of the pain away.  Just have to wait a few more days for it to subside.  It is getting better.
Am fed up with continually having to contact the doctor re things like this Sairy, so am coping with it on my own.

Last week watched a programme about supermarkets, Tesco being the one mainly talked about.  It brought to mind how much we now seem to rely on supermarkets, and the trend is to turn to the discount stores such as Aldi and Lidl - perhaps because they carry a far smaller range of each product - and of course, cheaper.

Maybe we need to change our way of cooking rather than where we shop.  Go back to the old and more traditional meals that we call 'farmhouse fare' in the UK, and 'peasant food' in other countries.
So many inexpensive ingredients can make really tasty dishes.

Here is one of my favourites.  Make the savoury version by using left-over ham or cheese sarnies, or a sweeter version using jam sarnies, and for those who want the best of both worlds, this uses both cheese AND jam.  As we also use eggs, then what seems nothing special could turn out to be quite nutritional.

Before I give the recipe, must mention eggs.  My daughter brought me some free-range large eggs from a Lancashire village where some friends kept a few hens.  Each egg was a different colour, one was blue!  Considering the size and quality, the cost £1.25 for the six was remarkably cheap.  Not only that, each egg yolk was the deepest orange, the like of which I haven't seen in decades.  Almost thinking of keeping my own hens.

The original 'Poor Knight's....' were just jam sarnies dipped in egg, so you could omit the cream cheese if you wished (or use less of it).  If you prefer you could use Nutella instead of jam, or smoked salmon with the cream cheese.  The basic idea (fried eggy bread) can have many fillings, both savoury or sweet, so a good way to use up bits and bobs.

Poor Knight's Of Windsor:  serves 2
2 - 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 fl oz (100ml) milk
1 tsp vanilla extract (opt)
2 tblsp caster sugar
4 oz (100g) cream cheese
2 tblsp icing sugar
2 tblsp strawberry (or other) jam
4 slices slightly stale white bread
1 oz (25g) butter
Put the eggs, milk, vanilla and caster sugar into a bowl and whisk together, then pour into a wide shallow dish.
Beat the icing sugar into the cream cheese and spread this over 2 slices of the bread.  Top this with the jam, covering each with the remaining slices of bread.
Place each sandwich into the egg mixture, and leave to soak for 30 seconds, then turn over and soak the other side.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large frying pan, and when beginning to foam, put in the soaked sarnies and fry for 3 - 4 minutes on each side until golden.   Serve with extra warmed jam, using this as a sauce, if wished.

Now I really do have to deal with some chores (not that I want to, but needs must....) and am hoping, now that we have got rid of February, that the onset of spring will bring more cheer into my life. It's my own fault, I must stop feeling sorry for myself.  Life goes on and it's up to me to make it work. 

Intention is I will be blogging more often, so keep watching this space.  TTFN.


 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Another Week Almost Over....

With delight, as I look through the small window in front of me, I see a clump of snowdrops in bloom. These have cheered me up.  Even my gout seems less painful today. 

Have to say that Kathryn's prospective new life keeps my little grey cells working.  Her mention of sustainable energy (to keep the freezers running) has reminded me of the smallholding (very DIY) where Dick Strawbridge and family made a life.  He made a small water wheel to provide energy (elextricity?) by damming up a small stream so that it ran over the wheel before continuing on its way.  So that's another thought - buy property that has running water through it (stream, beck....).

There are of course solar panels, and wind turbines, and I see no reason why an exercise bike could not be used to generate a small amount of (storable) power.  Take it in turns to fast peddle the bike and gain free power and good health at the same time.

Do remember (was it in the 70's?) when there was an excellent book on self-sufficiency, sadly have forgotten the author).  He covered all aspects, and I learned a lot from it.  Also read three little paper-backs about living in a small cottage (was it in Wales?),  think the first was called 'Hovel in the Hills', the second (I think) was 'Garden in the Hills', and the third was a cookbook - probably got the names wrong, but again it gave loads of suggestions (that worked) on how to turn an almost derelict cottage and overgrown land (including bad weather) into something very productive.

Now then Kathryn....here's a thought.  Would Dolly be more useful for you as a working horse/cob, or as an 'eventer'?  Or could she be both? 

Pigs and sheep definitely, and don't forget chickens. If you were close enough to a main road, you could have a children's section where they could pay to see the baby animals (plus a few others such as guinea pigs and rabbits (the cage litter absolutely wonderful for digging in the soil - and you can eat rabbit),  Ever thought about goats?  Goat milk, goat's cheese.....!   Myself would LOVE to have a Jersey cow, they have such pretty faces, big eyes and long lashes..  They don't give as much milk as a Friesian, but then if for a family you won't need that much, and you would have enough left to make your own cream, butter, yogurt, cheese (hard and soft....) plus clotted cream (all of which I have made myself but from Channel Island milk delivered by the milkman). 

Thanks Cathy, for that link to 'contact-the-elderly'.  As to what I would serve Jane, I'd (already) thought of assorted sandwiches (with the crusts cut off); scones, jam, and cream; and small cakes.  I'd be in my element making all those.  Must look up the recipe for Selkirk Bannock.

If we had a good spell of weather we could have it as a 'garden party' with small tables holding 4 - 6 under sun-shades.
If my ideas would be accepted - and we have a good summer, I might buy more garden tables and sun umbrellas.

Spent much of yesterday sorting out the kitchen drawers, good thing about gout is that if I can sit down (in the kitchen) there is still a lot I can do, so it is perhaps not surprising that I'm now finding a lot of my things are not now used.  Won't get rid of all of them (charity shops) but keep what might be useful later and store them in boxes in the larder - this now having a lot of empty spaces on the shelves.  Most of the time I live on fresh fruit and vegetables, and eggs (omelettes etc).  Really MUST try and sort out the freezer to make more room.   My daughter wants to buy me a week's samples of Wilkinson Farm Foods, and I will need space to store these.   Have to say that being able to re-heat something that has been made by someone else is something I consider a treat.

After a few days of feeling depressed, am now on the up again, and this could be because there is already a slight feeling of spring in the air (thanks to the snowdrops). Weather alternates between one day very cold, the next mild, but not having had snow this winter (at least in Morecambe) we seem to have got through the cold months without too much discomfort.   It could have been a lot worse, butl do miss seeing the lovely large flakes of snow that always used to fall during the winters when I was a child.  And the snowfall last several days and lie for at least 6 weeks!  Those were the days.

Hope to be back blogging within the next few days but cannot guarantee writing anything interesting. My life seems to have got stuck in a rut at the moment.  TTFN.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

One Thing After Another...

You'll never believe it, but have now got gout/arthritis in my left foot (previously it was in my right foot) and boy, does it hurt!   Am finding I can hobble around with the help of my 'wheelie-pusher', and since I realised that warmth makes it worse, have now decided to switch off the electric blanket in my bed, so although the pain eased somewhat during the night, I felt very cold.

Today have closed the bedroom window as a chill wind blows through (and over me), if I leave the bedroom door open this should help to keep the air fairly fresh until the weather warms up.  Tonight I'll be wearing a cardigan on top of my warm nightie - this worn on  top of a t-shirt.  It's pretty cold in Morecambe at the moment.

Have to say the 'foodie-flyers' that come through the door are probably the same as yours Eileen, mainly from the Pizza parlours/Doner Kebab places.  Tempting, but too expensive for what I would want (which would be pizza, chocolate brownies, and ice-cream!!!

If I was to republish my books as 'E books' Jane, I'd probably have to get permission from the BBC who first published them. At the moment am not thinking in that direction as they can be bought second-hand from Amazon (very cheaply). 

Certainly liked the 'help the aged tea party' idea Cathy,  would I have to contact the local Help the Aged to arrange this?  Our main living room is very big and would hold several small tables (each holding four people) and we also have our dining room that would hold another 8 round the dining table, the bathroom being close to both rooms and all on the ground floor, so fairly easily accessible.
Soon as I feel a bit stronger I will start making enquiries.

Well Kathryn, there will be 3 of you in your new property, so room for another horse for one of the men to ride - this could also be trained to draw a trap or trailer (to hold logs etc).  A cob is a very sturdy horse, but possibly too hefty to pull a trap.   Why not buy/make a traditional 'vardo' (gypsy caravan) that the horse could pull, it could be let out as a holiday 'van', as well as used personally.

Didn't mention keeping pigs as part of your smallholding.  Certainly worth keeping a couple so that you could have pork/bacon/ham to see you through the winter.    Think the idea is to barter one pig. Get the butcher to do the necessary (kill, cut into joints, smoke the bacon, make sausages, then he has the second pig (or most of it) in exchange for all the work.

Did anyone watch Monica Gallati (?) last night when she visited France?  One of the best cookery programmes I've seen in that series.  The French cooks (and housewives) really do take a lot of trouble using the best local ingredients and turning them into something that would be very expensive in this country and not even what we call 'posh nosh', just good peasant food that tastes absolutely wonderful.

Many years ago I was able to gather a lot of info about our ancestors Mary, especially on my mother's side..  My daughter continues to find more, so we now have quite a large family tree covering at least 10 generations (I'm in the middle).  It's more difficult the further back we go, but the Internet now keeps so many records (births, marriages, deaths etc) that it becomes easier.   Thing to remember is that if it wasn't for them (ancestors) we wouldn't be here now.  Same could be said of us and our descendants. 

The sun has now begun to shine.  I'm off into the kitchen to do the washing up (having spent the morning in bed due to my foot), and get it as tidy as possible, for who knows what tomorrow will bring.   These days it just seems as though it is one painful thing after another that makes me remember I'm still alive.  And believe me, at times like that/this I often wish I wasn't. 

Gout doesn't last more than 3 - 4 days, so by the end of the week I could be almost back to a pain-free hobble.  Something to look forward to.  

Depends on how I feel as to whether I'll be blogging over the next few days.  Just watch this space to find out.  TTFN.



 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What's Next?

Sorry for the delay in blogging.  Just when I began feeling almost normal, fell back into deep depression again. But it doesn't last, so hope today I will clamber out of the pit I keep dropping into.

After watching an episode of 'To the Manor Born', thought that it might be a splendid idea for Kathryn to follow Audrey Forbes-Hamilton and start driving a pony and trap to the various localities, especially the village shops.  Would save a lot on petrol and if B & B was an occasional money-raiser, a rid in one of those would be a real bonus to the guests.

Can't say that I found the few B & B visitors we had turned out to be hard work Jane.  Perhaps would be if a regular business, but to me it was no different to having visitors.  There is a interesting series on TV re B & B's, three (or four) residences compete against each other, trying out each other's homes.  Think called 'Three in a Bed' (or 'Four in a Bed'). 

Usually, if the breakfast is excellent, everything else (dust, lumpy beds....) is forgiven.  Myself tried to serve a good breakfast.  On the long, large sideboard in our dining room (in Leeds) there was a choice of cereals, incl. home-made muesli.  A variety of yogurts, fresh grapefruit, a bowl of dried prunes and apricots soaked in Earl Grey Tea and Brandy (a great favourite).  Also jugs of fresh orange juice (with bits in - bought from our milkman), apple juice, and milk for the cereals.

Main meal could be chosen from a menu, anything from porridge, kippers, and a full English (quality sausages, bacon, black pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, fried eggs, fried bread etc) or eggs as chosen (boiled, scrambled on toast, poached etc). 
Lots of extra toast (brown, white' granary) with home-made preserves (jam, lemon curd, marmalades, also honey, served with butter - or a low fat spread if that is what was desired).  Pots of tea and/or coffee.  Probably other things but have now forgotten. 

Believe in Australia that Vegemite is a favourite spread, supposed to be similar to our Marmite Pam. Both are on sale here, but so far I've not tried the Vegemite. If any reader has, which do they prefer? Or perhaps neither.  Marmite is an acquired taste and I bet there are more people who don't like it than do. 

Having a read about a village (Caton) a few miles away from Lancaster, there was a mention of it needing people to move in who could be self-employed, also that 'rural living' was not very good when it came to the facilities (probably gas and electricity).  Sounds as though a small-holding there would be cheap to buy.

Quite a lot of people resort to using gas cylinders to heat their houses and also use for cooking, but my friend Gill (who phones me each Sunday), used to live in an old Mill House that had few facilities and they bought a second-hand French stove'range (she said it was called a 'Phoebe' or this might be spelled 'Febe'), on which she cooked everything (it made the most wonderful bread).  Every fuel you could think of it would burn, she even burned their old Wellingtons in it!!!  Gill's (then) husband used to go around the farms and offer to remove fallen trees/branches then take them home in a trailer at the back of his car and cut them up to use as fuel in the 'Febe' or burn in the fireplaces in other rooms.

Our daughter and husband - who live in Ireland (Co.Mayo) - have installed a second hand and old Irish range, this also used for cooking, and again burns almost anything, one of the main fuels being peat (a lot of peat bogs around where they live), and am sure they get a lot of drift-wood from the coast when they go for walks.  It's amazing how much stuff can be collected in the countryside that makes for 'free fuel'. 

When we had an open fire in our home in Leeds, it was often kept burning by throwing on meat bones (before and after cooking), dried citrus peel, pine cones, the wax ends of tea-lights, all would burn well for quite a long time.  Occasionally would make paper 'bricks' from old newspapers, soaked in water, then left to dry, and these too would take ages to burn through.   Those were the days.

At the moment I suppose life is too easy for me, all I need to do is go to bed at night, get up, do a few chores, watch TV, then go to bed again.  Boring, boring.  What I need is a real challenge, and am finding it very difficult to find one.   Anyone got any ideas? 

That's it for today, hope to be blogging again within the next few days (if I can raise myself out of my 'fed up-ness') .  I've yet to see any spring flowers in bloom Eileen, if the weather gets warmer may take a wander round the garden. 

Apparently America is again covered with snow (at least in some of the states), so we could be getting some colder weather.  Day temperatures here are around 9C, which sound relatively high compared to the US, although it drops below freezing at night (not necessarily in Morecambe).  My preference is to stay indoors until the outside warms up.  TTFN.







Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wednesday Catchup

Days seem to go by so fast, yet not a lot gets done. Maybe one day I'll get back to normal, but am in no hurry (lazy, that's me).

Thanks for sending details of the 'budget menu' Jane.  Working on £5 per head (for approx. 50 people), that allows £250 to make the meal, and it would be wrong for me to suppose ALL this money went on paying for the ingredients, as probably the speakers were given some payment towards their expenses, or maybe a donation given to charity (as usually happens).

The cost of this  meal can vary immensely depending on whether foods that could be made were instead bought (bread rolls, yogurt...) and also whether best quality (jacket potatoes always seem far more expensive bought singly, or in packs of four, and a great deal cheaper when bought in larger packs). supermarket 'best mince' usually more expensive than from a butcher..... some canned (ready-cooked) red beans cheaper than if soaking/cooking from dried -  so each one of us could end up spending more - or less. 
Given the total menu, a good meal was had by all for a low price.  Could it have been lower?  Possibly if that is the aim, but to reduce prices and keep reducing them we need quite a bit of experience and use a fair amount of hard work. 

There were a couple of comments re how food can be made to look more if it has been shredded or whipped, and this is true.  When you think about it, a chunky vegetable soup is almost made that way (especially if shredded chicken - from a carcase - is included).  Minced meat could be classed as 'shredded/chopped', as are also onions, so with the addition of cans of chopped tomatoes and cooked red beans is another dish that fits into the 'shreddeds'.

Sometimes I serve a salad with a chilli, and keeping with the same theme I would make a coleslaw using white cabbage, carrot, and onion  - all shredded or grated - and mixed together in a salad dressing..  Possibly accompanying this with potato salad (chopped cooked potatoes with onions in a mayo dressing).

In a way 'the shreddeds', eaten with a fork, are a bit like a Chinese stir-fry eaten with chopsticks.  Can take quite a time to eat it all up, and this makes our stomach (feels full after eating for 20 minutes) believe it's eaten more than it has.  Or we could do as some people on a diet do - chew every mouthful 35 times before swallowing. 

If the Americans are now beginning to celebrate Pancake Day Pam, do they serve the European type pancakes (large and very thin) or still keep to those normally made in the US - small and thick, very similar to what we call 'drop scones' or 'Scotch Pancakes'?

Do hope your father manages to sell his house soon Kathryn, and no doubt you could start looking for your own new property, just to see what is of offer and for what price.  A lot of property these days have to wait for a 'chain' of properties to be sold before the money is freed to by a chosen one. But you can always make an offer.  Your dad has no chain so this should speed things up a bit.

As to what to grow/rear (what would sell well?).  Keep free-range hens, a variety so you get different coloured egg-shells (I like the blue ones).  If you have a field/orchard, then keep a couple or so sheep to keep the grass down (then spin their fleeces every year and have one butchered for the freezer when it is coming up to years old (a hogget).  You could also keep a few bee hives to give a supply of local honey (would sell well).

If you really fancy living in a hilly area (climate may be a bit cold for growing some veg), you might be able to spare a bed-room to take in B & B, maybe also an evening meal (or packed lunch) for visitors that are touring the area (by car, cycle, or walking). You could even include some craft tuition or pony trekking (buy another pony?).  With anything like the above, if you have alternative work, then you take in visitors only when you have free time.   Build your reputation on comfy beds (pref with an en-suite or wet-room), or barn accommodation for walkers, and plenty of good, home-cooked, home-made/grown, tasty food.  It's the last meal eaten (usually breakfast) that B & B visitors remember and will bring them back again, also pass details onto their friends.

We used to have the occasional B & B (only a handful a few times a year) when we lived in Leeds. So it wasn't a bit stressful, and they normally came when there was the annual Flower (etc) Show on our local park (about half a mile from where we lived), so as there are many annual shows in Yorks/Lancs, you could get several visitors if that is what you want.

Myself used to find that raising money in different ways (baking, preserve making, crafts, and B & B, plus demonstrations to local groups...) brought in necessary pennies, but a lot more interesting for me than doing the same thing all the time.  Just keeping the wolf from the door was enough for me.  Wasn't planning on being an entrepreneur.

Who knows, you new way of life would make a wonderful TV series when filmed from the start. Worth making a few enquiries to see if one (cable?) company is interested.

That's is for today, be back later this week....TTFN. 


;

   

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday Mutterings....

Settled myself down yesterday evening to watch the two new series, and have to say I didn't enjoy either.  Should have watched Mr. Selfridge after all.

The first (written by J.K.Rowling) about village life was not at all like 'Midsomer Murders' as I expected.  Far too 'present-day' to appeal to me.
The second was again more blood-thirsty than I expected, having believe Indian Summers were just 'the good life' where the climate was cooler. 

I do remember my bridge friend (mentioned yesterday who lived in Simla during the hotter days, said this was in the foothills of the Himalayas, and she always pronounced this mountain range differently to most people.  We/I would say 'Him-a-layers' but she called it 'the Him-ar-lee-ers' and I expect this was right - after all, she would know.

Not much to chat about today, best I reply to comments, several of these being about those frozen strawberries, and I have to say the ones we did see on TV looked exactly like the fresh berries that were in a matching punnet at their side.  Perhaps the growers have discovered a new way to freeze strawberries so they don't collapse when thawed, they certainly seemed to keep their shape.
Margie (Canada) sounds as those she has been able to buy this new-improved frozen strawberry, so if anyone hears about them being sold in the UK please let us know.

Lucy Worsley never seems off our screens at the moment Margie, especially now it is the 500th anniversary of Hampton Court where she is the senior curator (and what a wonderful job for such a young lady).  She has a great knowledge of history, especially domestic history (plus clothes and dances of the times she talks about), so her programmes are always worth watching.

I've read several books (and seen some series) by the late Clarissa Dickson Wright who was also full of knowledge of the food/meals etc in times past.  Make very enjoyable reading.

I'd be interested to hear what was served at that dinner party (Jack Monroe's suggestions) Jane.  In the past I've made many budget meals but can't remember them exactly.   There was one I cooked (live on TV) for a local pensioners 'luncheon club' (where they could buy a meal usually costing under £1.   I managed to make a 3 course meal for 50p a portion.

If I remember we began with soup (think it was lentil-based), the main meal was a jacket potato served with a slice of meat loaf plus vegetables (can't remember what these were - maybe carrots and peas?  The pudding was steamed pudding with custard.  Do remember everyone enjoyed the meal, the portions were quite substantial and tasty.

To work out a budget meal from scratch I'd need a target to beat, so if you can let me know the portion cost of J/M's meal, then I'd see if I could cut a few pennies off that.  Probably not as Jack is brilliant at keeping costs low. 

The way I tend to work to a budget is first know how much (or little) I have to spend, and for how many people.  Starters and desserts would be the cheaper meals, the main course usually the most expensive - but not always.  Also food served should be to everyone's taste, many people do not like spicy food, but a 'help-yourself' buffet or choice of dishes could end up suiting everyone. 

There are so many really inexpensive dishes that you could say I'd be spoiled for choice, the one thing about cooking for a budget DINNER party is that the more time we can spend on the preparation and the decoration etc, the more expensive food can look even though it may cost only pennies.  And - if we have time to plan ahead - we can grow a few 'free' pea-shoots to decorate the plates (sowing 4 seeds from a packet of supermarket dried peas will grow loads of shoots).  The more time we have to plan, the better the food will both look and taste, and be cheapest of all.

Splendid news Kathryn, I bet you are so excited.  Thing is where do you wish your new home to be?  Obviously the right size with plenty of land, and the price of this can vary enormously depending on the area.
Have to say that where we live (Morecambe) the property always seems dirt-cheap (compared to Yorkshire/Leeds where we used to live).  Of course there are some that are more expensive, but a lot that are not, and considering the warmer-than-average climate in this area, a lot of produce could be grown.

When our family was younger we used to spend many of our summer holiday in Cornwall - either in Falmouth (where my auntie lived) or near Helston (where a friend lived).  The climate there, and here in Morecambe - were very similar.  Warm, sometimes wet, hardly any frost and virtually no snow.

Ideally property that needs some attention is worth considering - for if it does need 'doing up' (with your own fair hands), this then makes it easier to get the price dropped.   The flat above ours has been for sale for 3 years and it is a really lovely one (would go for twice the price anywhere else), but no-one wants it as it doesn't have a garden.  We own the garden.
My neighbour next door, also upstairs flat and wanting to leave, is having the same problem.  No one interested because this also has no garden.  But then people don't want large gardens either, so property that has uncultivated land could also be worth considering.

Have you thought of contacting the BBC to see if you are suitable to take part in 'Escape to the Country'?  They could find exactly the right property for you, at a price you can afford.

That's it for today, hope to be  back tomorrow (or the day after).  It's good to be getting my blog written more often, even better to feel almost back to normal again (although I still get some low days).

We may be getting more cold weather, or if lucky it may give us a miss.  Just have to wait and see. Hope you all have a good day.  TTFN.