Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Chicken and vegetable cobbler

For tea last night, we had the first chicken and vegetable cobbler as mentioned on a previous post.


The sauce was a little thin so was thickened more, but it tasted lovely. As I had divided the base amount into two metal dishes (each around 9” long at the top) I made 1 1/2 times the cobbler recipes. 
 
6 circles of scone mix were use to top one of the dishes.



The left over amount was laid on top of baking parchment so they would soak up the base mix whilst in the freezer.

What would I change? Well, we found the cobbler topping too much. As the base is quite nice I might leave it as it was (before I thickened it more) and use one half to make a lasagne. The second bit I would top with mashed potatoes or mashed potatoes and vegetables.
 
Anyway, here it is served up, certainly filled us up! I do apologise for the strange look of my posts. There aren't large gaps everywhere when I'm writing.



 

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Making and baking

Our chicken and vegetable soup was duly made and the first batch enjoyed.


I had missed the birthday of the DB of a friend of mine (70) and decided to make up some bags of cookie mix to give him one (with an apology).


Having never made this before, had to try it out. They were very good.





Forgot to take a photograph of them on the cooling try so here they are in the tin!

These were made from one bag of the mixture and I managed to get 30 cookies. The recipe for these can be found here

I didn't have enough chocolate chips but they still came out okay. At the moment I'm making our weekly two loaves of bread. After lunch, will attempt to make the chicken and vegetable cobbler previously mentioned.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Take one chicken...

Using the chicken bought from our local butchers the other day, I decided to see how many meals I could get from it. I put the chicken on the base of my grill pan, added 1” of water, covered the whole thing with foil and baked it in a 180 Celsius oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes. After testing it was done, the now falling apart chicken was removed, wrapped in foil and covered with a towel to keep warm. All the chicken water went into a separate pan towards some soup.

DB took all the meat from the chicken and the carcass went into the chicken water (along with the smaller of the roasted beef bones). The skin was kept for use later! The stock pan was added to with the water from the partially boiled potatoes (later to be roasted) and the water from the vegetables.
Remember the beef fat I managed to save from roasting the bones the other day? Well, it was enough to do these roast potatoes.

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When the roast potatoes still had 15 minutes to go, the chicken skin was carefully laid onto silicon paper on a tray and dry roasted. Here it is draining, amazing amount of fat came out of it. It needed slightly less time than this but this was our first time cooking it.
 
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We plated up 4 roast chicken dinners, one each for tonight - shown here, another for Monday. Sunday tea would be using up last 4 faggots from a previous batch.





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The idea for another meal (plus roasting the chicken skins) came from here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jan/19/dinner-recipes-budget.


When I have made two of these (another two meals each) I'll post them here. Finally, I am planning today to make a meat and vegetable soup, enough for us two for 3 servings. With the smidgen of meat left over, I will use it in a risotto.


So 2 roast meals, 2 chicken and vegetable cobblers, 3 portions of soup each and a risotto = 6 8 meals. Not bad really is it. To think an awful lot of people eat just the breast and throw the rest away!




Sunday, 27 January 2013

Faggots...

I mentioned yesterday that I was going to make some faggots and slightly alter a recipe I had obtained from Frugal Queen's blogwhen it was online. Here is my version.
Switch the oven on to 200 Celsius.

Mince or pulse in a food processor, the following ingredients:

600g pork shoulder, 400g liver (I used ox this time), 100g smoked bacon, 2 large onions, 2 sticks of celery and 4 slices bread.

Tip all of this into a large mixing bowl along with a 3" strand of garlic puree or two minced cloves, 12 medium fresh sage leaves or 2 good teaspoons of dried sage, 1/4 tsp black pepper and 1/4 tsp celery salt or normal salt. Although I haven't tried it I think you could also add some smoked paprika or chorizo sausage but it tastes great as it is.



Anyway, if you are not sure whether the seasoning is correct, take a small spoonful and fry it to taste and adjust if necessary. Then mix everything together well, I use my hands as it really is the best way.



I now use a 2+1/4" ice cream scoop to pick up the correct amount of meat (for us) and place them onto a lightly oiled (deep tray if possible). You can just make balls to suit your requirements but we found Frugal Queen's tennis ball size too large for us.

The faggots are then baked in the oven for 30 minutes. Whilst in there, make some gravy. Frugal Queen's recipe called for 1 litre but we found we needed more. 

Any way, I made up 1 1/2 litres of stock using 3 stock cubes, 2 tablespoons soya sauce, a good 1/2 pint of milk, water and a little gravy browning. Thicken (but not to thick) with cornflour and water. Once this was made, I fried 2 large diced onions, 1 stalk of peeled and chopped celery until they were soft. Then I added 1 large diced tomato, the stock and a good dollop of tomato puree. 

Once it had heated, thickened and been taste tested, it was ready. 

After 30 minutes the faggots will be partially cooked, so carefully remove the trays and gently pour on the gravy. 



Return the trays to the oven for another 15 minutes or until the tops of the faggots are browned and the gravy thickened a little more. 



Leave to go cold before bagging. We managed to get 22 balls so in each bag we put 4 faggots plus gravy (still not enough so I reckon 2 litres might be better) and had 2 balls and a little gravy for a one person bag.

Of all her recipes, this adapted one is admittedly, the least frugal but they taste wonderful. Price wise, £2 per bag (for two people). Although that is no cheaper than buying them, you know what is in them and as I said, a lovely taste.








 
  

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Remember them bones...

Welcome to my two new followers Brenda Cupryna and Cheap Chick.

The granola having been made, the oven was duly turned up to roast the 3 beef marrowbones. I gave them 45 minutes and once cooked they looked like this:


I carefully removed some liquid dripping from the base of the pan and put it into a little ramekin. I reckon there should be enough to roast a tray of potatoes for using and freezing.


The kitchen smelt of a lovely roast beef dinner!  Today I am going to be making some faggots. I got the recipe from the blog of Frugal Queen who has 3 recipes, the one I shall make today (ever so slightly less liver) was the one I used on the 8th September 2012. If you want to find that recipe, use the search box at the top left of my blog and type in faggots. 

However, I intend to slightly alter this recipe to suit our tastes so will do a post on faggots tomorrow. Ours are currently cooling down in the kitchen ready to be packed into bags for freezing. I got 5 bags (each bag enough for 2 people) plus a half bag.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Keep your butcher going

Went down to the butcher's today to get some meat. We probably only go now, around once every two months. Total spend came to £17.63 and this is what we got:

One 2kg chicken, 100g bacon, 500g oxtail liver, 600g diced pork shoulder (these last 3 ingredients are towards making some faggots), 500g stewing steak. Just shows you how much meat has gone up but we like to use our butcher as they are great fun to visit and will help you out if you want to make something but are not sure of what you need regarding cut of meat. Also, with eating such little meat, we want good quality well reared meat that comes from somewhere reasonably local. For that I am happy to pay the extra, plus it keeps the butchers going in this economic climate.

Finally they come in very handy for these:


One FREE large beef marrow shin bone, weighing 2.7kg and measuring some 46cm long. I had to get him to saw it up as we don't have a pan big enough for it.

I am currently making some granola and once that is finished am planning to turn up the oven temperature and roast this big boy until golden brown. Then once cooled, the 2 big bits will be frozen for making soup later in the month and the smaller one will form the basis of some stock for soup later today.

This is our meat for the month. I still have enough odds and sods from last month plus fish and this new meat will make faggots, pies, stews etc for this month. Also I want to make as many extra meals as I can in an endeavour to cut the grocery bill for March.

I'm trying a new challenge of my own making, of cooking enough extra meals over two months to give us one free month of meals. This is for no reason as such but being careful what we spend means I can continue to pay for remedial massages and chiropractic treatment and we can eat a meal after our walks without any worry.

Just because we live on DB's pension, doesn't mean we can't have treats. Planning and problem solving are part and parcel of our lives. We choose to stay debt free but still intend to live life and enjoy ourselves as much as possible, by careful planning.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

My shopping list

Thought I'd show you our monthly shopping list document that we use. It changes slightly depending on what we need and not all items are selected but you get the idea.

We top up once a week if needed with fresh fruit and vegetables or anything that we've either forgotten or has run out before we thought it would. We buy most of our meat (not very much at all) from the butcher's so hardly any is listed here.

Here is what we have ordered for this month. As all meals are cooked from scratch, once meat is added, plus frozen items, we only need a few extra's during each or most weeks until next pay day. Doesn't seem a lot does it but the items below are around the £93 mark!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Gearing up for next month

Welcome to my new followers, Catherine, Jean by the stream and May Ward.

A slightly colder night last night at -4.5 Celsius, could certainly feel and see the difference inside with a little more condensation on some windows.

Well, it is almost time to do the monthly shop. I have managed to make most of our meals from what we had in the freezer but the weekly top up of fresh food has meant our total extra spend for this month was around £50 rather than the £20 I had hoped for.

On the positive side though, I have managed to keep making extra meals for the freezer so come March, we reckon we should be able to do a similar thing if I continue to make meals to freeze during February.

It really doesn't take much to make these extra meals, just a slight change in portion size. For example, a few years ago, we may have had goulash with lots of noodles and the amount I made would only have done two meals. This time, I served it with potatoes and vegetables so was able to stretch it to three meals etc.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Winters of old...

Before I start, thought I'd let you know how my beef goulash turned out. We had enough for us both for tea plus I was able to freeze another two double portions. DB had peas with his!

On Saturday evening, we settled down to view Winterwatch – Winter of 62-63 (or a title similar to this!)

It had Chris Packham doing the introduction and final part with a 45 minute documentary included.

As a child, I remember this winter but not how it was portrayed in this. I had no idea of how desperate things were around different parts of the countryside/towns/cities. It was amazing to see how much snow fell in such a short time. This combined with a slight thaw and even more snow must have made life very uncomfortable.

What I remember was loads of us children, cutting igloo style blocks of snow to make walls to hide behind whilst have prolonged snowball fights. Our feet were wet and cold and our hands red raw but we seemed to do this for hours. We had no special clothing to wear. Hand knitted mittens soon got wet and were dispensed with, likewise bobbly hats and scarves.

Not many of us had wellingtons and in such cold weather, other than keeping your feet dry, they didn't help with keeping the cold out. We got told off for getting our things wet and had to fill our shoes with newspaper to help them keep their shape as they dried in front of the fire. The steam rose off them and the clothes and we were wishing them dry so we could get back outside and start all over again.

Those were my only memories of that winter. Other winters though, are well remembered. We had no carpets in the bedroom to stand on first thing in the morning. You had to use your fingernails to scrape the ice off the inside of the window panes. 

You became very adept at getting dressed whilst still in bed. Going to bed was a little different, you undressed as quickly as possible then put on your pyjama's, leapt into an ice cold bed where you did one of two things. Either you curled into a tight ball, slowly unfurling as each bit of the bed became warm, or you did the bed time jiggle, quickly moving your limbs backwards and forwards to warm as much as the bed as possible.

No one knew about quilts instead we had sheets and blankets, a counterpane and eiderdown.

We had porridge for breakfast then walked to school (usually up to 2-3 miles away). I presume this didn't happen in that winter but I don't remember it not happening. The toilets at school were usually frozen so couldn't be flushed. The janitor could be seen taking kettles of boiling water to try and unfreeze the pipes. We played out in the snow every break, even if it was snowing hard, getting wet yet again. Huge slides would be created from one corner to another of the playground. No one ever put salt on them. It was considered character forming and once you learnt to slide, it was great fun.

The bell would be rung and in we would go. If you were lucky, the heating was working, if not, you envied those sitting close to the temporary heaters. Condensation quickly formed on the windows from all us wet bodies, slowing freezing and forming intricate patterns. Frozen bottles of milk had been brought indoors for early morning but it was often afternoon before they had thawed. Each had a 1 inch or so, risen icicle where it had come above the rim as it froze. The silver foil tops sitting astride at a topsy turvy angle.

Eventually it was home time and off we trudged. It was barely still light before we got home. Something nice and hot was served for tea, and if you were lucky, it wasn't bath night. Whilst we had got past the stage of tin baths in front of the fire (although some of my school mates still used these), the bathrooms were freezing places with barely warm water. After supper (a glass of milk and a biscuit if you were lucky), off you traipsed to bed to begin the cycle once more.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Trials...

I needed to make some more soup so in order to create a basic stock (had no bones), took a leaf out of Rhonda's book “Down to Earth”, and cooked up some scrubbed vegetable peelings. These were from 3 leeks, 4 carrots and 4 potatoes.


I simmered them for around 1/2 an hour and strained the liquid. As I was in the middle of making a goulash, I stole a small handful of finely chopped beef, plus pearl barley and the dried rind end of a parmesan portion and simmered it for an hour.

Extra vegetables and potatoes were added, 3 stock cubes, some chick peas and tinned tomatoes (can of each) and a large dollop of tomato puree. These simmered gently for 1/2 an hour, were left overnight and served for lunch today with the addition of grated cheese and a few drops of jalapeƱo sauce..


The spinach and feta roulade was lovely except for one little problem. I was wiping down the cooker top whilst it was in the oven. With 20 minutes to go, the switch got moved from 220 to 250 Celsius. Luckily, I smelt it catching other wise it would have been totally ruined as by the time I got to it, there were still 10 minutes to go! Forgot to photograph it.

Once removed, it was served and had the completely burnt bottom taken away (plus both ends). Didn't leave us with much so we ate it all! Anyway it was very nice and DB says he would like to try it again. Next time, providing I don't burn it, we should be able to get 2 meals from it. I used a block of frozen puff pastry (from a 2 block pack), then used only half of it. The other half was made into a mincemeat log and frozen for future use.

For pudding, we had a small scoop of blackcurrant and apple crumble (cold) and evaporated milk.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Cooking and spending!

Welcome to my new follower Kittykittyweaselfish!

As the house was a little on the cool side, thought I'd spend the morning in the kitchen, cooking to keep warm. I prepared another batch of soup which I'll discuss tomorrow. The next thing was a beef goulash, started on the top of the cooker before going in the oven on a low heat for 3-4 hours (yes, know I should have used the slow cooker but there wasn't enough to go in it as it is an old fashioned quite large one).

Anyhow, once the goulash was under way, 


I then prepared a blackcurrant (from the garden) and eating apple crumble to put in the oven once the goulash came out.


Both are now going cold, as is the soup, imparting their flavours before being warmed again tomorrow.

For tea, I am going to make the Feta and Spinach Pie as mentioned on Frugal Queen's blog a couple of days ago. The puff pastry had to go in the airing cupboard for a couple of hours to thaw as it hadn't remotely thawed after 4 hours sitting in the kitchen! Strange.

DB has just come back from the dentist after having a filling - more expense! His tooth broke in half eating something, then over the next couple of days, his filling dropped out so we weren't sure sure if there will be anything left for the dentist to fill. Ah well. Tea will be late tonight as we have to wait for him to thaw out after his injection.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Working to stay warm

Welcome to my new follower Nigel Boldero.

Positively warm at only -2 Celsius last night – not!

Just had a slippery walk to the local shop to get some onions and milk, both of which we forgot yesterday. Not going out again now.

The sky was a little blue this morning but has now gone to that particular grey/white which indicates snow. We are not due to get so much as other parts this time. Mind you, more on top of the 5 inches still around in some parts of the village, and on top of ice, will not be very pleasant at all.

It is amazing isn't it, that as a child or young adult, snow is such fun. Yet the older you get, you become more aware of what particular horror it might inflict on you should you fall.

Just been sorting some cupboards around. First aid stuff was taking up room in a wardrobe, the shelf of which was needed for other things. It is now occupying 2 of the 3 draws in the spare room. DS. and FDiL. are primarily the ones who visit and they don't use them.

Changing that around, freed up 2 of the 3 first aid baskets. They are now under the sink helping tidy up that particular spot. Top left baskets contains old cleaning stuff (trying to use it up) plus the beginning of home made cleaning items to replace them. Right basket houses my frugal laundry liquid items, Borax, Washing Soda, grater and spoon for soap etc.

Bottom left is my indoor compost bin which usually gets emptied into the big outdoor one around 3 times a week. We don't use a lid as it condensates too much. 

The old marmalade tin holds our drained tea leaves which we are saving for our acid loving plants such as the blueberries. We are a little alkaline for those so this should help. I know you can also do the same with coffee grounds but we don't drink much of that style coffee. 

To the right are 2 newly made bottles of frugal laundry liquid, plus the clear vinegar that is used as a conditioner. The blue lidded item behind the vinegar is a little oxy-clean that occasionally gets used if my whites get too dingy. Don't like using it and am not that bothered about slightly grey items but sometimes is is useful and as yet, haven't found anything to replace it with.


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Cor blimey guv, it ain't half cold...

Welcome to my two new followers Pamdungar2010 and Alison.

Not a lot to say at the moment. Didn't get around to making the soup yesterday as a friend called round for a cup of tea. We had toasted cheese sandwiches instead.

Well, it certainly was cold here last night. I woke up somewhere around 6am and was cold despite a winter and summer quilt and a blanket. My face was like ice so I curled up in a ball under the quilt. That is the problem when you can't sleep and end up in a bed by yourself, no one to snuggle up to!

It got down to -8.6 celsius last night. Glad we double-checked all the outside pipes were turned off and that we insulated the last bit of pipe from the oil tank. Although the central heating is only set at 14 it is still keeping the house warm enough for us.

May or may not go on our walk today, depends on what the others want to do. B. has asthma so may find it too cold, E. is wary of slipping and breaking her leg again, T. can't come due to her back problems etc.

Ah well, such is life. Have a good if cold day folks. The weather forecasters still can't seem to decide about the weekend, who will get the heavy snow etc. If it might be you, make sure you have enough in and check up on your neighbours!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Snow and grand-dogs...

Didn't think we were going to get that much snow as by 4 pm there were only small flurries. Obviously after we closed the curtains it came at quite a pace. DB has just been out to measure the depth and it is 5 inches! The gritters don't do most of the roads in our village so we tend not to venture out unless we have too.

We are expecting light snow showers on and off all day with the possibility of up to another 2 inches. Then like most of the country, very, very cold temperatures overnight. If you haven't yet turned off the water to your outside taps (or protected them), do so now.


DS. sent us this fantastic picture of little Miss M (with sister S. in the background) out on their walk yesterday. This is the first time M. has seen snow, looks like she enjoyed it. Hope you don't mind me using it DS, it made us both laugh.


I have just started a batch of bread to last us the week, then I will make some more soup, probably the same as last time as I still have some bacon to use up. 

Monday, 14 January 2013

Blood letting and a recipe (not for blood though!)

Welcome to my new followers Elaine Rickett, May and Hope. Glad to have you reading.

We awoke this morning to around 1 inch of snow. This was the picture through the front window at 08:00. Not much yet.

It stopped shortly after this was taken and is only just starting again now - 13:40. 

We donated blood today so was glad it wasn't very heavy first thing. All went well until I sat down to have my drink when my artery decided to give some more! They caught it in time before too much went on the floor. After another few minutes of compressing, it behaved itself and stopped bleeding. Helped myself to two orange Club biscuits afterwards!

I mentioned yesterday that I was cooking Lemon Chicken Curry for tea – herewith recipe and pictures. Set the oven to 180 Celsius.

Cube 3 chicken breasts or 6 chicken thighs and put them into a bag with 1 1/2 oz Plain flour, 2 teaspoons of curry powder, salt and pepper. Shake well to coat them.

Fry them off in batches, in 2oz butter or margarine and 1 – 2 tablespoons oil. Do this in a pan suitable to go into the oven. Set to one side.

Now fry 3 diced onions in the same fat (I also added 1 diced pepper as I wanted to stretch it to two meals). When the onions are softened, add the zest of one lemon and the rest of the flour. Cook for a minute or two then gradually stir in 3/4 pint chicken or vegetable stock.

The sauce should now thicken slightly. Remove the pith from the lemon and finely slice it removing any pips. Add the slices to the pan and stir in. 

Put the lid on and put it in the oven to cook for 1 hour. After this time add 4 oz frozen or sliced fresh mushrooms. Put the lid back on and cook for a further 30 minutes in the oven.

Serve with boiled rice or potatoes if you wish.We had a meal each then froze the remaining curry and rice for another day.


Sunday, 13 January 2013

An everyday kind of day today

Drove over to the beach this morning and picked up 2 carrier bags of dry seaweed from the high tide mark. Added them to the new compost heap along with a couple of spadefuls of already rotting compost.

It was 2 C higher there than at home, such is the variation in our local weather. Didn't stay long though as it was still cold. Came home, had a lovely cup of tea and the final bowlful of leek and pearl barley soup.

Mundane day today, hair washing, laundry, knitting, lighting the wood burner, cleaning the bathroom etc. Since taking early retirement, we no longer have set days to do stuff and can do things as and when we wish. The week days and weekends are no different to each other now. 

Mind you, every morning DB makes a longish list and I a slightly shorter one, just so we know what needs doing. If anything doesn't get done, it is simply added to the list for the following day.

Having knitted everyone a set of hand warmers for Christmas, I am now doing a pair for myself. Will finish one mitten today and start the other tomorrow. 

Should be giving blood tomorrow depending on what the weather does overnight. Think we should be okay regarding snow though, until the middle of the day and for a change, we have a late morning rather than an afternoon slot.

My £20 food spend for the month is well past its target. I think it will be more like £50 but still good for an entire month. We will cook curried chicken with lemon for tea and I'll post it here if I remember.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Pottering...

Welcome to my new follower Hawaii Planner.

We walked first thing to the Post Office to get the Radio Times, local paper and some bacon. Realising we had forgotten the first thing, DB walked there again after lunch.

The second planting of some leeks late summer early autumn meant they didn't have long enough to put on much girth so I harvested around 9 of them and made some potato, bacon and pearl barley soup. We had a steaming bowl of this with home made pumpkin and sunflower seed bread.

Whilst harvesting the leeks, I unearthed a container of carrots I had also forgotten about.

DB made up the wood burner and brought in loads of logs for the weekend. He also added a small pad of insulation to the pipe that comes from the oil storage tank to protect it from severe frost. The rest is underground so is okay.

The mini compost bin under the sink was emptied into the outside bin. We have recently started lining said under the sink bin with shredded paper. It is helping to stop the outside compost bin from becoming too wet. 

Washing was put on and in a quiet moment, some frugal laundry liquid was made. I used up some little fruit soaps plus a little extra taken from an end of bar. 

This was made up into two 4 litre cartons of luscious, citrus smelling liquid which will last quite a long time.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Take 4 chipolata's...

Using my knowledge from when we were on our war time way of eating, I managed to make two meals for us from 4 chipolata's.

I made up some yorkshire pudding batter . The two of the chipolata's, were cut into third's and placed in a little oil in six deep muffin tins. They were roasted in the oven (at 200C) for 10 minutes then had the batter poured over them.

Normally my yorkshire puddings rise very well but on this occasion they didn't but were still enjoyable. It may not seem like much and normally there would be more vegetables with them, but we had just come back from a friends house after having tea and cake! We had 3 each with peas and onion gravy, finishing off with a lemon cake later in the evening.


The other 2 chipolata's were skinned, rolled into 3 balls and gently fried with onions and peppers. The final few ladles of soup were added (from the previous batch), plus some grated cheese. It was served with pasta.


Bet you didn't think 4 chipolata's would feed two people for two meals!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Using the oven wisely...

I needed to bake some bread as we had nearly run out. Got myself together to have a good bake/cook whilst the oven was on.

First of all were these two loaves of pumpkin and sunflower seed bread.


These were followed by half a batch of home made granola – sorry no photograph.

Then I made some cakes. I had a lemon that had gone mouldy at one end. The zest was removed, then the mouldy end was cut off and the rest squeezed to give about 2 tablespoons juice.

My yoghurt hadn't quite worked properly so before straining it, I removed 2 tablespoons and added it, plus the above, to a sandwich cake mix weighed using 3 eggs. Here was the result.


Some are for us, and some to take up to DS. & FDiL. when we see them.Oh, they also had the last few chocolate drops from an old packet sprinkled in before baking. They tasted very lemony and were very soft due to the yoghurt.

Another meal was made for tea but that is for tomorrow's post.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Giving ...


Welcome to my two new followers, Oh Pioneer and Beyond Astral Skies. Glad to have you aboard the Norfolk express!

I don't know about you but if I get pestered by charities I tend to run in the opposite direction. We always give to the poppy appeal and DB supports the Vulcan to the Sky project.

I normally don't make New Year resolutions but this year decided to make one. Every month, I will give to a charity of my choice, a one off donation. It will be by cheque and although they will know my name, they will not get my address.

Programmes that show some charities at work interest me greatly. Last year, I watched a programme on how some of our surgeons (plus those of other countries) donate their time freely to perform sight saving operations on people around the world. In honour of their dedication, this is my first chosen charity. A link to it can be found here, should you be interested.

I have already decided on the 12 I shall give to. They are close to my heart, and may or may not have been/are, relevant to loved ones. (this is a hint to not inundate me with your charities :0).

Judicious saving will enable me to do this. It is something I have thought about doing for years but never gotten around to. This is the year!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Getting back into the swing of things...

It was weigh day today and we are pleased to report DB has lost 3 lbs and myself 1lb from our Christmas extras, simply by getting back into our normal eating routine!

Yesterday, I found a whole chicken breast quarter in the freezer, suffering from slight freezer burn. It was roasted and had most of the meat picked off. Whilst it was roasting it was accompanied by a large pan of potatoes, then followed by 2 baked apples stuffed with home made mincemeat.

We had the chicken, plus some of the potatoes, stuffing, broad beans, runner beans (from the garden in our short summer!), peas and gravy. Half of the apples were eaten with custard.

The remains of the chicken breast


were striped from the bones and with the outer part of an onion, were boiled for 10 minutes to give me a base stock. They were then discarded.

I added the following diced vegetables: a whole thick slice of swede, 4 medium carrots, the onion, an old pepper, plus 2oz of pearl barley. They were simmered for 40 minutes. Then the chicken pieces and a tin of chopped tomatoes, one of chickpeas and two chicken stock cubes were added.

Before serving, 


the whole lot was blitzed with a stick blender, a generous helping of grated Parmesan was added. DB put a generous blob of chilli sauce in the bottom of each bowl. We had 4 ladles each plus 1 1/2 slices of home made bread.


There was enough left over for the same tomorrow lunch time. Another 3 ladles were put into a separate container to have more bits and pieces added, to be served with pasta for tea tomorrow.

The left over roast potatoes are for tea tonight along with a grilled bratwurst and grilled tomatoes. That will be followed by the remains of the stuffed apples and some freshly made birds custard!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Back to basics

Thought I'd leave family history mysteries for a while as it quite literally is keeping me awake at night.

I was very pleased to receive for Christmas, the book 'Down to Earth' by Rhonda Hetzel. Such a mine of useful information. Many things we practise but it is always good to find new things to have a go at.

I have I think, a subconscious fear of not being able to do the everyday things my husband does, should he die before me. Now that's not a very cheery thought for the start of the year but it is something we have discussed from time to time. No reason why it should happen that way around but we decided to tackle my fears.

Last year saw us sorting out wills, funeral plans, life insurance etc. He normally does the bill/accounts for us on his computer. I have always known how to go into the program to see how we are doing financially but didn't understand the programme itself.

So this year, it is my turn. Every time money is spent, or standing orders/direct debits go from our current account etc, it is up to me to clear those transactions, double check on line and make sure both balances are the same. I am slowly learning how to put these transactions in, transfer money from one account to the other etc.

So far it is going okay and hopefully, I will be as expert as him by the end of the year.

I have always been the one to work out best deals on fuel, food, utilities etc, then we have discussed it, reached a decision and gone with changes if required. He has always been the one to deal with the service providers on the phone - I might do that another year!

A few days ago, we received our estimated water metre bill. It seemed quite high to me for 11 weeks, so mumbling under my breath I got a screwdriver, kneeling pad (it was raining), glasses, pen and paper (oh the joys of changing eyesight as you grow older – such fun). 

My neighbours must have wondered what I was up to but after three attempts, the blasted lid finally came up and peering down into the depths, constantly wiping the rain of the metre window, I got my reading.

They had estimated we had used 23 cubic metres in 11 weeks. In fact it was 15. I know I should have remonstrated with them but I left that to him. It took nearly 5 minutes of waiting for a human before we got it sorted out. End result was that the bill was 2/3rd of what they estimated.

Before we had the metre fitted in June 2011, we were being charged £57 per month (over 10 months) for unlimited water/sewage removal. So, 6 months at that rate would be £285. The same period of metered water equates to £108.41 – quite a difference.

From the cubic metre point of view, we would qualify for the So-Low rate but are holding back for now in case we go up in the last 6 months of this current year. We can change any time we want. The So-Low rate doesn't have a standing charge but charges more per cubic metre.

There you go folks, just a glimpse into our world of dealing with bills. Who does yours? If its not you, have you thought about taking it on for a while so you know how to do things for yourself?