Tuesday, 18 December 2018

I've Had a Shopping Fail

Actually, I have a lot of shopping fails, but this one is annoying me. 

This is 500g of pizza herbs.  I bought it from Approved Food for £8.50 and I will use it long before the expiry date of March next year.  I use Italian herbs a lot, often instead of mixed herbs.  I did the right thing and checked with Tesco.  Tesco sell Italian herbs, roughly the same thing, at 70p for a little bottle (one of which I will be re-using for everyday use while the rest of the big bag is carefully sealed away).  500g of Tesco Italian herbs would cost £27.  This is definitely a bargain - right?

The same packet - exactly the same - is on sale on Amazon.  It is £4.05 at time of typing.  But it gets better.  If I added it to my subscribe and save order, I could get it at £3.44 for 500g (if you have subscribe and save and have more than 5 items in a month, you get 15% off).

I'm not sure exactly how much I would use of this per month, but I know I pick up a jar of Italian herbs from Tesco most weeks, and I'm getting back to cooking properly.  Bear is also keen and as he will be making pizza at school (heaven help me!) I'm sure he will want to practice a lot at home.  I will wait and see what the quality is like. 

It just goes to show, you need to keep your wits about you.  I don't think I can justify this quantity with any other herb or spice, but if it works out as having a good flavour and keeping quality, it may be worth considering.  If I come to a decision, I'll share. 

Monday, 17 December 2018

Bear Survived Food Tech!

The electric settled down over the weekend and we didn't have a lack of power, thank goodness.  Thanks for the good wishes. 

Bear's fruit salad was awesome.  He took in kiwi, apple, raspberries, cherries, grapes, and a banana.  He didn't use the banana or raspberries (they didn't make their way home, though) and it was mainly about cutting and peeling.  We practised on kiwi fruit yesterday so bear could slice and dice with panache.  Not only did he do well, but what he brought home after sampling was a delicious dessert. 

Sarah - thank you for the ideas, which I shall share with bear.  I hadn't thought of dried apricots, which should be fine all snipped up.  You must have been heartbroken losing the medicinal syrup!

I've had a look at the recipe, and it requires 500g of fruit, one of which must be something that can be peeled.  The fruit isn't stewed, either, but chopped and then the crumble placed on and then baked (which, to be fair, is how I do it to save washing a pan).  Bear said that you get extra points for originality.  We are going to have a few practice crumbles over the holidays.  It's one of my standbys, though I've been known to use tinned cherry pie filling at a pinch.  So we need a filling that will take a quick cooking in a medium oven for 20-25 minutes, which includes a fruit that needs peeling.  Bear will need to practice slicing the fruit thinly!

The next lesson will be on 7 January so between then and now there are going to be a lot of crumbles.  As this is one of our favourite desserts, it's not really a hardship and bear and I are talking about the different fruit that is easily available, the combinations and the spices.  School may be teaching bear how to do a rubbed in mixture (which he already knows) but I'm teaching him about 'ways and means'.  This includes the difference between cooking apples and eating apples and which mush down best under crumble, and how to get the best results for the time and space allowed. 

It's going to be fun.  Also, I'm going to be pushing the boat out on ingredients I usually dismiss as too expensive so we may even be looking at fresh blueberries (at this time of year!).  Bear may be the student, but we will both be having a great time!

Saturday, 15 December 2018

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night...

Actually, it's a pretty dark and stormy day here, though we aren't affected by snow.  What we are affected by is iffy electrics.  I did wonder if it was just our wiring, but apparently most of Leeds has been affected, including a large Tesco.  The lights keep flickering, and I'm suddenly regretting getting rid of the gas stove, although the new cooker is sooooo much easier.  I thought it might be a good idea to post a little earlier.

We are okay here if there's a power cut.  We drink water, flavoured water, juice and fizzy drinks here.  We have torches, candles and the house stays warm.  I'm more worried about our neighbours.  We'll keep an eye out if there is a power cut.

Today has been a calm and quiet day, apart from the weather.  We've hung out and pootled around and generally been calm.  Bear had an awesome piano lesson and I'm just finishing the last of the online Christmas shopping.  It's been a good day.

Thanks for the good wishes re the food tech.  I'm sure it will be fine.  It's just another challenge and it's good that at least some cookery is being taught.  Mind you, my cooking lessons were a complete disaster and what I didn't learn from my mother, I taught myself.  I'm sure bear will manage just fine. 

Friday, 14 December 2018

Food Tech

It's finally happened.  Bear has food tech, starting next Monday.

I've been dreading it.  I just wish that the school would have the policy some others follow of having the ingredients ready and the pupil just pays a fixed amount to cover the costs.  Unfortunately the school are trying to do things right, and are giving the pupils some discretion in the first few recipes so that they actually have to think about it.  On Monday, bear makes a fruit salad.  He has been asked to bring in some fruit to prepare plus 250ml of apple juice.  Did you know that apple juice is only sold in 200ml and litre sizes?  I'm going to have to dig out a screw top bottle. 

Regardless, bear has chosen the fruit that he plans to take in, and we have a box that probably won't leak, but the timing is dreadful.  Bear has food tech on the same day as he has sports, so he will be carting in the apple/grape/kiwi/juice box on top of a sports kit that has to include trainers, football boots, jogging bottoms, warm shirt, cool shirt, shorts, shin guards, gum shield and special socks.  This is added to his usual backpack with all the exercise books that he normally carts around every day.  I need to pass my driving test.

The fruit salad won't be too bad, especially if it doesn't leak, but the next lesson (the first after Christmas) is a fruit crumble, student to choose the fruit.  Bear said that they are encouraged to be inventive.  They would have to be - there's no spices.  When I make a fruit crumble, there is usually something like cinnamon or ginger or mixed spice in either crumble topping or the fruit.  This looks very bland.  There is also a typo.  Bear has given me a booklet which gives ingredients and method.  The crumble mix is fat and flour mixed in, quantities given (I can't share the quantities as the booklet is hidden in bear's backpack and I'm not going there), then oats and a small amount of sugar is stirred in (I think it's around 50g of oats and 75g of sugar, which would make it nice and crunchy) with the sultanas.  The sultanas are not mentioned in the ingredients list.  I am going to have to hope bear remembers to ask and just send in 'some'.

And then, once he's baked the dratted thing, he has to bring it home, spending an hour on the bus with it.  There are a lot of opportunities for disaster, especially as he will be bringing home his sports kit at the same time.  I looked on eBay and bought a thingy which is like a casserole dish, but with a silicon lid that is allegedly leak proof that can be put on the cooled dish.  I have no faith.  Bear will be 12 at this point and accidents happen in creative ways at that age.  I really need to pass my driving test.

It's not a long course.  They also have to make pizza, again with some choice in ingredients, a plain sponge and a chocolate sponge, and I think there's something else but I couldn't tell you what.  Bear sometimes supervises me in the kitchen, and is a fan of the Sorted Boys.  This is a YouTube channel with some young lads (two chefs, three others), trying out lots of different recipes.  They're quite ambitious, so bear has a lot of ideas about cooking, and I'm sure I will get the benefit of this at some point.  The really useful stuff, like knowing when you can substitute ingredients, extending food to feed more, how to plan a cooking session, getting the most nutrition for the price and when to give up and order pizza, he can learn from me. 

If you have any suggestions about which fruit would work for the crumble, please let me know.  I was considering peach, but they are a faff to blanch, which I guess he would have to, and my usual apple with lots of sultanas and cinnamon doesn't look appropriate.  I wonder if he could get away with pear and crystalised ginger?  There's a stall on Leeds Market that sells 'crystalised ginger scraps' which are small flakes of lovely hot and very sugary ginger and perfect for baking.  Bear will have the final say, of course, but it's only right that I give him some suggestions. 

Thursday, 13 December 2018


Today was an epic fail.  Back tomorrow.

Sharon - subscribed to Kate McCabe

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

A Proper Post

No writing stuff here. 

Actually, I need to get writing.  About 1000 words a day and I can do anything.  For one reason or another, I haven't written for weeks except for the blog posts.  So while this is a 'buy my stuff' free zone, it's got a little about writing and why I need to.  If I don't get writing soon, the house will fall down.  Everything is just all over and in heaps.  I'm getting very close to 'scream and throw things at walls' as I am so overwhelmed, so 1000 words would really help.  It's like a fuel.  Also, I have PMT sooooo bad that I'm not sure I'm safe to be around real people.

I had a driving lesson today.  Not only were there no casualties but I managed to call in at a charity shop.  My awesome instructor had to call into the bank, and I managed to pick up what I think is a genuine Hugo Boss shirt, practically unworn, for £4.50.  Fakes happen, but it's really good quality, with great stitching and lovely material, so I think it's good.  It's perfect for DH, he looks so awesome in it.  If I can manage to get out more, I need to do more charity shops.  Many are over priced and have underwhelming stock, but I've scored some great stuff recently.  DH now wears the wool and cashmere great coat I picked up every day.  I also have no problem buying presents for bear from charity shops.  I have a beautiful, practically unread copy of the first of the Lemony Snickett books, which I got at a very reasonable price, I think 99p. 

I'm now entering the stage where I have no idea what I have got for bear and panic buy loads of bits.  I don't buy expensive bits (one present which will end up in his stocking is a ruler with a straight edge and the rest shaped like a shark) but I get giddy with the little stuff.  I get a lot added to the grocery order and Tesco currently have deals on toys, which may be worth a look.  Every year I go through the same stages.  I buy stuff, think that he's getting too much, feel guilty that he only gets presents effectively once a year with a birthday so close to Christmas, panic buy shedloads of 'bits' and we are drowning in wrapping paper by New Year's Eve.  It's also hard as bear doesn't want a 'big' present.  If he wanted, for example, a new Xbox One then we could negotiate, do deals, and just get a few things to go with it.  Bear is not into that.  He wants lots of little stuff but he's getting too old for a lot of the bits that I used in the past.  I can see Lynx Gift Sets lurking on the horizon. 

I hope this post made sense.  Until I can get 1000 words out, all bets are off.  Anything could happen.  Also, I have a dentist appointment tomorrow that takes me near a very good shopping centre with a reputation for good charity shops.  I'm looking forward to a good rummage and will share what I come up with!

A Quick Note

Today is the last day of the 12 Days of Indie and the books that are on sale at low or reduced prices.  I thought I would give a quick reminder, a brief link and a promise to post again later.