Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Frugal vs healthy...the battle goes on.

Some days I really hate food, which is rather unfortunate. I was speaking to a friend recently about how much the thought of food - the planning, buying, preparing and clearing up, as well as the ethical issues and guilt surrounding it - occupies so much of our waking hours.

I've been trying to have a frugal period. At the same time I've also started thinking about producing healthier food for the family. You would think that the two were agreeable. Unfortunately, despite the myth that it is cheaper to live on wholesome home cooking, there is no getting away from the evidence that faces me on food shopping trips; i.e. that it costs more to eat healthily than it does to eat processed and packaged food.

There are of course exceptions, but processed food - especially the supermarket value ranges - are cheaper than what it would cost me to buy the ingredients and make my own. It is of course in the interests of manufacturers and supermarkets to keep it this way. And it's not just about comparing the exact ingredients used in recipes vs the finished processed product, but also the expense of ingredients that never get used, or are mostly wasted. I've lost count of the number of aubergines destined to be ratatouille or mediterranean tart that have decomposed from the inside out on the top shelf of my fridge. And that jar of tahini, used once to make humous and now sat in my fridge (for about 2 or 3 years I think!). The cucumber fated to sludge instead of tzatziki (because the yoghurt went off before I got around to it).

Menu planning helps of course. But if like today I was looking for fresh coriander and fresh mint to make some lovely thing in a recipe book, then so much of it is wasted (unless of course I can think of a whole load of other recipes to use the same ingredients, but these will then require further ingredients that I will have to buy).


While I'm on the subject I am keen to learn how to make bread that does not have a crust the thickness and hardness of the earth's mantle. I have tried different recipes, different methods, different oven temperatures and cooking periods. Once again today I have produced two loaves with dark brown rock hard criusts and overly-soft inners. If I am to ever progress to the role of Earth Mother I really must get this bread sorted.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for dropping by at mine:) About the cooking: you're making it harder than it is! Stick with the basics and don't read glamorous cook books....

What about a recipe swap? Our menu is in need of a kick up the bum so I'd like some new basics to add to it. I've got and easy one for you. Absolutely nothing hard about it at all.

Cook some pasta. Make a sauce from a tin of tomatoes, some dried herbs, an onion, some grated carrot (and grated anything else you have lurking in the fridge), leave to simmer til it is all soft. Add some stock made from the ends/peelings of carrot, stalks of broccoli, ends of onion and droopy celery simmered in water for a few hours or a crumbled stock cube in some water. Whiz it with a hand blender if you have one and pour over the pasta. Add grated cheese on top and some carrot sticks or some green leaves or broccoli on the side. Cost - well under £5.00

One variation is do the same but snip up some bacon to mix in it then bung it in the oven with the cheese grated on top til it browns.

Big mamma frog said...

yeah we did the whole home made pasta sauce thing. It was the only meal I could cook that everyone would eat. In fact we probably did it to death - pizzas, pasta, etc. And now my kids refuse (mostly) to eat it and we've had to replace it with the more expensive option of pesto. sigh!

I do try to be tolerant of some likes and dislikes, but in our family 1/5 is vegetarian (with a dislike of eggs), 1/5 is virtually vegan (hates cheese, milk, eggs, but also hates nuts and hummous and salad vegetables and margarine/butter), 2/5 are occasional and selective meat eaters (1 has a dislike for most vegetables except for raw carrot and pepper, 1 will only eat broccoli and doesn't like potatoes) and 1/5 is a dustbin who will eat anything.

Hence my fantasy wander into new territory of exciting looking cookbooks. I figure if I blast them with something so strange-looking and new they wont know what to complain about and might actually eat it.

Or maybe I should just puree it and get them all feeding tubes lol.

shell said...

Sprinkling flour on top of your loaves should help to soften the crust.


Carol said...

I find it better to make bread dough in to largish rolls - then the crust, although crispy, sort of collapses in when you eat it and the centre isn't doughy.
The secret of bread is in the kneading - you've got to knead till the dough is really smooth and elastic. I've get a dodgy elbow so some times I let the bread maker do the kneading for me and I do the shaping etc. Would you like the recipe I use? :-)

Carolyn said...

Yes, I use the bread maker to do the kneading (because of my wrist!!) and then make in to 2 loaves on a floured surface before rising and cooking in two loaf tins. Half hour rise in the top of the oven while the bottom fan oven warms up to 180 and then 15 mins cook. Fool proof, as long as I don't forget the timer and wander off to do something else!!!!

arwen_tiw said...

Wrap your loaf in a teatowel when you take it out of the oven - it keeps the moisture in just enough to soften the crust a little. :)

Diane said...

I totally get the bread making thing. It took me 5 tries over 2 weeks to get a particular bread recipe to work. Was having trouble with the rising. Finally got it to work this past week. Break making is definitely an art form and I am no artist.

Elizabeth said...

You can also wrap a fresh loaf of bread in a tea towel to soften the crust a bit. The kneading is a knack-but once you get it, it'll be easier. (Saying that, DH now does all the bread baking here! But we do bake in the oven)

Mass produced food may be cheaper-but that's because they use fillers & cheaper ingredients. It's not worth it in the long run-as goodness only knows what's in the stuff!

Anonymous said...

Ok you got me

Pasties - everyone puts in what they like try potato and bacon; carrots and peas; onions and ham; cheese for the cheesy ones; you name it.

Soups - put veg stock in everything and it is better for you Make a load of it and freeze it in old ice cream tubs so you have sort of portions ready to put in a pot.

Shepherds pie with quorn - pick off the mashed potato if you don't like it.

Honey baked red lentils - yum as a side dish or stuffed in pittas. Or Dhal is good as is Lentil flan - ask Heather for the recipe

Peanut noodles - vegan but even Greg will eat them

Chickpea curry ditto

Kebabs - meat or veg. Spicy pork mince is good eat with rice

And I third the tea towel wrapping for bread.

Big mamma frog said...

I'm not trying to be awkward Parasombra. Honest! I like the idea of pasties and now that I have a kenwood chef - hooray - the pastry is doable (you really didn't want to eat the pastry I used to make - v.weired). I've made veg samosas recently, though it's taken a bit of experimenting to get the insides seasoned enough/spicy-but not too spicy. But they did take for ages to make and then the kids ate them all up before I could get any in the freezer! Maybe with practice it'll get quicker. And yes, we have lots of curry. ds2 and dd don't like it, but if I make naan bread with it they'll go through the motions.

thanks for t-towel tip everyone, I've done it occasionally in the past but have forgotten recently. Will give it another go.

Carol said...

Wow, must be a record for comments! :-)

Big mamma frog said...

yeah...food is obviously a pressing topic lol.