Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Best Freeby of the Month?

Got word on a sweet deal via Money Saving Expert from the Co-op. I downloaded an app and got this box of chocolates for nowt!

I annoyed a lot of people in the shop though because we couldn't get PayPoint to scan the bar code, so I tied up the staff's time for a while.  But the assistants were very kind and patient. Brilliant customer service!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Sweet Treat: Date and Hazelnut Cookies

First of all, apologies if you are trying to avoid sweet temptations in the run up to Christmas.  I made these lovelies to be a pick me up for OH who is going back to work today for the first time after his operation.

However,  rest assured that I am also trying to watch my intake,  trying to mostly "eat clean", and have worked out the damage on My Fitness Pal.

You will need;

75g butter
75g light brown sugar
75 dark brown sugar
175g self raising flour
1 egg, beaten
Pinch salt
50g chopped pitted dates
50g chopped hazelnuts
A few drops almond essence

First cream together the butter and sugars, then add the egg a little at a time. Add the essence.  Sift in the flour, salt and add chopped nuts and dates and fold in.
Spoon onto a greased baking tray.  This makes 20, so you'll either need 2 trays or do in 2 lots.
Bake at 180 degrees centigrade for 10-12 minutes.  Allow to cool on the tray for a minute before transferring to a wire rack.

OH managed to eat 2 from the rack when I wasn't looking.

The damage is 112 calories per cookie,  or 3 Weight Watchers Pro Points. Dates are currently 89p for a huge bag in Home Bargains,  making them less than half the price of the ones at our market.

Taking the photos was another challenge. However,  I did some research and worked out how I could improve my images. We have a dark house,  and taking photos at night on dark wooden surfaces makes things look old and dowdy.

I used a light background to help reflect more light.  Out of shot are a white cloth behind the chairs, 2 deflated silver party balloons and 2 bike lamps. Crucially,  I didn't use flash. Result: much better photos,  just using my phone!

Took a break last night to watch Masterchef.  Did you see it? The chefs were challenged to produce two fine courses from 'kitchen scraps' such as fish heads and skin,  blackened bananas,  overripe brie, beetroot tops, broccoli stalks and stale croissants. They looked a bit daunted, but it was the perfect business lesson for them,  I thought.  Was anyone else thinking, "Easy!"?

I love getting comments,  so please do say hello.

Christmas - the big haul

Just been chatting to a friend about how I am doing with preparing for Christmas.  Pretty good,  considering I have already blown the £51.29 I had saved towards shopping from Sealed Pot Sunday.  I have been accumulating gifts throughout the year,  taking advantage of deals, freebies,  voucher and discount store offers.  Also the chazza and second hand shops for one or two bits.  I will also be doing a bit of crafting.  Everyone is getting onion jam  - hope you like it!
Already have £1.16 in found money towards next year's SPS. Was 16p but I found a pound on the way to work this morning. Woo!
My latest sticker/ basics shopping haul at the weekend was also quite fruitful. Here's what I got from Sainsbury's.
Also a second haul fron Tesco.
All that for £22. Best of that is the turkey, bought for £4!
I had a nice 'free' dinner on Friday,  thanks to work. This was at Brasserie Blanc. Starter of mackerel terrine with horseradish cream (yum) , main of confit duck leg, cherry sauce,  rosti and beans (very nice) and dessert of Valhrona chocolate pudding with chocolate sorbet and crumb.  Not very nice, it was just melted ice cream with hard biscuit lumps floating in it. Ah well.  They did we considering the size of our party, though I did think our waiter was rude. Menu said coffee and mince pies to finish, and initially he refused to switch to tea for me. But the meal finished so late everyone left before after dessert.  There was just me and another girl who wanted tea too who stayed for a drink.  And no one got a mince pie!  Boo!
Still I was very happy to win a voucher to go back (and get another from a colleague! ). Christmas parties are never reflective of the standard of a venue. Still a lovely feed for no outlay.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

My Good Food Show Gluttony

I'm a very lucky girl.

Last weekend I got to go to one of my favourite annual events.

If you've never been to the Good Food Show, it's a smorgasbord of culinary delights. Food producers tempt you with delicious free samples. Kitchen appliance sellers rally the crowds like street performers. TV chefs entertain from the stage with cookery demos. It's a trade show, of course, so the primary purpose is to get you to part with your pounds (alliterative, me!). But if you're canny and plan for things you can pick up some bargains much cheaper than they are in the shops or online. Last year, we bought our pan set, and next year we will probably buy some decent knives. But this year, temptation was removed by not having a lot of spare cash at all. I say removed.... mostly  removed. I think one of us may have cracked and bought some beer and some potted game... (clue - not me!!). Ah, for Christmas, is it? Okay... I can forgive.

Most fantastic of all was that for us this brilliant event was absolutely free!

Our frugal highlight was watching some of the stage shows. We watched Tom Kerridge make salt cod scotch eggs on the Saturday Kitchen stage. We love Tom! After having seen him on Great British Menu a couple of years ago, I saved up to take OH to the Hand and Flowers for his 40th. A 2- Michelin star pub, if you will... unfortunately, not something I can see us being able to do again for a few years.

"You poured wine on a fish!"

Tom Kerridge and a woman with a strange neck-face.
 I bought a copy of Tom Kerridge's book and had it signed for OH for his Christmas present... he let me do the queuing and have my pic taken with Tom. What a lovely, cheerful fella he is! Tom, not OH... ;-P

I also watched cookery demos with James Morton, and Stacey Stewart, ace cake-baker with a beehive. I got to try some madeleines she had made and an absolutely gorgeous mincemeat and chocolate ganache pavlova. Here is a blurry pic of her with a Dalek cake stand.

I also bumped into Frances from this year's Great British Bake Off in the press room. She seems very nice.

The Good Food Show also hosts the Annual Cheese Awards. Just look at all that cheese, Grommit! Guess what happens after the competition... they throw it all away. What a waste - give it to me!

This had to be my favourite stand - Choco Passion. Couldn't afford any of these, but what works of art. And the smell of chocolate from the stand... mmmmm!

No free samples at this stand, but I happily chomped and glugged my way around the show. Favourite tipple I tried was the Kings' Ginger Gin. That was lush. Not so keen on fiery alcohol free beer we tried... Clonakilty black pudding, Snowdonia cheese company Red Devil cheese, these are a few of my favourite nibbles.

I didn't bring home as impressive a haul of freebies as last time: a shopping bag and bar  of Galaxy, some mango chutney, prunes, gravy, Belvita biscuits and sweeteners; also a few recipe books and loads of shopping vouchers.