Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Another Month Down....

So, we've been doing this whole "No Processed Foods" thing for 3 months now. So, what have we learned so far?

* Unless you are actually sneaking into your neighbors' yards to steal their tomatoes, you probably aren't making "too much" salsa.

* Whether we're addicted to the carbonation or the taste, the lust for Diet Pepsi never actually goes away.

* Very few recipes really embrace the idea of "unprocessed foods." Especially Cooking Light.

* If a product says it's "lite" or "low fat," there's no reason to even bother to check the ingredients. Just put it down and move away.

* Having regular access to chocolate cake makes up for a lot of food deprivation.

* Don't rule out anything you might try making until you've gone at least 6 months without it.

* If you're going to start adding pureed pumpkin to your spaghetti sauce, don't tell your guests until AFTER they've tried it.

* Home canning doesn't use nearly as much salt as commercially canned foods. This can lead to some really bland meals if you don't figure that out quickly.

* If meat doesn't look exactly like it did when it came from the animal, it isn't exactly like it was when it came from the animal and stands a really good chance of being illegal.

* Buying shrimp that are already deveined isn't "cheating." It's just a good policy to not be grossed out by something you hope to eat later.

* Unless you actually know the restaurant owner and can ask a few questions, it's best to assume that ALL restaurants are "cheats." If they are chain restaurants, it isn't even a question.

* Forget the scientific studies. If you want to figure out why 65% of Americans are overweight, just spend a few hours at the grocery store checkout stand

* "All natural" is a pretty loosely applied term on food labels.

* Nutrition is tied to 3 of the biggest killers in our country--diabetes, cancer, and heart disease--and yet I have never had a doctor ask me about what kinds of foods I eat. It's become really hard not to wonder about that.

* If there's a food in a box with much nutritional value, I haven't found it.

* In the past, I've had frequent problems with non-diabetes related low blood sugar. Since we started this experiment, I haven't had any.

* Grocery stores provide more sport than one might think. Find where they sell Oscar Meyer "lunch meats" and start reading labels....

* No matter how you try to justify it, food coloring really can't be classified as "allowable." Call me a cynic, but I just don't think "Fd&c yellow No. 5" is a naturally occurring substance.

* It's hard to imagine how much one can miss chicken bouillon cubes.

* In 9 more months, I might bathe in Diet Pepsi.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Sad Day.....

This is the last jar of my favorite salsa....And the fact that I use it mainly when Andy is out of the house does NOT mean I have issues with "sharing......"

Sunday, March 29, 2009

It Begins.....

IT'S GARDENING TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sort of. It's currently 34 degrees, so it's only time for really hardy things that like cold. This week I picked up some butter lettuce
broccoliand the really exciting news......TWIGS IN POTS!!!!!! Which will someday--God willing--be blueberry bushes. Can you imagine going out in your backyard and getting blueberries? I'll let you know how that works for us in a few years--hopefully. An older gent who was also shopping for plants assured me that blueberries aren't terribly difficult to grow, but he could just be a retiree who has decided to liven up his days by terrorizing the horticulturally clueless in nurseries by giving quite fictitious assurances just to see if they fall for it. Guess we'll see on that one.....

Friday, March 27, 2009

New Lesson Learned: Don't Take Anything For Granted

We're three months into the Year of No Processed Foods, and unfortunately we still keep turning up new "banned" substances. I don't know--I just took a few things for granted. We've been corrected on mustard & vinegars, and now I have discovered the latest one:


OK, the idea behind pickling foods is to preserve them, correct? If that is true, wouldn't you expect pickles to not have additional preservatives in them?????? I admit, I just "assumed" on this one, but every commercially available pickle I have looked at in the last 2 weeks has at least food coloring added--sometimes more things. I even tried the ones that are sold in the refrigerated section--foolishly assuming that they are sold in the refrigerated section because they have less processing & therefore would probably have NO additives. Wrong again (this is why I don't gamble--I'm just wrong way too often). They had more unknown substances than the shelf-stable ones. Rats!!! Pickles are one of my favorite snacks, but we've pretty much decided that food coloring should be a banned substance, so until I find a "natural" pickle--or until I get some cucumbers from the garden--we're pickleless....

However, doing a bit of research on pickles--trying to figure out the food color/additive issue--I visited the Wikipedia site. Anyone ever heard of Kool-aid pickles?????? We won't be able to try them as Kool Aid is pretty much the embodiment of the "banned foods" list, but if anyone actually tries them, I want to hear about it!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

And The Correct Guesser is....

No one, though you're all coming closer than I did. One can truly over-intellectualize things sometimes, and I got a bit sidetracked by "fe-person." I thought since "Fe" is the symbol (periodic table of elements) for iron, I thought it was something to do with an iron deficiency or perhaps a reference to a character in the "Ironman" comics. So--you're all closer than I was.

The answer is:

A lesbian.

So, I understand the whole "fe-person" thing as trying to be gender independent (though Wikipedia has never heard of it either), when I was in college, the push was for woman to be spelled "womyn," which doesn't seem to have caught on either. "Body colonization" is therefore supposed to be pregnancy (though of course I was thinking "Aliens") and whoever wrote this is assuming that lesbians are rejecting having children as much as they are rejecting men, but "heterosexual imperialism?" Spreading the power of heterosexuals? Is there any power we don't already have????? Unfortunately the card didn't mention where this particular question came from--wouldn't that be an entertaining read?

Chocolate Martinis in Three Weeks!

A few weeks ago, Andy thought we had found a 'no-cheating" chocolate martini (kahlua & vodka), which was pretty exciting as we could then use our two weekly "cheats" on something else. Since then, we might have run into a snag.....caramel coloring.

We actually haven't yet had to address the problem of food coloring. Our rules have been no ingredients we couldn't identify and/or obtain for ourselves. We can buy food coloring, but from what I can understand from researching a little, while I could make caramel coloring from sugar, odds are that the caramel coloring we can purchase (assuming that we can--I need to check the store) would be made--like everything else in America--with high fructose corn syrup, which has just been outright banned this year. So....the jury is still out on that one. In the meantime....

I made Kahlua.

You start out by mixing equal parts of sugar & water together an boiling them to dissolve the sugar.
This recipe then has you cool it slightly, then add instant or ground coffee....we went with the "Award-winning Sunrise Breakfast Blend" version--though I don't really think of Kahlua as a "breakfast" beverage...especially not after creating sugary coffee sludge
There are some recipes out there that call for espresso or instant coffee so you would skip the sugary-sludge part, but as I don't actually like the taste of espresso or instant coffee, it seemed likely that I wouldn't like them in anything.

Then it's mixed with vanilla & either rum (for Tia Maria--which I'd never heard of) or vodka (for Kahlua), then stored in a jar for 3 weeks to stew/marinate/ferment/whatever--shaken daily.

Appropriately, ours will be ready on tax day!

I Have To Share This One

Recently we were playing Trivial Pursuit Genus 5 (so far enough down the Trivial Pursuit food chain that most of the good questions were gone) with some friends and the following question came up:

What does a "fe-person" become when she escapes "body colonization" wrought by "heterosexual imperialism?"

Obviously, not a single one of us got this question--or even understood it. So, I thought I'd see if anyone would be able to guess this one--anyone?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Our Last 3 Days......

This is the general look of our downstairs right now:which all started with this, which was until quite recently within one of our walls and provided water for the outside faucet.
Having not been insulated, the water in the pipe froze, which caused...
which when things thawed out and the faucet was turned on, sprayed the inside of the walls, the crawl space, and our storage closet. Luckily Andy was able to fix it AND you will notice the insulation that has been added
the carpet has been ripped up and is drying in the garage
and we have some new house guests(the other two actually being IN the crawl space), and we are making lots of new friends. Yesterday they were the insurance adjuster, the owner of a disaster cleanup company, and two of his employees. Later this week it will be drywallers, flooring people, and painters.

It actually isn't much in the way of damage in all honesty since the leak only occurred when the hose was turned on outside and as there was very little water coming out of the hose (since it mostly going into the wall), we caught it pretty quickly, and friends coming over are finding it fairly entertaining to be greeted by my canning efforts, so no real harm done, though we won't be using the other outside faucet until all danger of freezing has passed.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ways One CAN Spend a Saturday

1. Traveling to an interesting location.

2. Relaxing by a pool reading a really engaging book.

3. Doing one's favorite sport.

4. Visiting with friends

5. Volunteering for a charity

6. Visiting a museum

7. Trying to locate the water leak that has caused everything in the closet under the stairs to be damp, emptying the closet, deciding the leak is related to the outside faucet, discover that the outside faucet comes into the house within a wall and NOT the crawl space, spend an inordinate amount of time measuring various parts of the house to figure out what point in the wall that would actually be, cutting holes in the wall to find the darn leak, then trying to fix said leak.

Any guesses which was the plan of action at Chateau Sutton-Goar today?

Friday, March 20, 2009

It All Started With Soy Sauce

So during this little experiment of ours, before we can use something, we often have to do a little research into how the particular thing is made. This week's was soy sauce.

Soy sauce has, in fact, been around approximately 2500 years, so obviously we would be able to make it without a processing plant (always a good thing), so as long as the soy sauce we buy is made in the same way, all is good. The bottle we have in the fridge seemed okay, but I wanted to double-check a bit, and oddly, Amazon is a great resource for hard-to-find groceries (and we found our coffee and end tables there, but that really has nothing to do with this story). I was browsing through the "condiments & sauces" category, when I ran across this:

Bacon-flavored mayonnaise--which conveniently comes in a three pack, as of course this is one of those items that you wouldn't ever want to run out of. Wait--it gets even better. For friends and loved ones:There's a gift set, complete with bacon-flavored lip balm. Because I just can't tell you how many times I've kissed Andy and wished he was more hickory-smoke flavored.....

Well butter my backside & call me a biscuit--I think our Christmas shopping is done for the year!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Obviously, All I Need Is A Little Rest

So, back from a vacation where I did no more cooking than heating up canned soup, this week I baked the last of the pumpkins and froze the pulp
And here's a little tip for you--storing pumpkins for 6 months might be a tad optimistic. A few made it, but I think it was 50% or less. The good news is: rotting pumpkins aren't half as disgusting as some rotting fruits and/or vegetables--whatever pumpkins actually are. We still have a lot of pumpkin puree, and after everything I've been adding it to lately, Andy might actually be relieved if we run out before this year's crop strikes, er....ripens.

Next, armed with my trusty book,and thoroughly optimistic after the success of the blueberry syrup, I decided to tackle the cinnamon rum syrup, which of course required a trip to the liquor store for thiswhich is dark rum, which is not the same thing as golden rum or the clear rum which was the one we had on hand. Personally, as there is only about a tablespoon of rum needed anyway, I'm not sure exactly what it even adds, but those who don't know what they are actually doing probably shouldn't quibble.
It's a bit muddy looking, but it tastes pretty good--especially on the pumpkin waffles this morning.....

Then...after a little more coffee than was probably good for me....I made this:which if it works will be a cranberry liqueur in about 3 weeks, and then this: which will be a blackberry & blueberry liqueur. No idea of course what we're going to do with them--though they are supposed to be quite wonderful on a bowl of fresh fruit--but having discovered that Kahlua contains caramel coloring and would be therefore back on the "banned" list, we are again shopping for an allowable martini that doesn't put hair on the chest, as I strongly suspect regular martinis do.

Then--with probably more energy than sense--I dug these out of the freezerand decided to invent my own syrup. It seems to be a combination of sugar & waterheated until the sugar dissolves, then some sort of fruit is addedwhich in this case is mostly blackberries with a few cherries thrown in to reach the 2-cup mark, a little flavoring is added (a hint of fresh nutmeg) then it's cooked for about 10 minutes, the fruit is strained out, and the resulting syrup is cooled & put in the refrigerator. I added a little vanilla to it for interest. It's not as good as the blueberry syrup or anything, but it is edible which quite frankly surprised me. I mean, I've made up soups for years and still manage to produce an inedible one now and then, so I thought my own syrup was about a 1 in 10 proposition. I'm quite pleased with myself & we're having friends over for brunch on Sunday and there will be sourdough pancakes and no less than THREE homemade syrup options! LOOK OUT MARTHA!!!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Today Is Our First Date Anniversary!

And we're all cutesy & happy and we remember that sort of stuff.Nauseating, I know......:)

Since we met through Match.com, we both wondered if we would recognize the other one at the restaurant. Match profiles have pictures, but quite often the pictures are.....stretching the truth a bit. Men who are balding often use old photos or ones where a baseball cap covers everything about their noses, and women who have gained weight might use a picture from 10 years earlier. To me the biggest surprise about Match were the number of men who lied about their height. I am 5' 8", which is tall for a woman, and women typically don't lie about their height, so it baffles the imagination that men who said they were 5'8" who were really 5'2" would contact me for dates. Not that I had any problems with dating someone shorter than me, but did they think I wouldn't notice they lied? Not that I can tell you at a glance how tall or short someone is, but if they are truly 6 inches shorter than me, I'm going to perhaps notice that they aren't really my height. I catch things like that.....:)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Back On The Wagon.....

Really, I was pretty good on my vacation--probably owing more to the fear of an upset stomach than actual willpower. There was some Diet Pepsi, of course, and Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup, and dining out, but there were NO white chocolate martinis, surprisingly. One of my splurges...
was even arguably pretty healthy. (And crunchy cereal in the morning was SUCH a treat!).

McCall was beautiful and wonderful, but there's a big difference between visiting that much snow and living with it. The boys joined us on the weekendand then it became a challenge to drive home between snowstorms. Sue & Dave made the dash yesterday morning at the beginning of one storm, and Andy & I came home this morning between storms, and another one is due tomorrow. "Spring" is obviously a relative term in some areas.....

On the whole, my stomach is hurting enough that I'm glad to be back home and "back on the wagon," though I am going to miss that cold cereal in the morning...... Anyone know how to make corn flakes?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day 69 - Vacation!

A friend of ours loaned us her condo in McCall for a week, and as Andy has that whole pesky working-to-support-us thing, I am heading up there & a girlfriend is joining me later this week.

I've been trying to work out plans for cooking in a limited kitchen with unknown staples & what my friend might be willing to put up with, but it was starting to look like I'd be spending the entire trip cooking, which sort of stinks as far as vacations go. So, we've decided that vacations are perhaps a reason to lighten up on the No Processed Foods rule. Not that a "free for all" is a good idea either--not unless my idea of a good vacation is one with SEVERE stomach upset, but I'm going to brave some Campbells soup and, let's face it, Diet Pepsi!!!!!

I will not have any computer access, so I'll be back next week!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Day 68 - Sourdough

I've mentioned the sourdough starter a few times now, so I thought it time for an explanation. Most of us know sourdough bread as a bread with a distinctive, sour taste, but the term actually applies to a method--the oldest method--of making yeast bread, and was the primary method for breadmaking until other forms of yeast became readily available.

The story goes that yeast was accidentally discovered in Egypt when someone added water to flour and left it to sit, coming back to find a strange, bubbling mixture. There's some debate among sourdough enthusiasts about whether the wild yeast was in the flour or in the air, but some of us are just in it for the bread and don't really care. A sourdough starter--also known as the "mother sponge"--is a mixture of flour, water and yeast. In order to create a leavened bread, the baker takes a portion of the starter, mixes it with flour and water, and lets it ferment overnight which allows the yeast to convert the flour and water mixture into a sourdough "sponge." Before using, the same amount of starter is generally returned to the "mother sponge," thus perpetuating it indefinitely. Sourdough was so popular among the Alaskan gold rush prospectors that they were referred to as "Sourdoughs."

An active starter (one kept at room temperature) needs to be fed (given flour & water) twice a day. I don't use mine that often, so mine lives in the refrigerator, but I do still feed it regularly. Every starter tastes a bit different--mine has a blend of whole wheat & white flour that changes regularly. Nothing except flour and water can ever be mixed into the "mother sponge," and the sponge is best kept in glass, stainless steel, or ceramic containers. The acid that makes it "sour" would indeed eat many metals.

It's a fun way to make breads and pancakes and such, and it does have a distinctive flavor. Starters can be purchased, or like mine, derived from someone else's starter. The older the starter, the more flavor it generally has.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Day 67 - I Can Do One Thing!

Tonight we're having leftover pork roast, and it's pretty good if I do say so myself. I made it yesterday in the crockpot. Yes--you read that correctly: SOMETHING I MADE IN THE CROCKPOT WAS ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD.

I'll be honest: I can now do one thing with the slow cooker: roasts. Unlike all the recipes in those "helpful" cookbook, I cannot brown them first, cook them on high, or add ANY liquid, but as long as I just season the roast, put it on LOW and leave it alone, I can produce edible--sometimes even tasty--meals.

Not much to show for 4 years of trying to learn to use the crockpot, but at this rate on our 8th anniversary I'll be able to make TWO things in the thing. Look out world!

Well, We Obviously Have Some Catching Up To Do

Tonight I decided to check out upcoming events at the Egyptian Theater--one of Boise's few independent theaters and the only one listed as an historic landmark--because it always seems to have really great events. Last month we went to see a couple silent movies as a fundraiser for the Treasure Valley Youth Symphony, and we've been to several lectures there.

I was surprised to see that on March 18, the THIRD ANNUAL Fly Fishing Tour will be held there. Now I might be easily impressed, but how many hobbies have their own film festival? Andy does woodworking, and they certainly don't have a film festival (although that might actually be because there are few titles the wood working world could use that couldn't be misappropriated by the porn industry). I knit, and while the knitting world has its own social networking site and our own conventions, I don't know of a single film about knitting. (You can bet, though, that if we did have a film festival, we would leave some dim lights on in the theater so everyone could knit while watching). I don't know--maybe we're falling behind. I think we need our own film festival.

To get us kicked off in the right direction, my suggestions for the first Knitting Film Festival:

* Chariots of Fiber
* Adam's Ribbing
* Blazing Saddle Shoulders
* Close Encounters of the Felted Kind
* Dr. Strageknit or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Test Swatch
* Driving Miss Daisy Crazy or: Learn to Check For Errata
* Fatal Attraction to Fun Fur
* Gone With The Wool
* The Good, The Bad, and the Frogged
* A Lace of Their Own
* A Sweater To Three Wives
* Merinostruck
* Of Moths and Men
* The Patternist
* Rebel Without a Skein
* The Sweater Year Itch
and that perennial favorite:
You've Got Mailorder

I think it could be BIG......

Friday, March 6, 2009

Day 65 - Some Days Are Better Than Others

Some days I spend wondering why on earth I thought this experiment up, or contemplating how long a year really is, or fantasizing about really cold cans of Diet Pepsi, but some days I get myself under control and.....This is homemade blueberry syrup, which I made yesterday. And thisis a sourdough starter, which fermented overnight to provide sourdough pancakes this morning. If that isn't a good way to start a day, I don't know what is.

I've been asked for some of the recipes I canned last fall, and these are the two books we have to thank for what we're enjoying now:This one includes the spiced blueberry jam and the blueberry syrup--as well as the marvelous red onion relish, and this one:

provided all the salsas. Both HIGHLY recommended. If you get this one, try the carrot salsa. Amazing stuff, really. And if you get the other one--we're having pancakes again tomorrow just for the blueberry syrup. Some days, this is a really GOOD experiment.....

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Day 64 - Sodium Whatzits

In a few weeks, we're having some friends over for a champagne brunch with homemade sourdough pancakes--and maybe homemade fruit syrup (I'm working on that one), and I thought it would be nice to serve bacon as well. We try to eat pretty healthy, so we don't generally eat it, but AGAIN having read the Little House On the Prairie series (but not at the time actually understanding its importance as a culinary guide), I knew that bacon is basically cuts of rather fatty meats smoked, cured, or both. That sounds simple enough.

It isn't.

As of yet, I haven't been brave enough to take a notebook with me while grocery shopping for fear of looking stranger than I do reading the labels of 34 brands of bacon, or of getting thrown out of the store for being some sort of produce-related industrial spy, so I can't actually tell you all the ingredients in bacon, but so far they all have about 3 different sodium "somethings" in them and none of them sounded like "salt."

Next week's reading: breakfast sausage labels. Heaven help me!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dealing With A Hostile Ex Wife - Part 7

This is an old article, but I thought it would give hope to the thousands who are dealing with bitter ex wives. Courts can and do recognize bitter ex wives who are using the court system for revenge. We have a court date set for June and will be asking for the obsessed ex wife to have to pay all legal costs. I think we have an outstanding chance of winning.

Day 63 - A History of American Food

In our library system, I found a book called The American Heritage Cookbook and Illustrated History of American Eating & Drinking." It was published in the 1960s by American Heritage Magazine, and I thought it might be an interesting addition to our little food experiment. So far I'm only to the point where the Pilgrims are being taught how to survive by Squanto, but in flipping through the book I found a little more information on how farm families would have made cheese:

"First, rennet had to be made from the stomach of an unweaned calf. This was soaked in water, and the resultant liquid was then added to milk......"

OK, I grew up on a cattle ranch & am pretty hardened to some things that other people would be pretty squeamish about, but I don't think I've ever wanted cheese THAT badly. Those early women settlers were tough women.

Remember When.....?

...one bought a home to live in, not as a "real estate investment?"

...common knowledge held that one had to live in a house for about 5 years to even recoup closing costs if selling again?

....taking money without earning it was embarrassing and not an "entitlement?"

....we all understood that borrowing money meant eventually paying it back?

....paying off debts was a point of personal honor?

....the "News" was actually informative and not tabloid sensationalism? (OK, me neither on that one)

My favorite "scary" headline today: "1 in 5 U.S. Mortgage Borrowers Are Underwater." That means 4 out of 5 aren't. Even with all the foolish "no money down" loans that have been taken out in the last decade, only 20% of the homes are worth more than the buyer paid for them. I found that statistic reassuring considering all the nonsense that has gone on in the real estate market over the last few years. And, even those who do owe more than the house is worth, they would otherwise be paying RENT to live somewhere. Houses are a place to LIVE. If one makes money out of it, great. If one doesn't, one has basically paid rent to oneself. How foolish does the media think we really are?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Day 61 - No Soda For You!

We're living on the edge at Chateau Sutton-Goar. ON THE EDGE! It is Monday and we have already used up both our cheats for the week!

This is going to be a long week...

I wasn't feeling good over the weekend, so yesterday Andy picked up a pizza from one of those take & bake places for dinner yesterday, and we had the leftovers today for lunch. To be fair, I can't honestly say that there were forbidden ingredients in the pizza as I haven't seen the list of ingredients, but as hard as I have to look to make sure nothing we buy has unknown substances, the odds of us walking in and ordering a pizza and having not a single forbidden thing on it must be about a thousand to one. So, we're going to assume it was forbidden. It tasted like it.

In other news, the temperature reached 60 degrees today and I planted kale and beets! I have NO idea what we'll do with either one, but they both seem to be cold-weather friendly, so we're going to try them. Look for borscht at a future soup night!

Fall! Finally!

Even without extremely hot summers, I've always loved fall.  A little coolness in the air, leaves starting to turn, sweaters coming out-...