Monday, April 27, 2009

Technical difficulties....

We have "upgraded" our internet service, which is apparently code for "the internet now crashes almost constantly."

Please bear with us & don't make any hasty decisions about internet "upgrades......"

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Vitamins

When we started this experiment, I actually had some concern that we might not get as many vitamins and minerals as we usually do because so much of the food that we buy is "enriched" and I don't know how to "enrich" food myself. I honestly thought food might be enriched to increase overall vitamin consumption or something, but it looks like we "enrich" are food because the processing most of our food goes through pretty much strips it of its nutrients, and so we're basically putting back in what we just took out.

Fresh food is not shelf-stable, and as our food supply gets farther & farther away from us, we have become dependent on processed foods. Even here at Chateau Sutton-Goar, even though we have been eating food from our own garden, I had to dehydrate, can, or freeze it to preserve it--all of which are types of processing (ones we allow because we did them ourselves) which probably decrease the nutritional value of our food. But, is it still better? When I can, I pick everything right before I'm going to can it, so as canning goes I think it's still pretty healthy, but should I also be buying those grainy, tasteless hothouse tomatoes that are available in stores in the winter? We do eat lots of whole grains--Andy will attest to the great "How Many Types of Hot Cereal Can We Have?" experiment (FYI - groats are great mixed in to granola, but pretty nasty by themselves as hot cereal), and we grind some of our own flour, though certainly not all. And if we get more than our recommended daily allowances of vitamins & minerals in the summer when we will be able to graze our backyard, is there a hold-over effect through the winter?

I don't think anyone really knows. The study of nutrition seems to be quite a bit of guesswork. At one time transfats were at least thought to be relatively benign, and now they are the nutritional devil incarnate. Eggs are good for us, then bad for us, then good for us, then bad for us, then good for us.....I grew up in the generation that was force-fed liver by mothers convinced that it was an amazing source of iron. Now the general thought it that eating a body's waste filter is perhaps a poor idea in general. There was once a time when a "diet plate" at a restaurant consisted of a hamburger patty, a scoop of cottage cheese, and half of a canned peach. And those are just the "experts." The fringe get even better. I spent 3 years working for the American Diabetes Association, and I think I averaged at least one or two calls a week from someone with a new diet or a secret cure for diabetes--the wackier the better. Once when I was speaking to a civic club, I was trying to make the point that any diet that restricts food intake will work in the short run, so I said something about only eating foods of a certain color, and in all earnestness, a lady actually wanted to know what diet that was!

This year we're working from the assumption that the wider variety of foods we eat, the more nutrients we are getting, and the closer to their natural state, the better.

And we're each taking a multi-vitamin just to be on the safe side, which feels like a bit of cheating, but we both generally take vitamins anyway, so it just seemed crazy to stop.

But neither of us has had a cold so far this year.......

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Welcome to "I Don't Feel Like Cooking" Night

Tonight would have been a frozen pizza night if frozen pizza were allowable. Instead:I call it a "smoothie." Andy called it "Liquid Barney."

For anyone else desiring "Liquid Barney" for dinner, the ingredients are:
frozen blueberries
a frozen banana
frozen strawberries
skim milk
nonfat yogurt
honey
wheat germ
slivered almonds
ground flax seed
vanilla (real--not the artificial extract)
a sprinkling of freshly-ground nutmeg

It's good--and really good for us of course--but it's no Digiorno's. Which I will be dreaming about tonight

Friday, April 24, 2009

I Swear It Was Legal

I went to the grocery store today. and was going to pick up some Italian sausage for some homemade pizza, but the one single brand that I swear was legal listed corn syrup on the label--which we have banned outright. I don't know what happened. I swear it didn't say that two months ago.

As a last resort, I have found some recipes for making our own sausage. Most sausage has sweeteners in them, and American food usually uses the cheapest sugar possible, which is the lovely high fructose corn syrup. I noticed another brand that listed "natural sweetener" or something to that effect, and I think that might have been where I went wrong. If it occurs in nature but needs serious processing to obtain, I think they can still say it's "natural."

The good news is, grocery shopping is getting much faster. I shop the perimeter and call it a day, though one of these days I'm going to browse the bakery aisle for fun. Anyone want to bet on what's in a Twinkie?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Plant Store!

It has been unseasonably warm here, which has sent everyone in Boise scurrying to the nearest plant store--me included. There's a great little nursery just down the street, where I found these
I don't know how they taste, but don't you just love the idea of Crayon carrots??? To go with them, I thought another variety of radish was in orderthough I don't know why I'm bothering. Theo keeps digging up the radishes. No matter how hard I try, there's just no way to convince him that the garden really isn't one giant cat box...

Meanwhile, my pea, bean & flower starts are doing well:
I was pretty amused to see people buying pea plant starts at the nursery. I love peas and certainly encourage everyone to grow them, but they aren't exactly difficult to grow. Here we have one growing out of an airhole in the compost bin
and there are now at least 10 coming up around or near where we planted them last year
(the pile of horse manure not even slowing them down), and after the mistake of using compost to repot a houseplant, I have pulled a pea plant out of a peace lily. If there is one plant that darn near anyone can grow from seeds, I think it must be peas.

Keeping them from growing--that might be the challenge......

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

She's Making A List.....

While I am not ready to concede that doubling the size of the garden is perhaps a little....crazy overly optimistic, I do admit that perhaps the growing season will need a bit of planning to avoid the need for another canning "intervention." So today I spent some quality time with one of the canning booksmaking a list.

Of course, I'm so excited about the idea of having a garden again that everything sounds good right now AND I'm even more dangerous after the success of the pickled pumpkin from last year. I have added zucchini marmalade and tomato jam to the list, which will probably make people question my brunches if not my sanity. I haven't figured out what to do with all the chutney from last year, but I want to make several new versions. I was even slightly tempted by a few ketchup recipes in spite of the fact that neither Andy or I use ketchup on anything. Everything just sounds so wonderful....

This year the canning intervention might have to be before the canning ever starts....

Monday, April 20, 2009

Chalk One Up To "Duh"

Hey, you know why commercial Kahlua is probably not made with actual coffee?




CAFFEINE



Yup, last night's "legal" chocolate martini was quite the picker-upper. And even when I photographed the coffee, the coffee beans, the coffee filters, and discussed the coffee flavor, it didn't occur to me that I was really making coffee.

Duh.

All is not lost on the chocolate martini front, however. This website has a recipe for making a LEGAL chocolate liqueur, which I will be making when the caffeine rush has worn off and I can come down off the ceiling.......

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My Creativity Runneth Over

It would be surprising how little I'm using recipes if it weren't for the fact that my favorite cookbooks are put out by Cooking Light and only a small percentage of their recipes can be done without processed foods. Some of my latest creations:

* Baked onion rings. Turned out a bit bland, but surprisingly crispy. (dip onion slices into a beaten egg, then into a mixture of cornmeal, salt, and other flavorings. Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees)

* Potato puffs. Microwave a whole baking potato until cooked thoroughly. Throw in the food processor with a couple eggs, some seasoning, skim milk, fresh herbs, cheese if you want it. Bake in a popover pan (400 or 450 degrees--don't remember exactly) until they are puffy and golden brown.

* "Fried" shrimp--cooked in a skillet on the stove with a cornmeal breading but only a spritz of olive oil

* Quesadillas with every vegetable & black bean combination imaginable

* Baked brown rice with vegetables--probably a complete waste of electricity, but it was a good experiment. I'll go back to cooking the stuff on the stove. If you get the brown rice baked the vegetables are REALLY overdone.

Know what I miss lately? Skippy peanut butter. Luckily Costco sells an allowable organic peanut butter so we don't have to keep grinding our own, but there's just something about that ultra-processed, shelf-stable creaminess that really just IS peanut butter. Sigh......

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Salt & A Little Follow Up

First, a little follow up on the Kahlua experiment--

My first attempt to drain out the coffee grounds was with a coffee filter, which I thought made sense. What I didn't take into account was the sugar that was dissolved into the water & alcohol, which pretty much made the coffee filter useless. Chalk one up for experience.

We cheated a little and did a taste test with real Kahlua & the stuff we made, and I have to say that I like ours better--and I'm sure that isn't just influenced by all the time I have sunk into this now. Of course, to make a chocolate martini with the stuff, I had to mix in some cocoa powder, but that worked & it's legal as well. Maybe a future experiment with cocoa & vodka???????

And on another note, yesterday I made a large batch of spaghetti sauce using home-canned tomato sauce & tomatoes, frozen pumpkin puree, and dehydrated tomatoes & green peppers (last year's garden really did itself proud yesterday). I simmered & simmered and tasted & just couldn't figure out what it was missing--and then finally it hit me........salt.

The biggest adjustment to cooking with homemade things....stock, tomatoes....is the serious reduction in salt. I always knew there was a lot of salt in commercially canned foods, but I guess I didn't realize that it wasn't actually necessary. The directions for canning tomatoes said to add lemon juice to the tomatoes--not salt. (Tomatoes are an acidic food, but not quite acidic enough to guarantee safety when water-bath canning, so the lemon juice raises the acidity level.) Never does it mention adding salt, so my question is....why? Why is there so much salt in commercial foods? According to an article I found on the Mayo Clinic website, it's mostly about flavor, which makes sense in canned soup and other ready-to-eat items, but don't most of us add canned tomatoes TO something--like sauce--that we're going to flavor anyway? Granted, I don't have high blood pressure or any heart disease issues, but it does make me wonder how much sodium I would normally be consuming. Don't get me wrong--I am a salt person & given the choice between potato chips (which are legal, but fattening) and any sweet, I would take the chips in a second, but I don't over-salt things--or I didn't think I did--but now I'm not so sure. I do generally add salt when I'm cooking and if I use ingredients that already have salt added, how much salt am I actually consuming in a day? And does it matter? Again, according to the Mayo Clinic's website, excess sodium is potentially risky if I were over 50 (not even close), black (my passport photo was rejected for being too pale--a first for the folks at Kinkos as they kindly pointed out), or if I had a health condition such as high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease or diabetes--which I don't. So maybe it isn't a big issue, but after 3 1/2 months of this experiment, I am starting to really get cranky about having things in my food that don't need to be there.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Kahlua Is Ready!

The homemade Kahlua had steeped for 3 weeks, so it is officially "done." Straining the coffee grounds out was a bit more complicated than we originally thought. The recipe suggested using cheeseclothbut while that might have worked on something like Folgers, we used our coffee grinder on the beans, which made the grounds small enough to go right through two layers of cheesecloth. We dug out this little strainer thing that I've had for years
and that worked pretty well. Of course, we were helped by the fact that the coffee had settled into a thick sludge at the bottom of the jar since I hadn't shaken it yet today.
The resulting liqueur is really pretty good, but a much stronger flavor than actual Kahlua--which makes me wonder if they actually use real coffee or just artificial flavors.

So, mixing a little cocoa powder, sugar syrup (water & sugar that has been heated until the sugar dissolved then cooled & kept in the fridge), vodka, and the homemade...our first GUARANTEED legal chocolate martini of the year:
Whew! A 3-week martini! At least at this rate we'll never develop a drinking problem!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Beverages

So last night was Soup Night, and for the last 3 months I've been using hot spiced cider as an unprocessed beverage work-around, but it's April and I thought we were ready for a less "wintry" beverage.

If I had thought about it earlier--or if I actually liked the stuff--I would have made iced tea. Tea, coffee--they're allowed. So is beer & wine we think, though now we've discovered that some beers & wines have caramel coloring added, so they've been moved to the "suspect" list. If I was dedicated enough to squeeze 50+ lemons I could have served lemonade, but if I spend 4 hours squeezing lemons for a party, I wouldn't be in the mood for a party any longer.

So, raiding the freezer for frozen berries, the fridge for some nonfat yogurt, and the addition of LEGAL apple juice & orange juice.....
this strange-looking substance was the beverage of choice for the evening,which does help me understand why we add food coloring to everything. It wasn't green or anything, but just a dull peachy-pink color, and I grew up in the era of Kool-Aid & Hawaiian Punch, so every "punch" I've ever had was a bright, vivid color that stained clothes & carpets like crazy when the inevitable spills happened. (Have you ever wondered why the beverages intended for the people most likely to spill them--children--are the ones we put all the food coloring into? Isn't that just begging for trouble???)

We served it with champagne or lemon-lime soda for mixers, and I have to say it was great stuff. And I am pleased to report that I refrained from adding wheat germ or ground flax seed, as I would have to smoothies for just Andy & I. I think if our friends are being tolerant enough to put up with our little food experiments, we should be nice & not make them too darn weird. That only seems fair.

Last night's soups were corn & sweet potato,and cream of spring onion,which featured fresh chives from the garden.Alright, so the chives came back all by themselves & I really had nothing to do with it, but I was quite proud nonetheless. At least I didn't kill them over the winter. Unfortunately I can't say the same for the parsley.......

Theo loves Soup Night, I think because once a month there are tables downstairs that aren't off-limitsthough he doesn't appreciate being locked in the bedroom for the actual party. I know he's a good socializer, but the last time he was allowed to roam free during a party, he came in with a live mouse which he proceeded to fling up in the air & bat around right in the living room like some bizarre floor show, and I just don't think Soup Night is that sort of party.....

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How's this for a day?

9:00 AM - meet some friends at their house so you can follow them out to where they stable their horses because you actually want to get a load of horse manure for your garden.

9:30 AM - vaccinate your friends' two horses because the friend that was going to do it for them canceled

9:45 AM - drive back home, probably leaving a 15-mile trail of horse manure behind you--some of it still steaming.

10:15 AM - arrive home, parking the truck in front of the house. Notice the manure is still steaming, and feel twinges of guilt about your downwind neighbors

10:17 AM - take REALLY fast showers, change clothes, and jump in the OTHER vehicle to head to brunch with friends

3:30 PM - leave really fabulous party, stopping to browse 2 antique stores on the way home because a truckload of horse poop is nothing to rush home for

5:00 PM - start unloading manure, and wonder where a good sinus infection is when you need it.5:35 PM - admit that the tomato crop had better be STELLAR this year after all of this

6:15 PM - admit this is probably one of the reasons Americans don't grow their own food

7:03 PM - admit that you can understand why

7:39 PM - discuss whether horse manure can be classified as an "additive." Admit the fumes might be getting to you

8:00 PM - take second showers of the day, scrubbing hard enough to lose 4 pounds and 3 layers of skin

8:30 AM - fall asleep from exhaustion

And how was everyone else's Saturday???

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Today's Big Lineup

First we're off to get a load of horse manure to spread on the garden. Then off to an early Easter brunch.

And a shower in between....definitely.....

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring!!!!

I know we're supposed to have rain tomorrow & snow next week, but today was a great spring day, so I spent lots of time working in the yard & the garden beds. Kohlrabi & radishes are now planted and we will hope the snow doesn't scare them away. Honestly, if we didn't have snow in January, why must we have it now?

The crucuses (croci?) are up and blooming
and the assorted tulips are up and starting to bloom. Notice anything?
For being "assorted," they're all looking pretty much exactly the same color to me. We also planted some striped tulips and anemones--neither of which have made an appearance yet. I've never grown tulips before (and at less than 50% am not doing such a great job of it now), so I'm excited that ANY of them came up. I have been warned that they will spread, but we'll have to see about that. If I can kill off half of them before they ever started to come up, what are the odds I'll be overrun by the things in a few years......?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Thinking Outside The Box

Andy surprised me with this the other day:It's a chocolate "CandleTini!"

Hey, three months into this, I'll take even a fake chocolate martini! Did I pick the right man or what?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New Lesson Learned Today

I have been checking the local headlines today for reports of a woman wandering Boise this afternoon with some sort of strange disease involving blue lips and purple teeth.

Here's a little tip for you: Frozen blueberries are a great snack & really good for you, but it's probably best to not eat them on the way out the door to run errands.......

Spring! Sort of....

Since we had 2 days in a row without snow & it was actually in the 60s yesterday, I decided it was time for the strawberries to move outdoors.Strawberries must be fairly easy to grow as they have been thriving in the kitchen without a bit of sunlight.

The butter lettuce isn't doing so wellthough I'm not sure if it was caused by the hail, snow, or perhaps the freezing temperatures at night, but it's not looking good. The broccoli is doing fine
and....SOMETHING IS COMING UP!!! It's either kale or beets--I don't actually care which--but they're coming up!

And the blueberry bushes--which were enjoying the garage--moved outside last night.
Since blueberries like acidic soil, we buried some coffee grounds, pine needles, and peat moss around the roots, and will be giving them a little vinegar later this summer. (Really, is there anything vinegar can't do?) I don't know how big they have to get before we actually get blueberries, but I'm not extremely hopeful for this year. Those skinny little twigs don't look very promising. Oh well, frozen blueberries are pretty good--and totally legal. And then next year.....

Monday, April 6, 2009

I Really, Really, REALLY Hate To Admit This, But......

Eating this way makes a HUGE difference.

There. I've admitted it. This silly experiment of mine is actually really good for us. Andy, having had the sense to weigh himself when this started, has even lost 10 pounds this year. I don't have low blood sugar problems any more. When we have forbidden foods as "cheats," my stomach hurts afterwards. We sleep better. We have more energy. Dang it! This really is good for us. The big question is, can this be a permanent lifestyle in today's world?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Stand Back!!! I'm Being Brilliant!

Soup Night is a wonderful, wonderful thing. Once a month, I make two soups and we host a 3-hour open house where friends drop in, mingle, and relax. It's a great way to see more of our friends on a regular basis, and a chance for our friends to get to know each other. Of course, the drawback is.....

Summer is coming.

A nice steaming bowl of soup just loses its appeal when it's 104 degrees outside, and I just don't like cold soup. I've tried, and while a few of my friends make wonderful gazpacho, it's a bit too much like eating salsa for me. I was trying to think of replacement ideas for soup night, but the Year of No Processed Foods rules have eliminated almost everything, and what was left was eliminated by the very nature of "soup night."

Soup Night works because the soup can be kept warm on the stove during the party--provided the soups don't contain rice or noodles or anything else that continues to expand indefinitely. Sometimes people come early, sometimes they come late, and sometimes we have more people than the usual 20 or so, so there also has to be an inexact amount of food. Soup is perfect, and any leftovers can usually be frozen. We did briefly think of ice cream, but unless we make it ourselves or buy 30 little pint containers of Haggen Daz, it's all illegal....not to mention really, REALLY messy.

But, what to do about summer was a problem....but I think I have it now:

June will be a pancake supper
July will be a zucchini cookoff
August will be a salsa-tasting

I'll let you know if anyone shows up in July.....

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Headlines That Might Be April Fool's Hoaxes

Everyone knows the famous "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast and the panic it caused, and every year people fall prey to April Fools Jokes around the world. So, as a public service, if you see any of the following, you might double-check before calling your congressman....

* REPUBLICANS PUSH FOR SEX EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS

* CEO TURNS DOWN LARGE CORPORATE BONUS, SAYING "I DON'T DESERVE IT."

* DEMOCRATS TELL OCTOMOM "YOU WANTED 'EM, YOU PAY FOR 'EM"

* CONGRESS SETS ASIDE PARTY POLITICS AND WORKS TOGETHER FOR THE LONG-TERM GOOD OF THE COUNTRY

* MICK JAGGER RETIRES

* EXILE IN NIGERIA TRYING TO SEND MONEY TO PRIVATE ACCOUNTS IN AMERICAN FOUND TO BE LEGIT

* US COLLEGES TO DROP SPORTS TO PUT MORE EMPHASIS ON ACTUAL EDUCATION

* IDAHO LEGISLATURE DECLARES "EDUCATION SHOULD BE ABOUT LEARNING AND NOT ABOUT TEST SCORES"

* FOX NETWORK TO INTRODUCE NEW FALL LINEUP FEATURING THOUGHT-PROVOKING, TASTEFUL SHOWS

* FUNDAMENTALIST TERRORIST GROUP ADMITS THEY REALLY AREN'T ACCOMPLISHING ANYTHING AND TAKES UP KNITTING BLANKETS FOR THE POOR

* WALL STREET TRADER DECLARES, "UP OR DOWN A FEW POINTS HERE AND THERE DOESN'T MATTER. I'M IN THIS FOR THE LONG-HAUL"

* WALMART FORCED TO CLOSE ITS DOORS AS AMERICANS DECIDE THAT BUYING CHEAP CRAP PRODUCED IN THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES REALLY IS BAD FOR THE ECONOMY

* FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH ADMITS HE REALLY MADE SOME DOOZIES OF MISTAKES

* MEXICO INSISTS ON TIGHTER FOOD SAFETY STANDARDS FOR EXPORTS

* MORE AND MORE AMERICANS CONVERTING THE TV ROOM INTO A LIBRARY

* MICROSOFT RELEASES A NEW OPERATING SYSTEM WITHOUT ANY BUGS

* GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS WRITES NEW BOOK: GEORGE W. BUSH--A MISUNDERSTOOD GENIUS

* BRIDES MAGAZINE TO START FOCUSING ON PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR LONG-TERM MARITAL HAPPINESS

* BRUSSELS SPROUTS ENJOYING A NEW SURGE IN POPULARITY

* CONGRESS SOLVES THE SOCIAL SECURITY PROBLEM BY SETTING ASIDE THE CURRENT SURPLUS TO PAY FOR NEEDS IN THE FUTURE

* BRITNEY SPEARS DECLARES: I SHOULD TAKE CONTROL OF MY LIFE AND START HELPING OTHER PEOPLE

* FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH AWARDED THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

The New Additions

Shortly after moving, we had to put our oldest cat down, so we have adopted 2 new kittens to keep Theo company: Mostly Theo is not thr...