Sunday, May 31, 2009

Things I've Learned This Month

* A watched garden never grows

* No matter how much I love knitting, even I can get tired of it after a week or two of nothing but knitting

* If a doctor says it takes 6 weeks to recover from surgery, he's probably not pulling your leg

* People who behave badly always have excuses for themselves. People who behave decently don't need them.

* After 4 1/2 weeks of forced inactivity, I'm even looking forward to vacuuming. I would never have dreamed that was possible.

* Even though I don't like radishes well enough to ever buy them in the grocery store, I am positively giddy when I can pick them in the garden

* Those who get addicted to pain killers didn't get the same ones I got.

* Having a hard time keeping up with all the good wishes & offers of help from friends & family is just about one of the best problems one could ever have.

* If you have nursed one of your cats back to health, your cat may choose to return the favor....or perhaps Theo was just retaliating for the kitty water therapy

* Not wallowing in self-pity is apparently a very attractive characteristic in a spouse--even when having to scold that spouse for not following doctor's orders

* Sometimes it's best to keep things in perspective. When I have gotten really cranky about not being able to do things, I remind myself that some people have been put in full body casts. I'd need heavy sedation to endure that.

* Homemade chocolate-peanut butter ice cream really DOES make me feel better

* My complete lack of understanding of the surgery recovery process is impossible to underestimate. I actually had invited friends over for dinner the very next day! Thankfully, they are smarter than me.

* Now that I'm getting my energy back, my friends are trembling in fear of what I might do after so many weeks of inactivity. Signing up for a triathlon & marathon occurring on the same day & following up by hosting a murder mystery party that same evening would not be completely impossible. Andy has taken away my credit cards until I'm "safe" again.

* Being married to a wonderful man makes everything better!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

An Exciting Find!

For those of us who haven't actually seen one before--or couldn't identify it from my picture even if we had--this is a tomatillo plant. I had actually planted some tomatillo seeds because I wanted to experiment with fresh tomatillos, but when I ran across this at Fred Meyer, I couldn't resist. It even already has flowers!!!!!

Anyone know how fast they grow? Or what to do with them when they do?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Life Is Wonderful!!!!!

It's SO great to be happy & healthy! Not that we aren't both generally happy people, but I'm finally strong enough to socialize again (besides just short visits). YAY! We have so many great friends--I'm looking forward to seeing them all again!

Life is GOOD!!!!

Kale

About 2 months ago now, I planted a row of beets & a row of kale--forgetting of course to mark which was which. One row sprouted and one didn't, but I didn't know which was growing so I didn't reseed.

Now we know that the beets were the ones that grew & they seem to be doing nicely--considering I've never grown them & might not notice if they weren't doing nicely. I was just deciding to use the vacant spot for some radishes or onions, and noticed a few little plants starting to sprout. They're looking suspiciously like they're in a line, so I think the kale has decided to grace us with its presence.

No wonder you're supposed to plant it in March. It seems that's the only way to get any before the fall frosts!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Breakfast

In America, certain things are "breakfast" foods (eggs, sweet pastries & cinnamon rolls, pancakes, cereal, etc.) and some things are not (sandwiches, salads, etc.). I have always hated eggs, and I don't care much for sweets, so I've struggled with breakfast--especially in restaurants--my entire life. As part of this little experiment of ours, I thought it would be interesting to do a little research on how we came to designate certain items as "breakfast foods."

I haven't found anything yet, but I did find a little article that seems to have run on CBS's Early Show that I thought was worth sharing. Taken straight from their website:

Seventh-Day Adventists are credited with creating breakfast cereals. They founded the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where they manufactured and promoted wholesome cereals. Will Keith Kellogg was an Adventist who discovered corn flakes in 1894 when a pot of cooked wheat was overcooked and then dried. Each grain became a separate flake. He introduced Rice Krispies in 1929. The Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company was founded in 1906.

Boy, I bet he really was surprised when a pot of cooked WHEAT turned into CORN flakes!!!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

White Rice

As part of our experiment this year, we're researching a lot of our food. We had always known that brown rice was much more nutritious than white, but hadn't thought much about WHY. White rice has had its husk, bran, and germ removed, which means it won't spoil as fast but it ALSO means that there's pretty much no nutrition left in white rice. So, like everything else, it is processed to try to add some of the vitamins back in. Has anyone else noticed how much effort the food industry spends adding nutrients back in to our food after stripping it of all nutritional value?

So, we've really tried to switch exclusively to brown rice, which takes much longer to cook. That works fine, though we're still getting it pretty mushy. I had used pearl barley in casseroles a few times, until I discovered that the "pearl" part translates into "having all the nutrition stripped as well." I have not yet been able to locate "unpearled" barley, so we decided to keep looking. And finally--we think we have the answer!

Hard red wheat.

Which, as you might have guessed, is above all else, hard. The good part is, it preserves a nice texture once cooked. The bad part is, it either needs to be soaked overnight before cooking, or boiled for an hour. We're going to try making some large batches & freezing it or dehydrating it to see if we can speed things up a bit. I realize we could just try to think ahead the night before, but that hasn't worked really well for beans, so I don't imagine I'll do better with wheat. Chocolate cake--THAT I might remember.....

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

WE WENT OUT FOR PIZZA!!!!!!

To celebrate the end of a QUITE fabulous holiday weekend, we went out for pizza last night. It wasn't a chain, so we think it wasn't quite as bad of a cheat as it could have been, but it was still a cheat. We had the works--a combination with everything. Today, of course, my stomach is playing leap frog with my gall bladder, but after almost 5 months of this, it was worth it!

And.......we had radishes from the garden!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So far, this is the entire radish crop as Theo continues to dig them up wherever I plant them. To be fair, they aren't my favorite vegetable, but I don't know what Theo has against them. He doesn't have to eat them....

Monday, May 25, 2009

Buying Local

This year, we decided to go out of our way to buy our garden plants from a local nursery because we wanted to support the local economy & yada yada yada. And we did support the local economy...and the national one, because this weekend:I made another plant shopping trip--this time to Fred Meyer. All but ONE of the tomatoes we bought from the nursery died (and it is looking VERY sickly but still sort of alive)--and we were VERY careful to surround them with a large amount of compost because while the horse manure did WONDERS for the grass, it can be a bit too hot for garden plants. It doesn't seem to have been too early, because I planted one tomato from Fred Meyer in the first planting round, and it's alive, healthy, and growing like a weed.

I also picked up lots & lots of pepper plants--19 to be exact, which is more of a mistake than complete delusion, as I lost track of what I was doing and was completely led astray by a 9-pack of jalapeno peppers--and they are now scattered throughout the beds. Since they don't take up much room, it made more sense to stick them in here & there and leave the bigger spaces for the big plants, like potatoes & cucumbers. And it might up their chances for survival--at least until I need them for salsa....:)

Theo observed all the activity from a safe distance
probably taking careful notes on where to dig things up in the future. He's made a clean sweep of the kohlrabi and took out a fair number of radishes, but not even a very determined cat can compete with the peas & beans. He has been eyeing the carrots, though.....

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Homemade Ice Cream

To kick off what promises to be a great holiday weekend, Andy made homemade chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

I love this man!!!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Year of No Processed Foods - More Things We've Learned

* Many of your friends will insist that it's really THEIR turn to have you over for dinner, rather than vice versa.

* It's easy to obsess about the garden, and dreams of large tomato harvest become pretty frequent

* Everyone will say, "I could never do what you're doing," which translates into "I don't want to do what you're doing."

* Since we're not getting extra fat & calories in our food, we can have chocolate cake fairly regularly.

* This is an easier experiment to do since we DO get chocolate cake fairly regularly

* There seem to be no limits to the number of things we can find to do with cabbage.

* We get a lot less salt without processed foods

* After almost 5 months, it really has started to seem odd that we've done everything we can to make our food last as long as possible. If Twinkies are shelf-stable for 30 years, can you actually digest them???

* Few foods are really worth giving up a "cheat for." White chocolate martinis, on the other hand, are totally worth it

* Even if you are just reading labels for sport, it's best not to shout "How disgusting!" in the supermarket--even when reading the ingredients on something like Velveeta. Someone, after all, does buy that stuff.

* I'm much faster now at predicting what will be illegal. There are certain things foods can do in nature--not many of which show up in the supermarket

* Food manufacturers have even found ways to add preservatives & additives to dehydrated food--which is actually a preservation method on its own. Why exactly to they fry bananas before dehydrating them?

* If most of your diet truly is plant-based, you may have to increase your portion size.

* This really makes us question a lot of things. Why did they add food coloring to my calcium pills? Did they honestly think green makes them more attractive? And orange for the vitamins? Am I supposed to believe that they're really just like vegetables?????

* What we miss most depends on the season. It used to be canned soup. Now with summer coming on, it is probably going to be salad dressing.

* While I know it is WAY too early, there's a little hope in my heart each time I go out to check those tomato plants......:)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Tomatoes Are In!!!!

I know I'll probably regret this later, but we planted TEN tomato plants. Oh yeah, delusion runs wild during spring planting. Granted, one is an heirloom that I am predicting will produce no usable tomatoes at all--which has been what ever other heirloom tomato has done for me--but it's really hard to remind oneself that running out of salsa isn't actually a world catastrophe & that the reason I didn't make more salsa wasn't a lack of tomatoes. More of a stamina thing by the end of canning season, really.

I do know enough to only have planted ONE zucchini plant, and this year I'm thinking 4 or 5 cucumbers instead of 8. Even if I do a lot of pickling, we still threw away more than half of the crop last year.

I did break down and plant two pumpkins though.......sometimes I just can't help my optimism.......

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mouth Feel

[Should be interesting to see what sort of Google searches THAT title lands me in....]

Recently I was feeling that all of our food this year has been remarkably similar, which is impossible because of all the wild experimentation that I've been doing in the cooking department. But, we finally figured out what is missing--

The mouth feel of processed foods.

Think of biting into a piece of pizza--the way the melting cheese feels in your mouth. We don't get that chewy/fat/greasy type of food, which is probably altogether a good thing to be honest. (Technically, I could slather things in grease and cheese, we are doing this for our health and eating that sort of unhealthy crap would pretty much blow the whole point) We do use cheese, but pretty sparingly--favoring strongly flavored cheese in small amounts versus the chewy-but-tasteless cheese product that many pizza companies use.

Along similar lines--chocolate. Cocoa (the unsweetened powder stuff) is fair game, but to become even semi-sweet chocolate, all sorts of things have to be added to the cocoa making it not so much fair game. We get chocolate cake & we've had chocolate ice cream several times, but the mouth feel of a piece of chocolate is just impossible to replicate--or I haven't found it so far. We do have a few locally owned chocolate shops that I think I'll go talk to when I'm a bit more mobile.

Another type of mouth feel we don't get would be cream cheese--that soft, creamy type of thing. By very definition, our diet this year is very low-fat, vegetable & grain centered, so it makes sense that the fattier side of the American diet would be missing, but I hadn't ever thought about how it feels to eat such thing. Perhaps one of these days I'll use one of my "cheats" on a Snickers bar......

Monday, May 18, 2009

We Had Lettuce Today!

OK, really that wouldn't be a big headline except that it's the first harvest from our garden (I don't think chives really count as they pretty much exist 10 months of the year, the hardy little devils) and I was worried that our current heat wave would kill off all our butter lettuce before we got the chance to harvest any. Yesterday was 90 degrees and today was 94. Tomorrow is supposed to be 84--and there isn't supposed to be any frost this week, so I'm going to try planting tomatoes tomorrow. Honestly, this year gardening feels a bit like Russian Roulette.

Usually I plant a lot of stuff in the garden, hope for the best, and enjoy what comes up. This year is a bit different--I really NEED for things to come up. It feels a bit strange to be within a 5-minute drive of 3 supermarkets and yet to really be dependent on a garden, but we still have 8 months of this experiment to go--not to mention trying to live with a modified version of this next year--and to do that I really need to be able to produce our own food. Not to say that we would exactly starve if the garden did indeed fail, but cooking might get pretty strange by November without it. And I am really counting on those tomatoes.....

Speaking of cooking, I finally felt good enough today to cook both breakfast AND lunch, which was exciting. I'm halfway through the recovery period now. Three weeks from tomorrow I hope to get the go-ahead to start doing normal things again!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mother Nature 1: Toni 0

So, a few nights ago we got a weather bulletin that it was going to freeze, so Andy diligently went out to cover the pepper plants with plastic.....and they froze anyway. All of them. That was 3 days ago. Tomorrow it's supposed to be 88 degrees, and 94 by Monday. So, we might lose the peppers to frost and the broccoli to heat all in the same week!!! WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO OUR WEATHER??????

On the recovery side--it's seriously boring. I am catching up on my goal of reading 100 books this year. Sure, I hadn't planned to do it all within a 6-week period, but I'll go with the flow here. See how nice & mellow a Type A person can be on pain pills???

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Two Weeks Later.....

Okay, I'm back.

Two weeks ago today I went in for surgery & ended up being in the hospital longer than expected & the recovery is going slower than expected (my expectations--not the doctor's. He's thrilled with my progress but HE isn't the one having to take it easy during fabulous spring weather). So, I've been very hit & miss here for a very good reason. And incidentally, I'm perfectly fine & will be back to full speed in about 4 more weeks.

Now, I have to admit that I didn't even attempt to stick to non-processed foods in the hospital. First, it wouldn't have been possible--hospital food being surprisingly unhealthy and QUITE institutional even if they do call it "room service," and secondly--I think that was a pretty darn good excuse for an "exception." However, since then I've been back on track, which might be surprising and even seem a bit extreme, except for the fact that after 4 months, my body has "disadjusted" to processed foods & most of our "cheats" now result in rollicking stomach aches. If that isn't a motivator--I don't know what is.

So, that has led us to some interesting conversations around here regarding next year. This is a bit difficult as a way of life, but why would we reintroduce foods that our bodies are now rejecting? Everyone in the hospital commented on my overall tremendous health (which is truly very little comfort when you're in the hospital feeling like crap), and while hospitals don't generally see people at their peak, that's hard to ignore. Our best idea so far is to allow maybe 4 cheats a week next year, which might be a more "livable" option. After 4 months we already know enough to know there's no going back, which is a little depressing. I think it was easier to NOT know.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ingredients in Fast Food

This is a really interesting article that I found today. It answers a few questions for me--and makes one stop and think...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cottage Cheese

Going in to summer--and predicting huge vegetable crops here at the Chateau Sutton-Goar farm--it's time to look into cottage cheese. I have ignored it until now because I thought it--like hot dogs--might be a food substance that any sort of investigation might leave me so repulsed that it became a moot point. However, it's a great protein source for salad & vegetable plates, so....

According to Wiki, cottage cheese may be legal as far as the curds (chunks) go, because they seem to be like any other cheese. The ability to stay suspended in liquid is the likely problem. I don't know if it's mostly an American thing or if it's world-wide, but we seem to not want to stir or shake our foods, so "emulsifiers" and other agents are added to our food to keep them from separating. This is what got so many of our mustards banned--things that were added to stop them from separating. If you think about it, if there are have chunks of something suspended in a liquid, and the chunks have NOT all settled to the bottor OR all risen to the top, why doesn't that strike us as odd? I admit, my high school science classes were pretty pathetic, but even so, shouldn't I have questioned these things LONG before now??????

Then again, who really wants to think that much about cottage cheese....?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Peppers Are In!!!! The Peppers Are In!!!!

On the off chance that we won't have another frost, we planted peppers today--green bell, sweet banana, jalapeno, and anaheims. Now to watch the weather forecast very, VERY closely.....

The tomato plants are waiting just inside the door....

Monday, May 4, 2009

Coolest Thing Ever!

For a while now, I've been on Facebook, and it's been fun to reconnect with people I went to school with (and subsequently lost track of), and Andy & I have become quite the thugs playing Mafia Wars, but I don't think I was really impressed with Facebook until today when I received an email from a girl I was pen pals (not the incarcerated kind) with as a child. If that isn't cool, I don't know what is.

In the 1970s & early 1980s, a show called Big Blue Marble had a segment where you could write in and request a pen pal from somewhere in the world. I ended up writing to a girl here in the US, and we exchanged letters for years. I remember how thrilling it was to receive letters in the mail once a week or so (we were quite devoted writers though what 9-year-olds find to discuss is anyone's guess), and writing letters back and forth to a friend whom I never met was a very important part of my childhood.

So the questions that come to mind as an adult are:

1. Were there child predators trying to take advantage of the pen pal system, as happens so much online today?
2. Is there any electronic communication that is really as exciting as receiving an honest-to-goodness letter?
and 3. Are there any on-line programs now that are safe enough for kids to get on-line pen pals?

And on that note--I'm off to write to my pen pal. I think my last letter would have been 25 years ago, so we have some catching up to do.......

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Lack of Saltines

I don't have a cold, but I've had an upset stomach the last few days, and in normal circumstances, I'd use saltines to help settle my stomach, but of course they make the "forbidden foods" list--high fructose corn syrup among other things. So....I needed a replacement.

Toast made from homemade bread works, of course, but I wanted something that didn't have to be "made" all the time. It's probable that I could bake some crackers--and I'll be looking for a recipe in the next couple days--but I wasn't up to baking today. Instead, I discovered a healthy, allowed alternative:

plain, uncooked oatmeal

As a kid, it was one of my favorite snacks--not because I really had a passion for dry, tasteless food, but because I was OBSESSED with horses and since we gave our horses oats, rolled oats gave me a sense of unity with them. (Kids are weird--that's not exactly a newsflash) I have given it up as a snack in favor of things with flavor, but it works wonders for an upset stomach.
Probably better than saltines ever did, and certainly better than they would now as processed food "cheats" are starting to create stomach problems of their own.

Where there's a will, there's a way.....even if it involves dry, tasteless food....

Friday, May 1, 2009

Potatoes

Probably for no other reason than they can go in the ground now, I have planted 2 potatoes this year. I haven't ever grown them before because it just seemed like potatoes are so easy to get at the store (especially since I live in Idaho and it's almost mandatory for any shopping excursion), and I just couldn't see how home-grown potatoes could be any better than the ones I can buy in the store. Maybe I'm underrating potatoes in general, but how good can a potato really be?

Still, it's a few weeks too early to plant the good stuff--tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and I'm trying to ration myself to planting just a few carrots, lettuce, and radishes every 2 weeks, as I've finally caught on to the fact that NO ONE is going to eat 150 radishes in one week. Still, it's hard not to be overly exuberant about planting things, because having a full garden will finally give us some convenience food for the year! Very, very exciting.....

The Look

Anyone who thinks cats can't learn things hasn't lived with one. It took Theo maybe a month into his diet to figure out that I can...