Friday, October 30, 2009

Doin' It The Hard Way...

Which could actually be a subtitle for my blog, don't you think?

I decided to make bread this week.  Not just any bread--I've made bread for years, though not on a really regular basis.  Julia Child's bread. 

I had borrowed the library's copy of this

and after trying her cornmeal pizza crust, I had to order a copy for us before I could return it.  Crazy to spend $50 on a cookbook for just one recipe, you say?  You didn't try the pizza crust.  Amazing stuff.  I think we've had pizza once a week ever since.  However, I decided that since there are more than just 2 pages and one recipe in this book, maybe I should try a second recipe.  So I picked the whole wheat bread.

It is actually a 2-day process, because in a 4-cup measuring cup

(which she is VERY specific about), you mix up water, yeast, and sugar and set it in a warm place overnight.  Andy was a bit disgruntled to learn that I will turn the heat up for a yeast sponge but not for him, but the sponge doesn't get handmade sweaters, so I think it all evens out. 

Why does it specifically have to be a 4-cup measuring cup, you might ask?  No idea.  Yesterday, I ended up with this

so it isn't a matter of it overflowing, but I think the whole point is to make it easier to pour the liquid through the hole in a food processor lid.  Julia is kind enough to provide instructions for mixing it up in a food processor, though I'm guessing it's a pretty good way to kill off a food processor or two. I got it all combined without killing ours (barely),  then it was time for the first rising.  Julia says the French don't grease the bowl that the dough will rise in. 

That's fine, but then the French need to come up with a good way to get the darn dough back OUT of the bowl once it has risen.  Rise number two got a little spritz of olive oil

I'm not saying the French are wrong on this one, but how far do I really want to trust people who think snails are a delicacy?  (Not that I haven't had escargot, but every time I've had it, it was just a butter & garlic delivery device, and while I can appreciate THAT part, couldn't it be something a bit less slimy?) 

The next step was to form the dough into a sort of cushion, pinching the ends together to seal

which was actually a lot tougher than it sounds.  I had to do a lot of pinching before it would finally stick together and I still ended up with a bit of a hole.  THEN

it was time for a THIRD rising, tucked between two "lightly floured" towels.  I've never floured a towel before, so I'm not quite clear on how much is "lightly floured" and how much is "heavily floured," so I just aimed for "slightly-less-flour-than-is-on-my-shirt-by-now." 

The really exciting step was when I slid it onto the hot baking stone and--per Julia's instructions--threw 1/2 cup of water into the bottom of the electric oven.  I get the whole steam idea, but I did struggle to get past the whole "water + electric heating element = bad idea" prejudice I seem to have acquired.  Of course, Julia was right and there were no explosions, fires, or other disasters, and I believe the oven still works--though it's going to be a few days before I go near it again.

Another two hours later......

The crust is a little bit darker than it should be, but since the baking directions are completely vague & "when it feels light" doesn't really cut it when there are options like turn down to 400, then to 375 for large loaves but without the "when" detail, I was just pleased that it even resembled bread.

Earlier this year I was scoffing at the idea of paying $5.00 a loaf for "artisan" breads at the Farmer's Market, but now I have an entirely new appreciation of their price. 

I would have charged $1000.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On The Good Side.....'s now cold enough to plant garlic. 

On the bad side, it actually went streaking right past "cold enough" to 32 degrees.  Brrrrrrrr!

And You Thought It Was Confusing BEFORE.....

The other day I added quinoa to some black bean quisedillas I was making.  I had heard that it was supposed to be a really healthy grain, and I thought I'd sneak a little in.  (First rule of cooking in Toni's world:  If it's got a little liquid and a reasonably strong flavor, it's a great place to add something healthy)

The quiesedillas turned out pretty well, and just to verify what I thought I knew about quinoa--basically that it was good for you and that it had quite a bit of protein for a grain--so I did a little Google search.

The problem with the internet is that Google can't really distinguish between the website of places that do research, or fact-check, or have some connection to reality and those run by some guy named Bubba sitting at his computer in the basement of his mother's house wearing his tin-foil hat to protect his brain from alien brain scans.  I always try to pick domain names that look like they belong to something credible.  So, when I searched on "quinoa nutrition facts," I turned up a plausible sounding website called  Okay, that seemed reasonable enough, so I clicked on the link.

I don't doubt their research, or their accuracy--I just don't really know what the heck they are talking about.  Amino acid score?  Weren't we having enough trouble just figuring out calories?  Not that someone, somewhere might not need this information, but this is not info for the normal consumer.  Most of us are really American Bandstand-type nutritionists.  ("Thanks Dick.  It's got a good crunch, I can still dance after eating it.....I'd give it a 6")  Too much information is just confusing.

A little more digging around, and I found my answer:  YES, it is good for you--it has protein.  And it can be used as a substitute for white rice or couscous....or snuck into anything else that your spouse doesn't see you making.

I think I'd give it a 7......

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just What Did He Think He Was Buying?

So for my birthday my sister gave me a subscription to Mother Earth News, which is a magazine devoted to growing your own food, living off the land, etc. We are loving it—and learning a lot about why some things haven’t worked as well as we had hoped.  This issue has articles on planting fall cover crops (done on one bed--I still need to do the others), planting garlic (YAY!), cooking with applesauce (YUM!) and growing veggies in the winter (you know I'm going to).

October/November issue just arrived, and as I was flipping through the pages, the following letter heading caught my eye: Hates Our “Wacko Spew.” Okay, who wouldn’t be intrigued? A subscriber—SUBSCRIBER--wrote the following in a letter:

“I tend to ‘throw up’ in my mouth just a little more each and every time I read your wacko ‘save the Earth’ spew.” 

He goes on to assert that there is "no such thing as man-made global warming," and asks, "Did a bunch of liberal hippies overtake your headquarters?"

Okay, first of all--thanks for the icky visual.  I don't think we really needed that.  Secondly, IF HE HATES THE MAGAZINE, WHY DOES HE CONTINUE TO READ IT--AND SUBSCRIBE?  Third, it's called "Mother Earth News."  Don't you think that might mean it would be about being environmentally friendly???  Wouldn't you love to know what he thought the magazine would be about--updates from the mother ship/planet???????  I mean, I could understand if it was called "Mother Earth--That Crazy B*tch" or something.  Then it might not be quite so obvious. But Mother Earth--don't you just get an image of Mama Cass in a mu-mu singing about California dreaming?

Meanwhile, little "Wacko" that I am, I'm off to stir our "wacko" compost bin, plant our "wacko" garlic, and spread a little "wacko" mulch. Then later I'll sit down with a cup of hot coffee and read the rest of my "wacko" magazine....

Monday, October 26, 2009


Last year you might remember I decided to do a "month of Martha," where I pretended to be Martha Stewart except without the staff & the money.  The idea behind my experiments is generally to learn something, but mostly what I learned that month is that it stinks to be Martha without the staff and the money.  I still have a few aspirations, so I get Martha's email newsletters for organizational tips, crafting tips, and seasonal tips, though I have to admit I still don't know if I really like Martha Stewart. 

On the one hand, I can truly admire the woman's business sense.  She started out as a caterer, and has now built an empire.  That's impressive. 

The thing that makes it difficult (besides her insistence on the "perfect" way to do everything) is that Martha and I do not live in the same universe.  Four years ago when I was planning our wedding, I actually borrowed a Martha wedding DVD from the library.  In it, Martha explained how to make a great centerpiece out of a $5000 wheel of cheese. 

First, THERE IS SUCH A THING AS A FIVE THOUSAND DOLLAR WHEEL OF CHEESE.  Now I'm sure that it was fabulous cheese, but I was stunned nevertheless.  Then Martha used it as a decoration. 

In my universe, if $5000 is involved with cheese in any way, it's because I have decided to buy some cows for the back yard and milk them myself.  Not that I'm saying buying a $5000 wheel of cheese is wrong--I'm just not in that sort of world.  I mean, if I found an extra $5000 laying around cheese just isn't going to be my first thought.  Of course in my world, if I found an extra $5000 I'd have to call the bank and ask whose money they had mistakenly deposited in our account.  But I digress. 

In our universe, money is a real consideration.  In doing some research for this year, I've located several books from different decades--some cookbooks, some household management--and so far I've noticed that having to survive on a budget and admitting that one needed to live within that budget seems to have been pretty common during much of our history.  I think we're getting better, but during the 1990s especially it seemed like admitting that one couldn't afford something was to be some sort of failure.  I know I certainly went out with friends for more than one or two meals which I seriously couldn't afford (well, without surviving on cup-a-soup for the next month) because EVERYBODY could afford such things.  Of course, now it turns out that EVERYBODY was racking up debt. It turns out, we were just pretending that money & budgets didn't matter. 

When I first lost my job & decided to not look for a new one immediately, I decided I had to get serious about budgets & meal planning and discovered that even as careful as I thought I was about money, I had no idea what I was doing.  I'd buy groceries that we ended up not using, I didn't always think about ways to use leftovers or overlapping ingredients, and I was buying more than we needed for the week.  I checked out articles online that promised a week's worth of inexpensive dinners, and the menus for one week would have blown our food budget for the entire month.  Or the money saving articles were all centered around us living in the mountains, building our home from old soda cans and tires that we collected along the roadside, somehow locating free solar panels, and living somewhere that there wasn't a ban on wood-burning stoves in the winter.  So my question is, what about the rest of us?

I am certainly getting better by now, and I have learned a lot about meal planning and shopping, but what about people who DON'T want to put themselves through some sort of cooking boot camp?  I'm spending a lot of time at the library lately looking for cookbooks that feature healthy and reasonably inexpensive foods WITHOUT a bunch of processed foods, and so far I'm not finding much.  There are budget-conscious cookbooks, but so far all the ones I've seen are spectacularly unhealthy and the healthy cookbooks all call for ingredients we can't have (besides the fact that I'm no longer convinced that the "low-cal," low-fat," or "lite" foods are a good idea) or the meals are pretty spendy.   So far, I don't think this is a category that exists.  Why is that?

And have I just found next year's project.......? 

Friday, October 23, 2009

New Lesson Learned Today

Just because it was 2 full cups of zucchini when you put it IN the freezer, don't think it's going to be 2 full cups of zucchini when you take it OUT of the freezer.  More like 3/4 of a cup.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Just Over Two Months Left!!!!

I thought that I was getting better at being able to plan meals and stay organized, but it turns out that it was really only because of the garden out the back door.  Now it's back to being a bit of a struggle to keep on top of what I have decided is our highly-overrated need to eat regularly.  Yesterday I sat down with my calendar, a menu planner, and several cookbooks to see if I could figure out meal plans for the next two months, and was instantly reminded why I haven't been using cookbooks this year:

We can't use many of the ingredients.

Believe it or not, the "healthy" cookbooks are the worst.  The healthy "alternative" ingredients--even tofu--are completely off limits this year.  Not that I've exactly been losing sleep over not getting tofu or anything--let's not be silly here--but I did think I might be able to use those cookbooks. 

I thought it might help to keep a spreadsheet of all my canning efforts this year, and I think it will in general, but it's not much help with meal planning.  I mean, I KNOW we have pickles and salsa.  I don't need to look that up.  What would help is a list of things to DO with the pickles and salsa--and preferably not together. 

Thank heavens we both like soup, so if I make soup once a week from now until the end of the year, that will give us a few meals each week (leftovers are a HUGE part of our lives this year), and between the bread machine and myself, I think I could make bread once a week for two months, which means we can have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches regularly (and I can assure you that this year I have already eaten more of the darn things this year than I have the rest of my adult life combined), and we try to rotate in salmon, shrimp, and steak to provide some variety in protein, but I am counting the days until I can have a normal deli sandwich--you know, the sliced ham, turkey, or roast beef (all of which have injections or ingredients that make them off limits this year) ones that you pay an outrageous amount for at the deli counter.  Of course, we've learned to be bread & mustard snobs this year, so I don't want to go OUT for a sandwich--I just want the capacity to make my own.

I think I've gotten used to not drinking diet soda, and now that I have Julia Childs's pizza crust recipe, commercial pizza is dull and uninteresting, but I'll be glad to have olives back in our lives.  We're still going to avoid high fructose corn syrup as much as possible, though I might cave once in a while just to be able to use Worcestershire sauce or spicy Italian sausage occasionally.  And Grape Nuts for breakfast!  I fantasize about such things now........:)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Never A Dull Moment....

So Andy and I are learning Italian together in preparation for a future trip to Italy when he turns 50, so today he sent me the following for Italian practice:

"Pinguini mangiato le mie mutande"

which (we think) means "Penguins ate my underwear."

So you can see we're learning the most useful phrases first.....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Things I've Learned This Week

*  "Quick" lunches were a lot easier when it was warm enough to have yogurt smoothies on a regular basis.

*  Not everyone bakes a "stringy" spaghetti squash, which is probably good news if you don't have a pot of spaghetti sauce waiting for it.

*  Every time I think humans have reached an all-time-low, there's a "Reality TV" show just waiting to prove me wrong.

*  Asking people what his or her favorite books are is a great way to find some new authors. 

*  The idea of going out to get a truckload of manure for the garden was a much more sellable idea BEFORE we knew it would probably be fresh and steaming.

*  Petunias are a very determined flower.  I have petunias coming up now that I didn't even plant.  That's my kind of flower!

*  If you feel the need to make sweeping statements on Facebook about "all" of any group, I'm probably going to feel the need to "de-friend" you.  

*  It's hard not to feel a bit unloved when you don't even get "occupant" letters in the mail.  Not to mention a bit shocked.

*  It would be hard to say which I am most able to overestimate--the speed at which I can knit, or the speed at which I can read books.  Currently, I think I have enough on both my lists for the next 85 years......

*  For creatures that spend 15-20 hours a day napping, it's amazing how little sleep the cats seem to think I need. 

*  Just because it's a fall-flowering plant, apparently one shouldn't actually think their mum plant is going to have flowers in the fall. 

*  I don't know if it makes the neighbors feel better to see us out putting stuff on our lawn so it won't always look terrible, or if they wonder why our lawn looks like crap when we keep putting so much stuff on it.

*  I will never actually enjoy yardwork, but being outsmarted by the weeds every year does actually make it a bit of a "thrill-of-the-challenge" sort of thing.

*  I found some onion seeds which are supposed to be planted in the fall to produce some great onions the following season.  If I could remember where I put the seed packet, that would be even more exciting.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's Cider Time!

First, I'd better clear up a few terms.  In much of the world, "cider" means the fermented version that we call "hard cider" here in the US.  In grocery stores, apple cider & apple juice mean pretty much the same darn thing.  However, if you live near apple orchards in the US (or presumably parts of Canada), cider means this:

a totally unfiltered, unpasteurized beverage that has some of us literally pestering fruit stands & orchards to find out when we will be able to get our "fix" for the year.

Here in the states, unpasteurized cider can only be purchased from a local fruit stand or directly from the orchard because the USDA requires all commercial "cider" to be pasteurized to eliminate the possibility of contamination as the unfiltered stuff--not to mention the fact that it has a pretty short shelf life, unless you enjoy the more alcoholic version. (Although the alcoholic version might actually help us get through the current vole-stink problem, come to think of it....)
Since I was visiting a fruit stand anyway, I decided to pick up some honeycrisp apples as they are quite popular now & we hadn't tried them

though I was disappointed to find them in cellophane bags & pretty obviously waxed for shelf life.  I was delighted to find

not just unwaxed apples, but apples from an orchard that I think produces the most amazing red delicious apples ever.  Normally, I don't like the red delicious variety of apple--an apple grower once explained to me that they had been bred so single-mindedly to produce the rosy-red apple that American consumers had come to expect that the flavor had all but gone from the breed.  I certainly can see his point, but these were from an orchard in Fruitland (which seems to have been renamed but used to be Hennegler) and my college roommate used to bring a case of these apples to school in the fall and my friends and I would devour them with all the ferocity of a group of women eating without men around as witnesses........


So the GOOD news is, I'm pretty sure that the vole that got away from Theo & I by climbing into a tiny crack that led him underneath the kitchen cupboards is dead....

The BAD news is....Chateau Sutton-Goar has become rather, um, aromatic lately and there just doesn't seem to be any way to remove said vole. 

Thank heavens this week is in the 50s & 60s so we can dress warm and open the windows.....

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Just Had To Share This One

Since I hadn't been feeling well much of the week, I realized I still had both my cheats on Saturday morning, and of course are "cheats" reset on Sunday.  I briefly thought of going out to lunch, but then I remembered we still had chocolate in the freezer from Christmas, and then I got so thoroughly excited about getting to have chocolate that I actually forgot to have lunch. 

It's a weird life here at Chateau Sutton-Goar......

Back And Running

After dragging around for a few days being not-quite-sick but not-quite-well and resting quite a bit, I feel fine today and am ready to tackle the

In spite of a weather forecast of 71 today, it is fall here, so according to our research, it's time to:

*  sprinkle gypsum on the soil to add some calcium to it

*  dig up all the old plants from the garden and put everything EXCEPT the powdery-mildew-covered squash leaves in the compost bin. 

*  plant our "green manure" crop in the garden beds.  I really wanted hairy vetch because I liked the name, but we'll be planting rye because it was easier to find.  

*  plant lettuce and spinach seed

*  spread more compost on our yard to try to improve the soil--which is probably about a 5 year process.

*  find and dig up the gladiola bulbs to store for winter, ranking them as a pretty darn fussy plant

*  plant the garlic when it cools off again

*  buy the wonderful unprocessed apple cider that is only available from fruit stands during the fall...YUM!

Is it just me, or is everything in my life lately about food?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

And Today's Question Is.....

Is your mind open to suggestions you don't want?

Tuesday we went to get flu shots because the swine flu seems to be a pretty fast-spreading little bug, and I had meant for us to get our shots much sooner.  Yesterday I ran errands during the morning, then started feeling less-than-stellar by noon, and, with a little help from the makers of Nyquil, slept most of the rest of the day.  This morning I felt a bit shaky, which was pretty likely to be the after effects of Nyquil, so I peeled and canned 17 pints of tomatoes.  By the time they were done, I was a bit woozy and went back to bed.

Now, in no way, shape, or form could that mean I got the swine flu from the vaccination--it's a dead virus and I've been getting flu shots for years because I am a HUGE believer in them.  Part of me has been wondering if this is just psychosomatic as EVERYONE is talking about the flu, lots of people I know have come down with it, and I have always suspected that some part of my subconscious mind is just a big ninny anyway.  I have double-checked the flu website, and unless I have had a fever and just not noticed, I do not have the flu (YAY!).  Here's the strange thing:  I can't even decide for sure if I'm sick.  Usually when I'm sick, I'm really bad for a day or two, then fine.  This is really my first "illness" of the year (before when I thought I had a cold, it seems to have been just an allergy), and while I don't feel great, I certainly don't feel truly "sick."  I wish we had some sort of "control" group for our Year of No Processed Foods experiment, because wouldn't it be worth it if it meant that we wouldn't be as susceptible to colds and flu?  That would ALMOST make up for having to go through Halloween without buying one of those bags of candy bars, pretend like I'm actually planning to hand it out to trick-or-treaters, then eat the whole darn thing myself and give the poor kids pencils.  Er....not that I actually do that or anything....I'm just saying it could happen.....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nine And A Half Months And We're Starting To Split, Cookies

Today my loving spouse and I went on an "outing." We found a place that had the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccines today between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM, so we made a date.  Ever since my days at the American Diabetes Association, I have been a big believer in flu vaccines.  It turns out that people with certain diseases or ailments (like diabetes) and the elderly are at greater risk of death due to flu & pneumonia, and I figured even if they weren't going to get flu shots, at least I could do my part in trying not to kill them.  Just to liven things up and make us NOT the most boring couple in the universe, we decided to incorporate lunch into our date.  I don't care how in love you are--I don't think being jabbed with needles makes a romantic outing.

Luckily, the store with the flu shots shares a parking lot with, among other things, a "Mongolian barbecue" type of restaurant, and we think it might be one of the few places we can go that would be "legal."  So we had lunch (no noodles), and the waitress brought our check with two fortune cookies.  Andy promptly downed part of his before I lovingly reminded him that it was "illegal."  Rather than just eat the rest of the cookie and count it as a cheat, he says he has used 1/4 of a cheat.

Glad he didn't come up with that one earlier--I would have been dissecting Reese's peanut butter cups all year......

For Whom The Tomatoes Toll.....

So I took last week off and completely ignored the green tomato stash in the garage.  Now there's a whole bunch of ripened ones waiting for me....and I still want to ignore them. 

The easiest thing would be to just can them as plain crushed tomatoes, though I still keep thinking about the tomato sauce I made over Labor Day weekend.  It was REALLY good stuff....but took most of the day and would require me to go back to the store first thing to pick up some missing ingredients.  The seasoned tomato sauce I made last week SOUNDED easier because the tomatoes don't have to be peeled, but then you end up having to pound the cooked tomatoes through a strainer to remove the peel anyway so I think it actually took MORE time. 

Sigh......I wonder how many more days I can ignore them before they rot..........

Monday, October 12, 2009

Changing With The Times

It has recently come to my attention that many of our sayings are so old that we aren't even sure what they mean any more.  "The proof is in the pudding" leaves many scratching their heads wondering what exactly Jell-O pudding cups prove.  So, I have taken it upon myself to suggest a few updates:

A bird in the hand..... probably a gift of love from your pet

A rolling stone...... going to knock the crap out of whatever is at the bottom of the hill

A little learning.... no problem as long as you can pass standardized tests

A penny saved..... much easier than finding something to buy with one penny

A picture is worth a thousand words......
....and if it's a Maplethorpe, they're all going to be swear words

A rose by any other name..... still probably going to get those darn aphids

A stitch in time....
....must be some sort of 4th dimension physics sort of thing

A watched pot never boils....
....but will boil all over the damn stove the minute your back is turned

All that glitters.... in Las Vegas

All the world's a stage.....
....but the best seats cost a fortune

An apple a day...
....isn't at all necessary to keep the doctor away.  Ever tried to get in to see one on a weekend?

An ounce of prevention....
....won't be covered by insurance

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder....
....but it still sells a lot of products to men

Better to give than to receive....
....unless we're talking about the IRS

Birds of a feather flock together.....
....which makes it much easier to crap on moving cars

Can't get blood from a stone....
....and what sort of moron thought one could?

If you can't say anything nice..... probably spend a lot of time leaving anonymous comments on the internet

Lesson Learned Today

Always check that the little sifter thing is in place BEFORE shaking spices into your soup.

In a TOTALLY unrelated topic, does anyone know how much cardamom really is "too much?"

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's Official

I have gotten up early today because my vacation is over and I am excited--that's right, excited--to get back to "work."

I need help.

Soup Night is Monday, so first this morning I'm going to the grocery store.  I like to get there early on weekends because it's less crowded, and long ago when I worked as a waitress (college years) I learned to fear the After Church Crowd.  I believe 99.99999999% of the people who go to church on Sundays are nice people before and after the service, but there's that .000000001% that seems to have decided that they have been to church, they're safe for the week and they can behave like total harpies for the next 7 days.  These are the ones who often like to go out after church so they can be seen as having BEEN to church.  (I guess if you're going to miss the whole point of the service anyway, aim big).  I think they might limit themselves to terrorizing waitresses, but just in case they regularly go get groceries AFTER brunch, I want to be in, out and gone before they show up.

My favorite grocery store, Winco, is being remodeled, so grocery shopping for the last few months has been a bit like a scavenger hunt.  Personally, I think this livens grocery shopping up considerably.  Interestingly enough, it also creates a sense of camaraderie between the fellow shoppers.  It's not unusual for one shopper to ask another if they've seen pancake mix, or baking soda.  For a while, when in question, I told everyone to look for the "feminine hygiene"  aisle.  Everytime I went there, something new had been moved to the shelves across from the 4000 types of "hygiene," and usually it was something that I was looking for.  Can't find flour?  Try feminine hygiene.  (which was true, by the way)  It was okay for me, but there are a lot of older couples who shopped there, and you can always tell the old men who had just been down the "hygiene" aisle for the first time in their lives--their ears glowed like some twisted offspring of Dumbo & Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  One day I met an older gent who had probably stumbled down that aisle more than once, and he was just walking in a little circle mumbling, "Oatmeal.  I just wanted oatmeal."  I found a nice store employee to take care of him, but I'm not positive that he ever got his oatmeal.

Then, I may be making more of the green tomato curry sauce.  While I would be disappointed if I got it in a restaurant and was charged $15.00 for it, for something one can pop open a jar of, heat, and dump over rice for a quick healthy dinner with no preservatives, it's pretty good stuff.  (Have I just written the world's longest disclaimer?)

Then...who knows?  Cooking lunch, making the bed, digging up a garden bed.....there's just no telling what sort of excitement I'll get up to today.  I might even buy some oatmeal........

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Things I've Learned This Week

*  Only an overachiever could work more hours while "unemployed" than while employed.

*  If you cannot support any candidates from the opposing political party, it isn't politics--it's bigotry.

*  It takes me about 3 vacation days before I can sit down to read a book without feeling like I should be doing something while reading.

*  If a knitting project is repeatedly kicking your arse, it shouldn't be part of your vacation.

*  The fastest way to get recognition for all the work you do is to completely stop doing it for a few days.

*  It would have been a good idea to not let the cats develop the idea that humans exist to entertain them.

*  If I didn't know it was an Abraham Lincoln quote, I would have guessed the saying "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt" referred to Facebook.

*  Letting a cat play with the dead vole it brought in is only a good idea if you're going to pay close attention to where the vole ends up when the cat is done playing. 

*  If you really, really, REALLY don't want to cook, you can eat peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for every meal for several days before getting sick of it.

*  In my world, there's no such thing as just "browsing" in a used book store.

*  When you're really irritated because you've had to dig through a bunch of stuff to find something, it's a great time to declutter.  It's hard to be sentimental about things you've just referred to as a "bunch of flipping crap."

*  If taking a stand against messages of hate and bigotry cost you relationships, they probably weren't relationships worth having.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I Found This At A Used Bookstore Yesterday

Don't worry--I'll be sharing LOTS of great tips when I get a bit more time, but did you notice the author's name?  Do you think they thought saying it was by someone named "Poppa Cannov" was just too obvious?????

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Worth Sharing

I thought this article was especially timely.  I've generally been a Harvey Mackay fan, and thought this week's article was especially well done.

Signs It Was Time To Take A Break

* This week is the first time in months that I haven't worried about getting bugs, twigs, or leaves out of my hair while showering.

* I seem to have injured my foot somehow & hadn't noticed doing it.

*  If I'm not surrounded by jars, I wonder what to do with myself.

*  I made a "to-do" list for my days off.

*  Last night I dreamed of making squash soup, and it wasn't even that good.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I'm On Vacation!

Today through Saturday, I am completely ignoring the green tomatoes, the yard work, the house cleaning, the kitchen, we're not having any company, no one is coming for dinner, and I don't care how nice the weather gets this week--I am not going anywhere NEAR the garden.

Of course, in order for me to feel comfortable embarking on my week of being a complete lounge-about, yesterday I got up bright and early to run to the grocery store.  Under normal circumstances, it wouldn't be too difficult to not cook for a week.  With our little experiment, however, it's a bit challenging.  I had some hope of finding something allowable in the organic soup aisle, but even organic soups had unknown polysyllabic ingredients, so no soup for us.  I was quite delighted to find

possibly the first commercial bread we've had all year.  The other breads I have looked at have all had additives, which probably explains why theirs lasts so much longer than ours but makes it illegal all the same.  This one, however, didn't even have the "dough stabilizers" that so many of the others had.  The term "dough stabilizers" has always amused me as it always makes dough sound like an explosive substance.  Now I've had some whoppers of kitchen disasters, but even I have not had exploding bread dough.  I did a bit of research on stabilizers, and I found an article which says: 

Emulsifiers and oils/shortenings are fatbased ingredients that function both as dough stabilizers when the emulsifier interacts with the gluten protein in the dough and as crumb softeners when the emulsifier complexes with the gelatinizing starch during baking. The emulsifiers with the best dough stabilizing effect (DATEM, EMG) are usually the worst crumb softeners, while the emulsifiers with the best crumb softening effect(monoglycerides) are usually inferior dough stabilizers. SSL is the most commonly used emulsifier in white pan bread, having both fair dough stabilizing and crumb softening action. Monoglycerides can be added to further improve crumb softness, while DATEM can be added in case dough stability is lacking. DATEM is therefore mainly used in frozen dough applications, in high-fiber bread where the fiber interferes with the glutendevelopment, in hearth bread where the dough is baked without the support from a pan, or in bread produced from weak flours. 
So that clears that right up.  I have no idea what crumb softness actually is, but obviously commercial bread is altered to have a longer shelf life than home-baked bread.  And, after 9 months of eating only homemade bread, I'd say it tastes like it.  It was pretty disappointing, so 

I dug out the sourdough starter and got a batch of biscuits going for dinner.  Then it was time to tackle

I had 18 pounds of tomatoes which were ripe & ready to work with and which many hours later became

23 cups of seasoned tomato sauce.  And since I was really going to take a whole 5 days off, I converted another 6 pounds of green tomatoes into

9 pints of green tomato curry sauce.  (And those little black dots are raisins, just in case you were beginning to wonder).  We will be trying it out tonight over rice as one jar refused to seal. 

And after all of that (and the biscuits turned out quite well & the leftovers are well on their way to becoming rock-hard like bread actually should), I was actually in bed asleep by 8:00 PM.  We've noticed that since my surgery, I have developed the lifestyle of the Energizer Bunny--go at full speed all day and then crash hard at night and sleep like the dead.  I think I have my old energy level back (though some friends have suggested that I got mine and 2 other people's energy level as well), but I had been having some health problems for several months prior to surgery, so it's hard to say exactly.  The greater need for sleep thing is a bit odd, but I think I am going pretty hard most days.  I may just be wearing myself out every day--which, let's face it, is perfectly possible--or I might still be dragging just a bit from surgery.

Don't you just shudder to think I might NOT be back to full steam yet?????

Monday, October 5, 2009


Some people have a date with destiny.

I have a date with our tomato harvest.....

Friday, October 2, 2009

Things I Learned From This Year's Garden

*  I like to think of myself as a tough "I-can-take-it" sort of farm girl.  This did not, however, keep me from running through the yard screaming like a complete idiot when I discovered aphids crawling on me.

*  If you show mercy on the vermin the cats bring in, next season the vermin will decide to move in and bring friends.

*  Once you make the third type of zucchini cake, it's time to kill the plant.  Or join Weight Watchers.

*  Just when you start to think growing a garden is easy, it will be time to learn about powdery mildew.  Or aphids.  Or moles.  

*  No matter what the package says, there is no such thing as a "bush-type" squash plant in my yard.  We got the "crawling-all-over-and-taking-hostages" kind.

*  Some days my biggest goal will be to remain clean until at least 9:00 AM.

*  Ask a few questions before ordering a garlic sampler pack for planting.  When it says it includes elephant garlic, it really might mean one lousy clove.

*  As a resident of a desert state, I would never have believed it, but sometimes less rain really is better.

*  Gardens are a veritable mole smorgasbord, and they are probably going to like the same things we like.  The eggplant will be untouched.

*  In gardening as in as knitting, "heirloom" is a nice term for "fussy."

*  The garden hasn't read the same gardening books that I have, and is going to do whatever it darn well pleases anyway. 

*  My favorite flowers will be the ones that take the least amount of effort.  Zinnias are my current favorites, though I will keep an open mind if the mum ever flowers.

*  The only place tomatoes will have trouble growing is where you planted them.  Everywhere else they grow like gangbusters.

*  I am a "leg-ist."  I am not proud of it, but I have to admit that while I generally like things with two legs, or 4, things with 6 or 8 legs really freak me out.  I will be attending leg-sensitivity classes this fall....

*  Sometimes the garden knows best.  One eggplant probably really was enough.

*  They are called "slicing" cucumbers because they probably taste better raw than the "pickling" varieties.  That would have been good information to have in May. 

*  Sometimes a relationship needs to end....and a good hard frost will generally do it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's Green Tomato Season

Known as "October" in other parts of the world.

We knew it was likely to freeze last night (which it did), so two nights ago Andy and I did the Great Tomato HarvestWe didn't grow the bananas. Turns out, banana peels emit something that will turn green tomatoes red. So all future red tomatoes here will taste like the ones from the store, as this is a natural way of doing what large producers do. Still, they will be fine for a few batches of seasoned tomato sauce, as well as some fresh tomato soup. In the meantime, we have 14 pints of dilled green tomatoes. Today will be green tomato salsa, and I found a recipe for a curried green tomato sauce that I'll be trying next week. Now knowing how long green tomatoes can last, I don't feel as rushed to take care of these as I did last year. Of course, we also now know that we really like the green tomato salsa, so that's a perk. No idea yet about the dilled green tomatoes. The recipe says to use them anyplace you would use regular tomatoes, but they have got to taste like dill pickles, and while I am quite the dill pickle fiend, who wants pickles on pizza?

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-...