Monday, November 30, 2009

Something I Hadn't Thought About

We do not watch television.  Sometimes we watch a movie or a documentary--in fact I normally have the television on for about 30 minutes before going to sleep every night so I can knit & unwind and it helps me transition to sleep (I have always suspected that it has something to do with a study I read in college that says your brain has the exact same wave pattern when you're watching television as when you are sleeping).  Occasionally we get a wild hair, locate all the remotes, and figure out how to get the digital signal box to work with our bunny ears so we can watch something on the 4 PBS channels we now get.  Nor do we listen to the radio except for NPR or PRI.  Normally for me it's audio books--Andy does podcasts.

But every December, one of the radio stations plays all Christmas music, so we listen to the real broadcast radio in December....or until the "Dehlila" show comes on--then we sprint to the radio and shut it off.  Not that there's anything wrong with her, but if we're opting for something that sugary-sweet, we're going to be EATING it.

So what is my point?  We aren't exposed to much advertising.  My browser blocks pop-up ads, we stopped subscribing to the newspaper long ago because it's a pretty poor paper anyway, and since we never got a home phone, we don't get telephone solicitations.  We get lots of advertisements in the mail, but rather than letting it pile up in the house anywhere, we've started sorting mail AT OUR RECYCLING BIN, so we aren't bothered by them.  So, my question is:  Is it easier for us to live our little "alternative life" over here because we aren't exposed to advertising?

For a little experiment, today turn on your radio or television around 4:00 PM today.  Then, count how many food & restaurant commercials you hear or see.  Especially pizza.  [Even as I am writing this, there's an advertisement for some sort of breakfast sandwiches at Subway]  Advertising works.  I didn't realize how much it worked until being inundated with it so suddenly lately.   So, would this experiment have been harder if we actually had been exposed to more advertising???

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Julie & Julia," Again

Today we went to see the movie Julie & Julia at the dollar theater--which incidentally is now a $3 theater, or $4 theater if you want junk food & beverage....which you know I wanted but I think the carpet might have been closer to being legal on our diet than any of the movie theater food, so $3 in our world.  Andy had not seen the movie yet, and enjoyed it so much he is downstairs in the kitchen making THE pizza crust (Julia Child's cornmeal pizza crust--sooooo recommended)

It's hard NOT to be inspired by Julia Child.  She had what I can only describe as "infectious happiness."  She seems to have approached everything--life, love, food--with a full heart and no reservations.  Is it any wonder the world loved her?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving--The Aftermath

I guess it was too much to hope for to have no ill effects after Thanksgiving dinner, but I did hope for it all the same.  My optimism runneth does indigestion.   I think the roll, turkey, and the green salad with no dressing was all fine, and while we know that my stuffing didn't contain any processed ingredients, stuffing is still incredibly rich, so that might have been a bit of a shock to our mostly low-fat diets, but I think the real culprits might have been the other salads which all sported copious amounts of mayonnaise.  I don't actually care for mayo in general, and I haven't checked to see what's actually in the commercial variety (note for next trip to grocery store), but I'm guessing it's quite far on the "illegal" scale.

So....yesterday I made a broccoli soup for dinner, today for lunch I had a very large bowl of steamed peas and a few nuts for lunch, and tonight for dinner we had spaghetti squash (first baked, then sautéed with garlic, onion, one chicken Italian sausage, then sprinkled with about half a teaspoon of fresh Parmesan & salt to serve), so we're feeling "cleansed."  The good news is, my stomach has stopped hurting.  The bad news is, December--known around here as the Party Marathon Month--hasn't even started yet.  We might have to re-think our former exemption of eating whatever is served at someone else's house....or just stick as close as possible to the relish trays.

Hey, maybe this means we won't have to worry about holiday weight gain......

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

Yesterday we spent Thanksgiving with a large group of friends, and one of the traditions of this particular group is to go around the table (and as there are usually around 30 people, so this is a major part of the day) and each person says what they are thankful for.  Considering so much of what is being said and done lately, I took special note of things that WEREN'T mentioned:

*  No one gave thanks for having a large television, or an expensive car

*  No one gave thanks for the hours and hours they had spent in front of television sets in the last year

*  No one gave thanks for television commentators spreading messages of hate and advocating violence

*  No one gave thanks for the internet

*  No one gave thanks for all the time spent gossiping about others

*  No one gave thanks for giving abusive or hurtful relationships "just one more chance"

*  No one gave thanks for having said, "Not now, maybe later"

While in college, I received the best advice I have ever been given:

 Live with the end in mind.

At the end of our lives, or even at the end of the year, have we done what we will be proud to look back on? 

I think Black Friday would be the perfect time to reevaluate our lives.  Will buying all those gifts matter 5 years from now?  10?  Will anyone even have anything they buy today in 10 years. or remember them?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Eve

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in America, which is supposed to symbolize the time when the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors who had taken pity on the ill-prepared new arrivals and helped them figure out how not to starve, got together and feasted for three days.  Now, of course, with the aid of refrigeration and microwave, we can stretch the feast out even longer--usually until the very sight of turkey and stuffing makes everyone shudder.  Of course, no one ever minds having pumpkin pie for several days in a row.  Amazing how that works out......

Some things I've wondered about Thanksgiving:

*  The traditional Thanksgiving day is spent with women cooking a big feast, everyone eating, then men retiring into the living room to watch football for the rest of the day while the women do all the dishes.  WHO THOUGHT THAT PROGRAM UP????? 

*  Is it the fact that the main character might be eaten that stopped Rankin-Bass from making Thanksgiving cartoons in the 1970s?

*  If retailers had been able to come up with something catchy to sell for Thanksgiving, would we still have Black Friday?

*  How often do we have to say that "holiday calories don't count" before my thighs believe it?

*  Does it strike anyone else as odd that our tradition is to eat a whole lot and then WATCH other people play a game?

*  If Benjamin Franklin had been successful in his campaign to make the wild turkey the national bird instead of the eagle, would we still eat them on Thanksgiving and would it be illegal to do so?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gearing Up For Thanksgiving

This year we are joining a large group of friends for Thanksgiving, and I have volunteered to bring stuffing.  Besides being the only traditional "Thanksgiving" food that I'm truly confident of, it's probably the only one we can make "legally."  Since we're going to someone else's house, the actual meal will fall under our "when in Rome...." exception, which is basically that we can eat what is served at someone else's home, provided we don't abuse it--such as having a soda or something.  However, I do feel obligated to make sure that what I take is legal, so I have been making bread in the bread machine

to use as my stale bread, and it's now sitting out getting "stale"

And incidentally, 3 pounds of bread is a LOT of bread.

To be honest, I usually make the bread to use for stuffing as it's such a HUGE percentage of the end product.  Not that I have ever made the bread by hand--let's not get stupid here.  But some sort of bread with an actual flavor adds a lot to the stuffing.  This year I'm using a polenta-whole wheat bread--and for bread machine bread it's really quite good. 

I was hoping to be able to buy some commercial chicken stock, but even the "organic" variety has something called "autolyzed yeast extract," which violates our "unknown ingredients" rule.  Even without that, it would have been a bit sketchy anyway, because the ingredients list includes "natural" flavors, which we have learned just means the additive occurs in NATURE.  It doesn't mean it naturally occurs in CHICKEN.  We learned that the hard way with cheese.  In America, many cheeses are orange....which is sort of odd as milk is white and butter is at best yellow, so the orange color doesn't come naturally.  BUT, cheese can claim to be "all natural" even when it is an improbable shade of orange because it is colored with annatto, which is derived from a tropical plant which does exist in nature, though it has nothing whatever to do with cheese.  So, after having many unintended "cheats," we have caught on and UNLESS IT LISTS EVERY SINGLE DARN THING THAT WAS ADDED, we write it off as "illegal."

At the rate we're going, we're going to be down to just celery by the 31st........

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Along the Food Lines.....

I thought this was worth sharing:

Ten Foods That Thankfully Flopped

He's Home!!!!!!

Andy arrived home safe & sound late Friday night, and I am slowly adjusting back to non-survivalist cooking.  Aside from the leftover Indian food we had for breakfast, that is.  By Wednesday night the casserole was thankfully gone, so Thursday a friend and I went out to lunch at one of the few "legal" places around--a Mongolian Barbecue place.  I would guess some of the sauces are off limits, but I picked the simple ones, so I think I did okay.  Since we ate lunch late, I just skipped dinner entirely--which isn't really good for me, but I figured as healthy as we've been eating this year, my body could probably cut me a little slack one night.  I think the real low point might have been Friday, when I had popcorn for lunch (the real popped stuff, not microwave, and sprinkled with herbs).  I did graze on pomegranates and other fruit all week, and a few nuts whenever I got to feeling a bit light-headed, so not quite as unhealthy as it probably sounds but probably more pathetic than it actually sounds.  I was 35 when Andy & I moved in together & got married, so I did live alone for quite some time, and I swear I didn't really do such pathetic bachelorette-cooking at that time, but I really needed a break from cooking this week.

Now, on to the next challenge:  "legal" cooking for our Christmas party.  Soup night has been reasonably easy--since the soups are homemade I have control over that, and it's usually pretty easy to pick out the things that people bring that wouldn't be legal, but this will be my first attempt at a full-fledged party without "cheats."  For the birthday soirées, we used up cheats.  But, since all our friends know about our experiment by now, I thought we'd include them in a sort of play-along version.  Without telling them ahead of time, of course......:)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Have Been Good!!!!

Lazy, but good.

Monday I fixed a totally-legal casserole so I could have easy leftovers and not be tempted, but 7 meals straight of the same thing will get to anybody I think, so tonight's plan was to move on to peanut butter & banana, to be followed by peanut butter and apple tomorrow

which might have worked out well if I could get the darn jar open.  Obviously, I could make my own peanut butter, but would blow the whole "as little involvement as possible" diet I seem to have adopted while Andy is gone. 

Luckily, it's a new fruit season, and two of my favorites are on--red globe grapes and

pomegranates are here!  Andy isn't a big fan as he doesn't really like any foods that are really difficult to eat, so there may or may not be some still around by the time he gets home.  But, I CAN promise him peanut butter!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Questions For The Universe

*  Why can the smoke detectors only decide they need batteries at 3:00 AM?

*  How many sweaters can I own before it becomes "obsessive?"

*  Do I do anything as fast as I seem to think I can?

*  What do cats without owners do for entertainment and why don't my cats do it?

*  How many film adaptations of Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" are there?

*  How is it possible that I found THREE matching shoes when cleaning out my closet--not just two?  Do they breed or were there two pairs and the laundry's Sock Black Hole has decided to up the ante?  

*  How many people do I have to talk to before NOT shaving one's legs becomes fashionable in America?

*  If they completely rewrite the story when converting a book to a movie, why do filmmakers even bother keeping the original title?

*  Would one find more items in a grocery store WITHOUT any unknown ingredients, or without any KNOWN ingredients?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Five Days Without a Witness.....

So......10 1/2 months into our "no processed foods" experiment, I'm fantasizing about the strangest stuff, AND I'm without a witness for 5 whole days.

Uh oh............

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Night

Tonight I'm making pizza, using the Julia Child cornmeal pizza crust recipe as usual.  I haven't yet just baked a crust and eaten it plain, but I'm not going to rule that out--it really is THAT good.  Of course, what else could one expect from Julia Child?  And.....brace yourself for a great shock.....there is no butter involved!  Who would have dreamed it was possible?  

For the sauce I have some home-canned tomatoes simmering on the stove with some spices, dehydrated bell peppers and tomatoes, and an insane amount of garlic.  Think of the craziest amount of garlic you would ever put in something and add two cloves.  I don't think anyone will want to sit next to Andy on the plane in the morning.  If garlic really does have any health properties, Andy and I will live to be 100 at this rate.

....and might end up with lots of elbow room on airplanes...........

Saturday, November 14, 2009

47 Days Left!

Yep!  Only 47 more days until we can totally & completely make ourselves ill.

Actually, we're going to have a bit of a preview next week.  Andy will be on a business trip for 5 days, and this will be the longest either of us have had to negotiate "bad" food since this experiment began.  Even my week in McCall allowed me to be pretty healthy--while not strictly "legal"--because I stayed in a condo with a kitchen.  So, And is packing antacids and raisins, and he's hoping there's a grocery store nearby. 

Eating in restaurants this year has mostly become an exercise in bravery.  There are two good, locally-owned restaurants in this area that we feel pretty confident about and which haven't caused any sort of stomach upset, but all the rest--most obviously the chains--have become a waste of calories & a cheat.  Knowing one is likely to end up in some serious pain probably doesn't do much for any restaurant, but there is a processed-food TASTE.  I know part of it is the processed food "mouth feel"--which actually I missed for several months, but there's a muted taste to the food as well.  I suppose to make food acceptable to the widest audience possible it's best to aim for an average, middle-of-the-road sort of flavor, but so far it's made the few cheats we've used on food pretty disappointing.  I've even lost interest in pizza--partly because we have discovered Julia Childs's cornmeal pizza crust recipe, partly because it's not quite as good as I remember it being....and partly because I've developed a bit of a Pavlovian response to food that makes me sick for the next 24 hours.  Amazing how that works.

I am STILL holding out hope that cinnamon bears and chocolate will be as good as I remember.....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


(Tuesday:  head out to a nearby farm to help a friend vaccinate her horses and haul back a load of horse manure for the garden)

Manage to sleep until 7:00 AM, in spite of the best efforts of two cats.  Jumping out of bed with eagerness is not possible when a large load of horse poop is waiting.

7:30:  suck down coffee while wondering if it wouldn't be best to not be fully awake

8:30: notice it's supposed to rain later.  Not sure what that will do to a truckload of horse manure, but bet it won't be pleasant.

8:31:  Sigh heavily, get dressed, grab the shovel and wheelbarrow.

8:35:  Feel very "empowered" to be doing the physical labor while my husband works to support us

8:40:  Secretly hope that the neighbors who keep letting their dogs out to poop on everyone else's lawn without cleaning up after them let their dogs out TODAY, thinking that having a nice smelly dog might be adequate repayment

8:45:  Wonder why, if everyone is so "into" organic gardening, we are the only ones who ever seem to shovel manure?

8:50:  Reflect that some of our friends swear that horse manure really doesn't stink

8:55:  Reflect that these friends obviously haven't spent much time with an entire load of the stuff

9:00:  Start to tire, but remember that Andy unloaded the previous loads of manure and compost by himself.  Decide to continue

9:05:  Arms starting to hurt

9:10:  Chastise oneself for not going to the gym more often and arms being a bit out of shape

9:15:  Reflect that there probably isn't an exercise to prepare one's arms for shoveling except more shoveling

9:20:  Notice it's looking a bit more like rain.  Need to work faster

9:25:  Decide friends who think horse manure doesn't stink are out of their cotton-pickin' minds

9:30:  Arms really hurting now

9:35:  Seriously regret asking the fellow loading the manure to pack it down so it wouldn't blow out.

9:40:  Start to wonder how much would look like a "good effort" before leaving the rest for Andy

9:45:  Remember that one is a "liberated woman" and "man's equal" and decide to keep shoveling--at least until it rains

9:50:  Where the hell is the promised rain?

10:00:  Decide the beds closest to the truck could really use more manure

10:05:  Decide the lawn closest to the truck also didn't get it's fair share of manure

10:10:  Discover a technique of "flinging" manure that spreads it pretty evenly across the lawn

10:15:  Discover the "flinging" technique, if done from the wrong spot, flings manure onto the hot tub.   Bless the hot tub cover and make mental note to sweep the patio around the hot tub before using it

10:20:  Arms have just about lost all feeling now.

10:25:  Decide that the women's movement probably never had shoveling manure in mind anyway.

10:30:  Where is that damn rain?

10:35:  Decide that there's a reason people buy their food instead of growing it.

10:40:  Wonder if the "organic" movement would truly accept horse manure as organic, or would one have to check what the horses have actually eaten to produce the manure to label it as "organic?"

10:41:  Can't believe one can have philosophical horse poop thoughts

10:45:  Decide that friends who don't think horse poop stinks are completely deranged and should not be trusted

10:50:  Where the *#&$% is the rain??????????

10:55:  Arms have lost all feeling, 90% of the manure is unloaded, and the remaining amount is too far in the bed to reach.  Decide it's time to "share" the experience with my taller spouse.

11:00:  Sprint to the house and take a 30-minute shower to make sure no trace of the horse poop has survived.  Loofah until 3 pounds of skin have been shed.

11:35:  Wonder if it's too early for pajamas.........

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Salt By Any Other Name....

I have long been in the habit of buying roasted sunflower kernels from the bulk bins--usually mixing salted and unsalted--to sprinkle on salads or whatever, and we've been doing it this year as well.  Sunflower kernels and salt--that's legal, right?

Turns out, it isn't.  This week the label was changed slightly to:

   sunflower kernels and salt (salt, tricalcium phosphate, yellow prussiate of soda)

Now I vaguely remember from chemistry that there are a whole bunch of things that can be labeled as "salt," but I rather assumed that the food industry had largely agreed that salt is sodium chloride, or perhaps calcium chloride in a bit of a stretch.  Time for a bit of research.

It turns out that tricalcium phosphate is an anticaking agent used in spices, and yellow prussiate of soda is an anticaking agent used in road & food grade salt.  So we've probably been consuming yellow prussiate of soda all year, and I'd guess we've had a fair bit of tricalcium phosphate as well.

Okay.  By all the terms of this experiment of ours, both of those things would be "illegal" because we didn't know what they were.  I think I probably sort of knew about the anticaking agent--or something--being added to table salt because when you can, recipes specifically ask for pickling salt because it is the purest, although we've had salt for so long one just really sort of thinks of it as just an ingredient--not something that might have ingredients.  Now that we know, things are a bit different, so we'll be switching to pickling salt for the rest of the year to keep us "legal." 

That will teach me to take anything for granted in this experiment.....

Saturday, November 7, 2009


So 10+ months into this, and it has become my considered opinion that if it involves homemade bread, toast really is a meal in itself.....even if it IS for 5 meals in a row........

Friday, November 6, 2009

What Happens to Health Insurance Premiums? - ABC News

What Happens to Health Insurance Premiums? - ABC News

Hm......I wonder why the insurance industry is spending so much to defeat health care reform.....

Bake Us This Day Our Daily Bread

At the risk of being labeled a food heathen, I didn't think the Julia Child bread really had much flavor--and I swear I'm not just sore that it took almost the whole day.  Well, maybe a little....

Julia does, however, explain a lot about making bread so I decided to take my new knowledge and apply it to my favorite bread recipe--Sourdough Honey Oatmeal.

I have been working on this recipe for about 10 years, and I had arrived at a really great flavor but I was still having trouble with the texture.  Time to bring in....JULIA.

As normal, I mixed a cup of starter

from the dreadful-looking sponge that lives in my fridge.  Sourdough is just a live yeast culture, and by mixing a cup of the starter with warm water & flour and setting it in a warm place to ferment overnight

otherwise known as a food dehydrator in our house, a new sponge is created and ready for use the next day.  To replenish the starter, you put one or two cups of the new sponge into the old one & it can last indefinitely.  Of course, it only works if you NEVER put anything but flour and water into it. 

In the recipe, there's a preliminary rise when the dough is still pretty thin, and until now I had been putting the oatmeal in during this stage, but I think gluten strands should be forming here, so I decided to add 2 cups of whole wheat bread flour.  Bread flour has a higher protein content, which makes is a high gluten flour....which helps it form gluten strands.  (Thank you, Julia).  The original recipe called for oatmeal and white flour, but I had been experimenting to see how much whole wheat flour I could substitute, so I think I was probably causing gluten problems.  It's hard to say exactly because sourdough is often used with rye flour to compensate for its lack of gluten (according to my research--not me), so the long fermentation does help build gluten strands.  Anyway....

I formed the dough into loaves ala Julia, and even flung some water into the oven when I first added the loaves.  Not that I expected it to do much for bread in bread pans....I just like the flinging water part.

Roughly an hour later......

they came out looking great, smelling fabulous, and.......

had a nice, chewy texture AND all the great flavor of the original.  WHOO HOO!!!!  A cooking experiment that worked the first time.  Someone call Ripley!!!!

"High spending but lagging quality"

This is an interesting article that came out today:

According to this article, the US spends TWICE as much as other countries such as the United Kingdom, France, and know, those countries with that "dangerous" socialized medicine.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Real Porn For Women

Today's mail just arrived, and it seems that our postal carrier has figured out TRUE porn for women:

catalogs for pajamas, wine & chocolate, and yarn.

And they say men don't understand women......

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Needing To Get My Act Together

Toni, last night:

Feeling on-top of everything, decides to mix up some nonfat yogurt and dehydrated dates for a breakfast dish she discovered a few months ago.  Mixes thoroughly, and puts it in the fridge.

Toni, this morning before coffee:

Totally forgetting everything, she opens the refrigerator and sees a Rubbermade bowl with white stuff.  Takes it out, asking, "What on earth is this muck?"

Lesson number 1 learned today:  My night & morning selves don't communicate at all, and forcing them to leave notes for each other might not be a bad idea.

Lesson number 2 learned today:  food tastes better if you haven't just referred to it as "muck."

Monday, November 2, 2009

We've Got Garlic!

Next year's garlic crop has been planted!

Last year I ordered the planting stock (as garlic that you can actually plant seems to be called) very late so my order was basically "whatever you have left that would be easy to grow."  That translated into Polish White and Susanville varieties.  It turns out both are "softneck" garlic types, which didn't make sense to me until I was planting this year's "sampler pack."  This

is a "hardneck" garlic--which means it has a big stick-thing in the middle of the head & cloves growing around it.  As it also turns out, only hardneck garlic grows "scapes," which I'll show you pictures of when they actually grow.  Other bloggers were talking about all the things they were doing with their scapes last year (my favorite being Rachel's idea for garlic pesto--doesn't that just sound wonderful?), and I kept checking my garlic and wondering what the heck I was doing wrong.  (With gardening, always go with the most likely problem)  IT TURNS OUT IT WASN'T ME!!!!  Truly, this made my day.

Our sampler pack contained 8 types of garlic, but since there was exactly one CLOVE--not one HEAD--of elephant garlic, and some of the hardneck garlic heads had a whopping 4 cloves, so it's less garlic than it sounds.  Garlic likes nitrogen in the soil, so I left some space in-between the rows to plant peas early this spring.  (Peas are a legume, so they add nitrogen back into the soil).

I recently read that garlic will adapt to the environment & planting conditions, so I decided to plant a little Susanville from this year as well.....but of course that first meant figuring out which ones were Susanville.  The pack came with a head of Polish White

which is purple and not actually white, so I'm not sure about the naming, but at least I could go to our supply of garlic and look for ones that didn't look like this.  The problem has been that both types are slightly purple, so I think they look pretty much the same, but I found two

that I thought looked different, so we have two "mystery garlic" rows.

This year I did make a careful map of where I planted the cloves & how many, so I'm hoping I can tell the difference this year.  I'm pretty confident on the elephant garlic, but not so positive of the rest.......Now if I can just not lose my map before next summer......

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-...