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Showing posts from February, 2009

Things We Have Learned From The Cats

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As many of you know, I've been spending a great deal of time with one of our cats lately as he (and I) recover from the ordeal of a broken leg. It turns out, I think we can learn a lot from our feline friends....

Even the worst haircut will eventually grow outWide lapels are always a bad idea--especially in areas with high windTake time for romance
Everyone looks a little chubby now and thenSome things are better done in the back yardNothing is impossibleTake time to enjoy the high lifeThere's always time for a tummy rubEveryone feels shy once in a whileDetermination is an amazing thing
There aren't many things that are worth losing sleep over

Day 58 - Things We Have Learned This Week

* It may be exciting to finally be able to cook in the crockpot, but the delightful sense of victory might be lessened a bit after 7 days in a row of mushy food

* Humans want anything they can't have. I can have chocolate cake but not Diet Pepsi--and guess which one I want.

* Almost anything makes a good reason to spend time with close friends. Tomorrow night's is to make homemade pasta

* Even if you've been doing it for 30 years, it is still possible to once in a while get one's arse kicked by one's hobby

* Your pets may remain ignorant of words such as "no," "down," or "come," but they learn "treat" pretty darn quickly

* Until this little experiment, I wouldn't have considered it possible to be completely delighted by being able to eat canned black beans

* We're getting a lot more offers to have dinner with friends lately. We don't know if this is out of pity or the fear of dining here

* It's really nice…

Day 57 - The Crock Pot And I Have Come To an Understanding

Those of you who have been following the blog for some time will know that I regularly--and pretty consistently--get my arse kicked by the crock pot. Rice either turns to mush or is still crispy 5 hours later, and I have produced enough shoe leather to make even the heart of Imelda Marcos go pitter-pat. HOWEVER, I might finally be able to do some roasts.

Tonight we had roast beef, and if I put the roast in the crockpot with no liquid and turn it on LOW--never high--we can still eat the results. This is significant progress. To be fair, the last time I tried cooking beans in the thing, the beans were still amazingly crunchy even after an overnight soak AND 8 hours cooking in the crock pot, so it isn't an outright victory, nor have I tried roasting poultry, but I can successfully cook a pork or beef roast in the darn thing now.

I'm VERY excited, and I think I'm ready to learn to use the pressure canner!

Day 56 - It's Wednesday And We Haven't Used Any Of Our "Cheats"

It's amazing how completely our lives have come to revolve around our 2 cheats a week. There's a lot of thought that goes in to using them....Is it too early in the week to use up a cheat? Will I need a cheat later this week? Is salad dressing worth using up a cheat? Are pretzels cheat-worthy? This is a very big issue at our house.

One thing I will definitely say for the "cheat rule:" it keeps us from snacking without thinking. It's really easy to grab a couple crackers or maybe a few pretzels and not really think about it, but this year even one pretzel is a "cheat," so if they are going to happen, it's a full serving (we've set a limit on serving size as well, as sitting down to devour 3 bags of pretzels in one sitting would not really count as one "cheat") It's interesting to realize how much I think we all tend to "graze" during the day--a little bit here, a little bit there--never really noticing how much we…

Day 55 - Have You Ever Wondered Why We Have Cheese?

When we embarked on this little culinary adventure, we automatically allowed cheese as "something we could make ourselves," but I finally had to double check just to make sure. I checked with a cheese making book, and it said to order cheese cultures from a cheese supply company, which doesn't exactly count. A little more research revealed that it was believed that cheese was discovered accidentally by carrying milk in a pouch of sheep or goat stomach--which was a common carrying method at one time--and might be again if Gucci decided to start selling them. The stomach pouch passed enzymes into the milk, and when whomever got to wherever he was going, instead of finding a pouch of milk, he probably discovered something looking pretty nasty--early cottage cheese I would guess--and I give him full marks for bravery for eating it anyway. We're not purists enough to invest in any ovine internal organs, but it was good to know. Cheese is back on the "allowable&q…

Day 54 - Sunny Days Bring Foolish Levels of Optimism

Yesterday Andy built garden plots that will double the size of our garden AND I'm actually flirting with the idea of planting 2 pumpkin plants again...

When exactly does gardening require an intervention......?

Day 52 - God Bless Readers!!!!

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For some unknown reason--or at least one I haven't yet figured out--most comments on my blog come through as "no reply," so I don't always get a chance to reply to all the helpful, funny, encouraging comments everyone is leaving for me, but the comments are wonderful and you can blame them for the lack of a post yesterday. I was at Costco getting these
Canned black beans are legal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I've been scrolling back through old entries to find who tipped us off to this one--I'm thinking maybe it was Georgi? Anyway, we are THRILLED--thank you!!! (Who knew it was possible to get so excited over canned beans???)

While at Costco--because it takes a stronger person than me to not browse at Costco--I ran across these:
They are flour tortillas that you bake yourself, so they have no "banned" ingredients! This was almost as exciting as the black beans, because while I know corn tortillas are better for us, they're not as easy to work …

Day 50 - A REALLY Big "Cheat"

Have you ever had a really bad day? That was today. Sort of capping a bad few days actually--I have a massive bruise on my leg where I got acquainted with the foot of our new bed frame, a band-aid on my finger to cover a rather nasty cut I received from the lid of a pot--yes, you read that right. A piece was put on upside down, so it isn't quite as stupid as it sounds, and the tetanus shot I received on Tuesday still hurts. (What do they put in that shot and shy isn't more medical research looking into a less painful vaccine???) I've been working on tracking down everything for our taxes, and have the additional pleasure of realizing we'll take a tax hit on some mutual funds I sold early in the year to diversify our saving--and of course it's now worth half of what it was. They're all little stupid things, really, but today they seemed to all add up for a while.

So today I stopped for pizza, which I'd say had about 100 to 1 odds of being "legal,&q…

Day 49 - I Think I'm Getting The Hang of This Finally

I think I have this figured out finally. In order to not eat processed food, one must learn to plan ahead. If one is hungry at 5:45 and wants to have dinner at 6:00, one can't just pop a frozen pizza in the oven (Or one can't until I figure out how to make my own frozen pizza) or open a can of soup (Or one can't until I get over my fear of the pressure canner and make my own soups). Yesterday at noon I put a pork roast in the crock pot so it could cook on low and be ready for dinner. I think that might have solved my crockpot problems--whether it's me or this crockpot, nothing ever survives being cooked on high even if it's just for 4 hours EXACTLY like the book claims. It's 3:30 now and I just took some shrimp out of the freezer. In the morning, I'll set some beans to soak for dinner tomorrow night. Tomorrow for lunch we'll have leftover pork roast. As long as I spend much of my day thinking about food, we're fine.

Housewives of old must …

Toni's Economic Stimulus Plan

Tuesday President Obama signed the economic stimulus plan, and before the ink was even dry, Republican politicians were doing press interviews saying how it wasn't going to work, that it was just going to increase our debt, and that it didn't create enough jobs. WHERE WERE THEIR COMPLAINTS ABOUT THE REBATE CHECK STIMULUS PLAN??? I'm not trying to blame one political party or the other, but I thought the level of hypocrisy reached a high point yesterday. What new jobs were created by sending everyone $600? As most people used it to pay existing bills, it didn't even stimulate the economy. And yet, the particular Senator I heard complaining about this stimulus package voted for Bush's. It seems that even during an economic crisis, it's partisan politics as usual instead of uniting for the good of the country.

And, to state that something will not work directly implies one knows what WOULD work, and I think at this point it is safe to say that even the econom…

Day 47 - A Few Random Things We've Learned

* Virtually all food available at chain restaurants is processed and off limits. And usually fattening
* While I may personally find xanthum gum as a food additive an interesting topic of conversation, that doesn't mean anyone else does.
* Valentine's Day is sort of pointless if one is in a romantic relationship, and depressing if one is not, which makes one wonder who this holiday is actually for
* The longer the list of ingredients, the more likely the food is going to make the "banned" list
* Borscht is fantastic. Apparently one should not judge beets by those pickled things they serve at schools
* One can never have too many friends, but one does need to learn to be creative with scheduling
* After 47 days of this experiment, it's hard to decide if having to bake our own bread is a problem or a perk
* The last day of kitty physical therapy is a good excuse for a chocolate martini
* Nothing makes one completely delusional about vegetable gardens like Februa…

Day 45 - Happy Valentine's Day

And of course, here at Chateau Sutton-Goar, there were no chocolates of any kind as my desire for chocolates falls somewhat short of the search to find "allowable" ones. There's a shop here in town that has made its own candies for years and years and they would probably have had "legal" chocolates, but I'm thinking that might be something we want to learn later--say, October. With so many banned substances this year, if we did discover some fabulous allowable chocolates there, would we have enough willpower to stay out of the place??? On Day 45, I ponder such things.

We have been remarkably good on the food front the last two days. Last night I made a casserole using ground beef, pureed pumpkin, rice, and green peppers, which we had again for lunch today and will most likely see for lunch tomorrow. Possibly Monday as well...did I mention leftovers are our friends? Tonight Andy is fixing steak with curried salt, which is always quite fabulous. I have …

Day 44 - Another Snag

So, if you've used up all your "cheats" for the week on Wednesday and on Thursday some really good friends want to take you out to lunch and the restaurant is a sports pub chain that probably can't even boast of unprocessed lettuce, what do you do?

We're social creatures, so we went and the only "legal" thing we had was the water. The restaurant specializes in "boneless wings," which we assume to be chicken nuggets, smothered in your choice of 15 sauces, which we assume had scads of chemicals and high fructose corn syrup. It was interesting, and we did have a fabulous time, but our friends are the sort of people who would make a meal of soda crackers & water fun.

We need a new policy to allow for going out with friends. If they come to our house, all is good, or if we choose the restaurant. But if we are going to more than two dinner parties during the week, that blows our "two cheats a week" rule. Maybe we use up our cheats a…

Day 42 - Diet Pepsi Lust

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It's Wednesday and I just had my second and last "cheat" of the week--a caffeine-free diet Pepsi on ice--and it was FABULOUS!! Seriously, I was so happy while drinking it, I made those people in the commercials look downright depressed.

Day 41 - Pickled Pumpkin

You know what the best way of figuring out what to do with strange pickled foods is? Have a party and open them during the party!

Last night was February's Soup Night, and we finally opened the pickled pumpkin I canned last fall. Everyone tried it, and I think everyone liked it, though aside from just eating it straight from the jar, I don't think anyone else has any idea what to do with it either. Maybe it's just an appetizer? With vinegar, sugar, and spices, it's an interesting flavor and very chutney-ish.....which would be great if we had a lot of ideas on what to do with chutney. As it is, look for both of them to surface as appetizers at future Soup Nights, and if that doesn't work, maybe I'll host a cooking contest this summer. We'll call it "What Hath Toni's Canning Wrought?" and the winner will be awarded a jar of green tomato jam. Or should that be the loseer......?

Day 40 - Organizing the Pantry

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We decided to do a year without processed foods last spring, so we had time to plan for it and plant a garden, and late in the summer I cannned like a maniac.

Well, it's February now, and while I remember the salsas and tomatoes, I no longer remembered exactly what I had canned. So, I finally dug out one can of each itemand moved them from what we have dubbed the "dwarf closet," which is a half-door affair accessed via the downstairs bathroom, and moved them into the regular pantry. A good move all around, I think, as it tends to give people a start when one emerges from the bathroom with food.

While doing so, I remembered I had actually purchased corn syrup last year when helping a friend with her Appalachian Trail hike, and I wasn't surprised to find that it contained high fructose corn syrup. I actually thought that was what "corn syrup" might be. What does surprise me is everything else in it. All along I had pictured this stuff as the mysterious &qu…

Day 38 - One Perk, One Drawback

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Last night we discovered an unexpected perk to our little experiment. Because all convenience foods are off limits, we have to plan meals in advance and I tend to plan meals that will result in extra servings as leftovers are this year's "convenience foods." Last night I had planned to make the mushroom & fennel dusted pork roast, which made it possible to have some friends stay for dinner. The impromptu dinner party was great fun AND to make it even better, Andy found a legal chocolate martini!

For some reason, alcoholic drinks don't have to list ingredients, so we've been left to researching liqueurs and beverages on the internet. Andy did some searching on Kahlua, and found only one questionable ingredient, "cane spirits." A little more research discovered that "cane spirits" would be "rum" in most of the world, which is acceptable. So last night we had chocolate martinis with 1/2 vodka and 1/2 Kahlua. YAY!!!!!! A "…

Since It's February And the Month of Romance....

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I thought it was an appropriate time to share some photos I've just recently relocated from the wedding. Since we've been married 2 1/2 years now, I'm a little behind on this, but better late than never!!!!
This is one of my favorite shots because you can see all the cakes. The one on the tiers was made by a lovely lady who is a member of Andy's kayaking group, and it was one of the most amazing cakes I've ever tasted. The groom's cake was made by one of my good friends who was also a bridesmaid, but unfortunately it was all gone before I had a chance to try it. Still, I'm sure it was fabulous, and it was wonderful to have so many people be part of our special day.

Day 37 - The World of Mustards

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So it turns out that I was wrong. I had assumed that a mustard I bought at a local farmer's market would be "legal" this year because it was from a local company. I don't know why I thought that would actually matter, but it turns out that Mom's Mustards (which has really fabulous mustards which I highly recommend to anyone NOT doing foolish food experiments) uses something called "calcium disodium edta" to preserve freshness. When one sells food to the general public, there are a lot of rules one must follow, and I'm assuming that is why the calcium whatzits is in there, but all the same, one of our rules is no ingredients we can't identify. So, I had a new quest to find allowable mustard.

It turns out that almost all commercial mustards (with the possible exception of the golden mustards used mainly for hotdogs, which I didn't actually check) contain something called "xanthum gum." I'm providing the link to Wikipedia on t…

Day 36 - NOW It's a Long Week

Last night Andy fixed really interesting salads--Braeburn apples, Granny Smith apples, lettuce, crumbled blue cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, and honey. It also asked for bacon, and without thinking about it, Andy added turkey bacon. Now I can't actually say what is in turkey bacon because I had wrapped it all up in plastic wrap to freeze, but one of the first things you learn about this experiment is that if it doesn't look like food, it probably isn't. Bacon actually looks like exactly what it is--strips of muscle between rather large strips of fat. Nowhere on a turkey does the meat come in pulverized strips, so I'm pretty positive we used our last cheat of the week last night. RATS!

Andy's first cheat of the week was a diet soda on Monday. He was having a frustrating day and thought it would help. He said it was good, but maybe not worth a "cheat." (For cheat read "white chocolate martini" or "sloppy greasy pizza") My first o…

Day 35 - Some Recipe Favorites

One thing that is helping us get through the year is that some of the things we're eating are better than the "processed" alternatives. For instance, for two mornings in a row, we've had sourdough pancakes for breakfast. Who would miss cold cereal if one can have pancakes? Granted, most of our meals have been from "Toni's Wild Food Experiments" (sure to be a best-selling cookbook soon), but we do have some HIGHLY recommended favorites:

Rib-Eye Steaks with Curried Salt. We've tried this with sirloin steaks, tenderloins--I think it works on anything. Recently I used the same idea for a beef roast. We've also alternated some of the spice flavors, though nothing so good as the curry version. And if one eats the recommended serving of beef (the size of a deck of playing cards--not half the plate), steak is not an overly expensive food choice.

Mushroom and Fennel-Dusted Pork Tenderloin. We've started doing this with pretty much any available…

Day 34 - I MADE SOMETHING EDIBLE IN THE CROCK POT!!!!!!!!!!

The vaguely Mexican beans, rice & pumpkin thing I had in the crock pot yesterday turned out to be REALLY good--and not just "good for the crock pot," which is a whole category by itself. Nope, this was actually good. Which is fortunate, since after a day of adding this & that to it, we ended up with an entire pot of the stuff. If I can recreate it at a future point in time, THEN it will really be a success. And a complete surprise, of course....

Day 33 - Martha, Watch My Speed!!!!

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Some days, I'm really not in the mood to cook, which makes me wonder how things worked when women really did stay home and tend house. Did they just cook badly when they weren't in the mood? Was that when TV dinners became popular? Did they feel comfortable enough calling their husbands and saying. "You're taking me out tonight?" I'm trying to picture my grandmother who cooked for several farmhands and whomever else might "happen" to drop by at mealtimes (she was an excellent cook), walking into the kitchen and saying, "Nope, I just don't feel like doing this." (Those who knew her will find that idea especially humorous--I'm not sure if she was ever evn willing to tolerate canned soup...)

Today we lucked out--I was in the mood to cook, so we have a vaguely Mexican beans & rice thing in the crockpot which will hopefully be dinner (I'm flirting with disaster here--brown rice AND the crockpot. With just one or the other, …

Another Fun Memory...

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This was taken at the Great Gatsby Party to benefit the Idaho Botanical Gardens. Before we went to the event, we stopped by the hospital to visit a friend who was recovering from heart surgery. We were quite a hit at the hospital, though it took a lot of explaining. I think people were really expecting us to be a singing telegram or something to that effect. Next time we'll have a song prepared. :)

Day 32 - The Canned Pizza Sauce Is Good!!!!

Andy made pizza today for lunch, and this time we opened two of the jars of pizza sauce I canned over the summer. It was wonderful, so of course I'm planning on adding more tomato plants to this year's garden...and by September 30 I'll be kicking myself for doing so. For now, 15 tomato plants sounds totally, utterly reasonable.....