Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Had To Share This One

This whole food experiment has made me quite curious about food & food history, and while I think "banting" might be the first popular diet, I thought I'd do a bit of research, so I went to Google and typed in "history of dieting."

Google promptly provided me with a timeline, and now I can definitively state that the history of dieting began in 1495 in Germany, with the Diet of Worms. So obviously, my historical education has been lacking. I thought the Diet of Worms was called to respond to Martin Luther's attacks on the Catholic church. Apparently, it was really called to discuss the merits of low carb dieting.....

We Have Garlic!!!!!

As with everything, it seems that growing garlic can be as difficult or as easy as you want to make it. I planted 2 types of garlic on the first of November, covered it with mulch, have ignored it ever since and voila!A friend had told me that when the plant starts to look like it is dying, the garlic is ready
and the stalks/leaves are starting to fall over, and not in the direction they would fall if it was from being knocked over by the sprinklers. We have two types, so I dug up garlic from both sides of the bed,and have forgotten which was which. The Susanville is a softneck with a "pretty purple tinge" to the skin, and the Polish White is a hardneck with purple stripes, so I think it's on the left.

When I tried looking directions up on gardening websites, I found out we'd been doing most things wrong of course, we haven't seen any "scapes" (long curly shoots from the plant), garlic doesn't like extreme heat, and we need to stop watering it two weeks before harvesting--but it didn't mention anything about not watering it if it was going to be over 90. The least helpful, but probably most accurate, directions said that learning when to harvest was a matter of practice and experience. That makes sense, but doesn't help much now. From the directions that came with the garlic, it said that when 40% of the plant is dead, it's ready, but it didn't say if you stop watering THEN or stop watering before that--which in this heat will kill the rest of the plant so I'm assuming they mean stop watering AFTER 40% of the plant is dead, but then we're back to that whole it's-really-freaking-hot problem.

Do you think gardening was easier before the internet?

Monday, June 29, 2009

This Week I Have Learned.....

  • Place markers, draw maps, or somehow create a reference of where I plant things in the garden. I WILL not remember, and playing “name that vegetable” doesn’t always work. What I might be carefully tending as a potential vegetable might turn out to be a vicious weed that is really hard to kill by the time I figure it out.

  • Knowing your cats may be using the garden as a giant litterbox makes you look at root vegetables a little differently.

  • I used to feel a bit sorry for the birds the cats killed. Then they started eating all the strawberries

  • Kale and beets look pretty similar on the seed packets, but the ones that get the big bulb at the bottom are the beets.

  • Tomatoes will grow anywhere except where you actually planted them.

  • I never thought I’d say this, but I really miss canned cream of mushroom soup

  • Figuring out when icicle radishes are ready to pick is complete guesswork

  • Community property in marriage stops somewhere short of the pea pods

  • Trying to grow things naturally & without chemicals is going to involve a lot of bugs and you’re going to have to learn to share with them.

  • The seventh batch of cherry jam doesn’t taste as good as the first

  • The seventh batch of cherry jam is still pretty good.

  • It may not be wise to read the Little House book series to young, impressionable children. They may grow up to drag their husbands through crazy food experiments.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

We Think We Might Be in Zone 6!

For the past year and a half, we've been trying to figure out what growing zone--referred to by every growing magazine, book, and catalog and usually represented by something as dreadful as this, which is the USDA map from the United States National Arboretum:
which really only establishes that there are places in Canada where you can't grow anything--not even hockey players.

Zooming in on Idaho,
we find a very lovely design and some the need for a better grasp of geography than I actually possess. We think we're in a yellow or dark yellow area--which they divide up as Zone 6a and 6b.

Just in case, I visited this page. It's from the Arbor Day Foundation, and if anyone knows about growing things, I assume it's tree people. You simply type in your zip code and it gives you the zone! Fabulous! We are finally going to know....and it says we're in either zone 6 or 7. This explains a lot--if the experts on trees can't figure it out, I don't feel so bad. We're going to pick Zone 6 as we seem less likely to kill plants that way, and just realize I'm likely to get overambitious no matter what zone I think we're in anyway.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Know What This Is?

This

is the world's first Chocolate Martini Slushie.

It all started with this
which is a homemade chocolate liqueur that Andy made a few weeks ago. It steeps/infuses/whatever for a while, then using a coffee filter, you're supposed to drain/strain/whatever the cocoa powder out of the vodkawhich takes longer than 24 hours--I'll let you know how long if we ever get there. Some of it has drained out, leaving us with thiswhich is a legal chocolate liqueur. A smarter person might have used this to make a chocolate martini, but I thought if I scooped some of the muck unstrained liqueur out of here, it would speed things along. And it probably did. However, when mixed with a bit of vodka and shaken with ice, it produced a thick & revolting martini, and the whole reason for a chocolate martini over say, a gin martini, is to NOT have a revolting drink.

I tried adding a little sugar syrup...it didn't get any better. A few drops of vanilla....still revolting. But I had my heart set on chocolate tonight, so I dug out the blender, a lot of ice, a frozen banana and the natural peanut butter just in case, and......the only alcoholic drink containing peanut butter that I am aware of. It's drinkable, but pretty weird, let's face it. It does get better after a few sips, but that could just be the alcohol kicking in.

A woman in need of chocolate knows no bounds.....

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Few Unexpected Consequences

When we started the Year of Processed Foods, we suspected that our health would improve, though we had no idea how much or in exactly what way. That makes sense. But there have been consequences we didn't expect:

1. We produce about half the trash we used to. Being just two people, and having compost and recycling bins, we weren't ever producing much trash, but now our food doesn't generally come in bags, boxes, cans, or jars, so we have very little trash and almost no aluminum recycling. It's quite fabulous to have a good thing happen that we weren't expecting. Who knew we would be helping the environment?

2. Greater food choice. No, my brain hasn't snapped under the stress of the lack of high fructose corn syrup. It's simply that we are allowed 2 cheats a week, and they can be ANYTHING. How many times have you beat yourself up over eating something you shouldn't? Exactly. Twice a week--and ONLY twice--we can have anything. Homemade chocolate cake & homemade chocolate ice cream are even LEGAL. Can't beat that.

3. It stops the "mindless" eating. In a normal day, there might be muffins in the break room and maybe you'd take a small piece. Then someone has chocolates on his or her desk, so you might have one. Then you might decide to have lunch out, and maybe you'd have a few crackers before dinner, and maybe a snack afterwards. Something to that effect. In most grocery stores, there are two to three aisles devoted to "snack foods," so snacking is a very big part of our lives in America. It's easy to do, and we often do it without thinking. BUT, what if you only had 2 "cheats" a week? You'd think long and hard before having that cracker--would it be worth giving up something you REALLY wanted?

4. Two "cheats" a week is a pretty livable and a very healthy diet. Now, I'm not saying this is an easy experiment. There are indeed times when I think I must have been out of my mind to come up with this idea. However, it's in some ways easier than just trying to eat healthy because I would never have allowed myself chocolate cake or homemade ice cream or jam because it wasn't good for me, and I would have felt a bit deprived and might have had a secret rendevous with Ben & Jerry one night in frustration. Now, a couple things are okay because we are eating so darn healthy in general.

5. We're eating a lot less salt. Not that either of us were too concerned about high blood pressure, so we weren't actually trying to lower our salt intake, but there's a lot of salt in processed foods, and more than we would ever add back into cooking.

6. We're learning to enjoy the taste of foods. I've always enjoyed cooking, and I've always been a vegetable fan, but I never realized how good simple food could be. Roasted onions, grilled asparagus, sautéed spinach, cooked wheat berries (hard red winter wheat)--they're all really good on their own.

7. Other people are changing their diets. Blogger doesn't let me reply to comments (no idea why), but I really enjoy the number of people who have left comments saying they made a meal we could have had, or they've started reading food labels, or they're eating fewer processed foods. I love it! We have a "Play At Home" version! :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Seven Batches Of Jam Later.....

All the cherries are now used, eaten, or frozen. Andy has been stirring cherry jam into nonfat plain yogurt to make cherry yogurt, which he swears is MUCH tastier than Yoplait--which is off limits. I prefer to think that he really believes this instead of just trying to make me feel good after 4 days of jam making.

Last night we were having a friend over to celebrate his new job, and we really wanted to grill on such a nice night, but we still haven't really mastered grilling chicken, and while hamburger is allowed, homemade rolls don't make the best buns, and hot dogs...well, I honestly haven't checked into them yet, but I'm going to bet there's at least a few things in them I wouldn't recognize, and the ones I would recognize are pretty repulsive.

I had tracked down an allowable sausage at Costco, and we were dying to show off our new mustard, so Andy made "pigs in a blanket" with them, using dough from the 5-minute bread book. We couldn't figure out a good way to grill them , so we just put them in the oven until they looked done (we do that a lot around here this year), then served them with the fabulous mustard and the homemade relish from last summer. They wouldn't have been a "normal" food choice for us, but there isn't much about our food this year that is "normal."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Things I've Learned This Week

* When it's boiling, jam doesn't just double. It's more of an exponential sort of explosion.

* The novelty of a new cherry-pitter wears off by the 357th cherry.

* Four ounce jars make a batch of jam look like much more of an accomplishment. Six 8-ounce jars after an hour is just dead depressing.

* There's a reason convenience foods are such a big hit.

* Until this week, I really didn't appreciate how much of a mess I could make in the kitchen. I have been underestimating myself.

* Freezer jam takes about half the time of cooked jam, and tastes about half as good.

* If your hands are sticky with jam, it would be best not to answer your cell phone.

* It's easier to be optimistic about canning while picking cherries than when pitting them.

* Unbelievably, most people don't really consider jam as an acceptable lunch, even if you've just spent the last 3 hours making it.

* An afternoon treat of homemade bread covered in fresh cherry jam helps prepare your spouse for the fact that he gets to cook dinner that night.

* Even burning yourself on the stove can't really ruin a day when you're looking forward to hot sourdough rolls with fresh cherry-amaretto jam.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Did You Ever Have One of Those Days Went Everything Went Just Perfectly?

Today wasn't one of those days.

Yesterday, for Father's Day, we met my parents in Emmett for a little cherry picking.
or a lot of cherry picking..

so I thought first thing this morning I'd get up and make a batch of cherry jam.

Nope, we were out of sugar. Fine, I needed to get the kitchen cleaned up anyway & get out all the canning stuff and wash it, so I could go to the store after lunch. In the meantime, I've been wanting to try some new sourdough recipes--especially since I had more starter than usual after the pancake partyand whipped up a skillet cornbread. Looks wonderful, doesn't it?
Golden brown on the outseide.....totally uncooked and gooey on the inside. Back in it went, but 10 minutes later....it was burned on the edges, STILL raw on the inside, but now it was much harder to cut because the crust was so overcooked that you're only seeing a few pieces here because there was a SERIOUS serving mishap and it would be impossible to get all the cornbread pieces in one picture. Turns out, it might have been a disaster, but the stuff is fairly aerodynamic.

Thankfully, the rest of lunch was a salad & therefore immune to burning, although the pea pods that I went out and harvested from the garden bright & earlyare still in the fridge because I completely forgot them.

Even I could admit that the day was not going so well at this point, and since I was having a bad day in the kitchen, it seemed a good day to try the crockpot again. I mean, why let it ruin a perfectly good day?

I decided to cook a pork roast dusted with curry powder and sea salt.That was before there was a mishap with the curry powder. Tonight we're having pork roast TOTALLY FREAKING COATED with curry powder. Thank heavens it wasn't the salt.

A smarter person would have just returned to bed at this point, but I had said I was making jam, so I was going to make the damn jam. I ran to the store & picked up sugar, then stared on the cherry jam.If this picture could have been taken 30 seconds earlier, you would have seen a cherry-pink mini volcano as the rapidly boiling jam expanded and oozed over the sides of the pan onto the stove, where it has completely fused itself to the surface--not to mention providing that wonderful burned-sugar aroma throughout the entire house.

But here....
Here is the [bleep] [bleep] cherry jam!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It better be freaking amazing!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dinner at Chateau Sutton-Goar

So, in the new "planning-ahead" mode that I have tried to adopt to compensate for the lack of quick & convenient food, on Monday I got a chuck roast out of the freezer to thaw and scrounged up a recipe. In spite of growing up on a cattle ranch, beef roasts are not a strong suite, but my parents had been nice enough to bring us some meat, so I thought I would try again.

I found a recipe that said to marinate the roast in a marinade of bourbon, olive oil, vinegar, and mustard for up to 3 days, then grill. Andy had to travel out of town for a couple days, so I thought it would be perfect to have ready when he got back (Geez, how June Cleaver can I get?), and I thought it would be a nice way to use up the bottle of bourbon we had bought mistakenly thinking that mint julep might be a refreshing summer drink (which it probably is if you have just killed off all of your tastebuds or just spent an hour licking the bottom of your shoe). For 3 days I carefully watched that stupid roast--turning it so both sides would pick up all the flavors. Tonight, full of anticipation, we fired up the barbecue and.....

....served up a flavorless, sort of gristly hunk of meat. Now to be fair, once we covered each piece with sun-dried tomato mustard, it was actually pretty good, but are marinades really just an urban legend? Do they ever flavor or tenderize any meat at all? And how stupid am I that I keep trying different recipes over & over & over with the exact same result???

Geez, you'd think I was in politics...........

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Harvested Lunch!!!!

Yesterday, feeling like quite the domestic goddess, I scrounged this from the garden:broccoli, sugar peas, butter lettuce and red and white radishes, and fixed a chicken salad for lunch, complete with improvised blue-cheese dressing:
which really was brown, but that would be the addition of balsamic vinegar--not an unfortunate accident in the kitchen. (Thankfully)

Perhaps I should have called this year the Year of Ugly Food....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

So....

Even though we've eliminated food coloring from our diet, sometimes it's easy to understand why we use so much of it.

Today I made sun-dried tomato mustard, using dried tomatoes from last year's garden. Lovely, isn't it?

Admittedly, it tastes great, but Americans don't even like to buy mustard we have to stir. Could you imagine the shelf appeal of this?
At least it wasn't green...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Things I've Learned This Week

* No matter how hard you try, you can't split a blueberry

* While running errands in a rainstorm is a really poor time to find out one of your shoes leaks.

* Whoever invented bagless vacuums didn't own two cats.

* When just getting back into the normal swing of things after surgery, a solo trip to Costco involving a 40-pound bucket of cat litter is a really bad idea.

* Martha Stewart really wasn't history's most uptight caterer. That honor belongs to chef Vatel, who was supposed to serve a fish dinner to King Louis XIV of France. The fish didn't arrive in time, and Vatel killed himself.

* One can make a really good pesto out of mint, feta cheese, toasted pecans, and olive oil, and if you overdo the mint it clears your sinuses right up.

* If one plans to make mustard for tonight's dinner, one might want to double-check the recipe for such phrases as "soak overnight."

* If one is just coming out of a 6-week recovery period, a smart person wouldn't expect to get all caught up in just a few days.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I Swear I'm Not Complaining, but........

Technically, Idaho is a desert, and while we haven't actually reached the summer solstice, I think most of us would indeed consider June as a "summer" month, so all the rain we're getting is a bit....unusual. Not that I'm complaining--the lawn is loving it, as are the weeds--but we had to turn off the sprinklers today because the backyard is now a bog, and I think I just saw a neighbor go by in a gondola....Not that I'm complaining, though. Next week it's supposed to be almost 100. Mother nature apparently has "mood swings."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Back In the Swing of Things

Post surgery option #1: Gradually introduce new activities, taking time to rest between tasks as your body builds its strength again.

Post surgery option #2: Jump back into activities with complete & utter disregard for the body's lack of strength and endurance, cramming 6 week's worth of gardening into 5 days and booking social activities with a zeal that would make Julie McCoy cringe, then collapse in complete exhaustion by 8:00 PM every night.

Any guesses as to which option I have chosen?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Things I've Wondered About

My recent forced inactivity gave me some time to ponder life's greatest mysteries:

* Why do movies & television always portray humans of the future in jumpsuits? What exactly is it about "onesies" that we feel is the pinnacle of human achievement?

* Are nurses really unaware of how insane it is to wake someone up to ask if they are sleeping, or do nurses do it just to be perverse?

* Exactly what is the point of "Twitter" and why is the active verb of it to "tweet?" From what I've seen, to "twit" is perhaps a bit more appropriate.

* Why does grass die so easily in the lawn and yet can't be killed in the garden beds?

* Did ancient humans present each other with dead animal gifts as a sign of affection like our cats do, and were the recipients more gracious than I am?

* With all the people who have sworn up & down that they never voted for George W. Bush as president, how did he ever get elected? And reelected?

* Why is it that the more repulsive a food sounds, the more likely it is to be served in really expensive restaurants?

* How did humans figure out which mushrooms were safe & which were poisonous? Did they just take along easy-going friends who weren't overly bright as testers?

* Why do I feel like I'm actually knitting faster if I buy more yarn?

* Why couldn't the euphoria of finally being able to vacuum have lasted until I vacuumed the ENTIRE upstairs?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Some Ideas Seem Better At the Time...

So tonight is the June Soup Night, and since June is generally considered to be a "summer" month, we thought soup might not be that welcome. Two problems with this theory have arisen:

1. Soup volume is a bit more flexible than pancake volume. I have four batches of sourdough fermenting for tonight, which we think is a nice compromise between running out of pancakes and being overrun by sourdough sponges. Might not be a bad idea to arrive early tonight, just in case.2. In spite of it being June, it's actually quite cold--being only 65 degrees so far today. Even the cats are cold:
I think we'll be serving hot cider this evening. And wearing wool socks.

I love summer in Boise

Saturday, June 6, 2009

There Are A Few Perks

We're enjoying cups of homemade hot chocolate right now. It's quite fabulous, and since it's currently cold, rainy and 56 degrees out (yes, I know it's June but Mother Nature doesn't seem to have gotten the memo), it hits the spot perfectly!

One of the perks to our little experiment is that we eat so consistently healthy that a few treats now and then are perfectly acceptable. And, since the treats (homemade ice cream, hot chocolate, cake) are quite time-consuming to make, they aren't likely to happen very often. Oddly, having them only once in a while makes them far more enjoyable because they are such obvious treats.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Few Fun Food Facts

This experiment has made me much more curious about our food, so I've been doing a little research. Some of the more interesting facts so far:

* Some Native Americans believed that they could prevent cutworms from damaging their vegetables by having a squaw walk naked in the garden under a bright moon while dragging her clothes behind her. Anyone want to bet that it was a man who came up with that one?

*
The rise in popularity of coffee houses created a subsequent rise in intellectual debate in coffee houses. Apparently the quality of intellectual discussions in ale houses left something to be desired

* Twinkies originally had a banana filling, but it was changed to vanilla due to the scarcity of bananas during WWII

* The Three Musketeers bar was originally 3 pieces of candy--chocolate, strawberry & vanilla. The chocolate was the most popular, and when wartime sugar restrictions began, the less popular flavors were phased out

* According to one book, phenylethylamine (PEA) is supposed to be the chemical in chocolate that puts the chocolate-eater into a happy state of mind similar to falling in love, is actually found in greater qualtity in sausage and cheese. So, next Valentine's Day, you might think Hickory Farms versus Godiva. And maybe some breath mints.....

* That white rind found on brie is edible, but as it's produced by spraying the surface of the cheese with a mold, called penicillium candidum, before the cheese is aged briefly, it really depends on how comfortable you are with consuming mold. I have no idea if it helps you get over diseases.

* In Tudor England, fresh fruit was thought to be bad for you, and fruit was only consumed after it was baked into a pie or tart.

* "American" cheese is not really a true cheese--it's natural cheese with emulsifiers, stabilizers & flavor enhancers added for a shelf-stable, mass-producable product. Figures.

* Chocolate really doesn't cause acne. My face just believes it does

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A New Way To Diet?

It occurred to me today, if we had decided to just STOP eating processed foods, we would never have been able to do it. Setting the one year time frame was probably the whole key, because there is a definite end in sight. Now, odds are that by December we'll be okay with this as a way of life--or a way of life with a couple more "cheats" a week thrown in. Knowing it isn't permanent makes it easier.

So, do you think diets would be easier for people if they automatically had a time limit? One year, six months--whatever. And, if at the end of that period, whatever it was, if you had lost weight or felt better or had lower blood pressure, wouldn't it be easier to continue, knowing that you had a result?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

One More Week!!!

One week from today, the "take it easy" ban is supposed to lift! Yay!!!! I might even vacuum to celebrate!

And....WE HAVE PEAS!!!!! The fact that I didn't actually plant these peas is beside the point. A "weed" can actually be pretty welcome if the peas you planted on purpose haven't gotten their act together yet.

In other excitement, Itty bitty broccoli.

Not that we're exactly "living off the land" right now, but we might at least be "picnicking off the land." That's a start....

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tomatoes

This is one of our front flower pots. Notice anything unusual?
Like a TOMATO growing in it?Or our front flowerbed:which has no less than FOUR tomato plants coming up.

And remember when I said we were afraid the horse manure was a bit too hot for tomatoes and all the work we did to make sure we had a large amount of compost around them?
This tomato is coming up right in the middle of a big pile of manure in part of a bed we haven't worked up yet. And all this about 2 weeks after EIGHT tomato plants we bought from the nursery died.

How is this possible? Are they just really perverse plants?

The New Additions

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