Showing posts from October, 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'…

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 se…

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?"


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 g…

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.

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 …

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.....

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 unlov…

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-…


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.....

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…

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 mi…

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.&…

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..........

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 yo…

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?"

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…

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 wh…

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?????

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.

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 sa…


Some people have a date with destiny.

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

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 …

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 …