Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Day & One Cheat Left

The makings for the white chocolate martini are chilling in the fridge.  Technically, we may not actually have one tomorrow as we have been invited to no less than THREE New Year's Eve parties, and if I have a white chocolate martini before a party we won't actually make it TO the party.  But it's nice to know it's there....

Bizarrely, I have now lost interest in my chocolate stash.  Knowing I'll be able to have it seems to be enough.  Obviously, I respond to the "forbidden fruit" idea, which I sort of knew.  Idaho is quite close to Nevada & legalized gambling, but the only times I thought it was any fun were the times I did it while I was underage.  I like knowing I have chocolate in the house--and will be hiding some of it so Andy doesn't eat it all--but if I do have any on Friday, it will be a very small piece. 

Since we were staying with relatives over Christmas, we suspended our diet while we were there.  I would never expect anyone hosting us to live by our experiments, and for 4 days we ate "normally" and I thought I had gotten away with it--no stomach upset, no side effects.  Then we flew home.  Oh my.  There really is no going back........bummer.  Looks like next year's project will be:  finding a reasonable diet we can live with.  This time, with a little more chocolate......

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This I Had To Share

In general, I'm a big fan of Amazon.com.  Not only do they have everything, it's been a great way to research food products from home.  So, today while trying to figure out a good gift (or gifts) to send as a hospitality "thank you" gift, I pulled up Amazon's website and typed in "gifts."  The first item that popped up:


something called "Jingle Jugs Animatronics Singing Dancing Boobs."  And this is what Amazon thinks I am most likely to be looking for as a gift.  Which makes sense, of course, as the last order I placed with them was for some Shirley Temple dvds for my nephews and niece.  I can see how they would obviously connect the two. 

Then again, I can guarantee that it's something they don't already have...............

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Christmas Letter

Holiday Greetings!

2009 has been quite a year here at Ch√Ęteau Sutton-Goar. This year we:

  • decided to see if we would feel any difference if we eliminated all processed foods (unknown ingredients, food coloring, high fructose corn syrup) from our diet for one year.


  • are a bit disappointed to find out that it really does make a huge difference


  • have a new appreciation for the bravery of our friends who came over to our house for dinner anyway


  • had an astounding amount of bizarre-looking meals. If you add spinach to almost everything, it increases the nutritional value, but occasionally one feels like one is eating a pulverized Oscar the Grouch


  • are really glad the one year is almost up


  • learned to make homemade liqueurs—and in the future would use decaffeinated coffee for Kahlua unless one intends to have cocktails at 7:00 AM


  • threw a “zucchini cookoff” party and PEOPLE ACTUALLY CAME!


  • picked several pounds of cherries...which explains all the cherry jam everyone is getting for Christmas


  • took our injured kitty for walks on a leash—usually in the backyard where there were no witnesses


  • shoveled insane amounts of horse manure in the literal—not political—sense


  • decided to double the size of our garden—which made a lot more sense in March than in August


  • discovered that if we’re having enough fun, it’s hard to notice the difference in only one income

This year I:

  • spent so much time reading labels for our “Year of No Processed Foods” experiment that a few local grocery stores think I might be a member of staff


  • grew an insane amount of garlic, and was so pleased with the results that I planted even more for 2010


  • learned to make two things successfully in that dang crockpot


  • will have read 100 books (98 and counting at current writing)


  • have been doing a lot of food history research and was amazed to find that Velveeta was actually invented as a “healthy” alternative to cheddar cheese.


  • learned how to make non-mushy pickles—and celebrated by canning 50-some-odd jars of them.


  • used a pressure canner for the first time ever AND didn’t blow anything up. The fact that I was still canning pumpkin at midnight is an entirely different issue.


  • learned to make mustard, which is much better than anything we’ve encountered in stores.


  • experienced my first “real” surgery, which wasn’t nearly as bad as the 6-week recovery period

This year Andy:

  • finished restoring my grandmother’s piano, though learned that it might have been wiser to NOT mention that there would be piano moving involved when inviting buddies over for beer


  • ran his annual half-marathon....plus a second for good measure/insanity


  • made homemade crackers, which were excellent...though the thicker ones were a bit like garlic-flavored dog biscuits


  • learned that motorcycle camping in May is not always a great idea


  • learned that kayaking in April is an even worse idea


  • learned to make homemade pasta, though hasn’t found a solution to the “sticking together in some big fettuccine mess while drying” problem


  • figured out how to fix our furnace after a week of no heat & two separate repairmen did nothing and charged us anyway. (If they can’t fix anything, should they still be called “repairmen?”)


  • learned that the way to a woman’s heart is through homemade chocolate-peanut butter ice cream

This year I have learned:

  • just when you’ve thought you have set a new standard for crazy pet owners everywhere, you find yourself signing your cat up for water rehab therapy


  • cats can have nightmares....probably over the kitty water rehab therapy


  • if the compost doesn’t get hot enough to kill seeds, it’s a terrific way to seed your lawn, flowerbeds, and flower pots with cucumbers, tomatoes, and sugar peas


  • putting steaming horse manure on the lawn and garden won’t kill the plants, but might have had something to do with two neighbors moving away


  • finding a chocolate zucchini cake recipe can make one more accepting when one ends up with a second summer squash where pumpkins were supposed to be planted


  • those plastic knobs on the gas stove have a lower melting point than one might think


  • never underestimate how fast a determined cat can remove a leg cast. Theo’s current record is before even getting him home from the vet, which has made him a legend at WestVet


  • for some cats, kitty valium is not so much a sedative as kitty speed. Finding this out after giving it to a cat in a cast is really unfortunate


  • just because it stains your fingers, it doesn’t mean that blueberry juice can color frosting


  • after 6 months, one does stop fantasizing about Diet Pepsi, but one never stops thinking about chocolate


  • if one of the cats turns a live bird loose in your house and it settles into a flower arrangement four feet above the open front door, the odds of the bird figuring out that a) the flowers are fake and b) it could get out through a door just a few feet below it are next to zero—no matter how strong the cold wind is blowing through the house


  • if a doctor tells you initially that surgery recovery will take about a week, it’s best to ask questions. He meant in the “stop feeling like crap” sense, and I meant in the “can be out shoveling dirt in the garden” sense


  • doped up on enough pain killers, I can have all the milkshakes I want because I won’t actually feel my normal headaches from my milk allergy....or anything else for that matter


  • all natural” on a food label doesn’t mean what I thought it meant


  • don’t assume ANYTHING about your home’s construction—even if you bought the builder’s own home


  • there is such a thing as bacon-flavored lip balm. Why is anybody’s guess


  • life is always an adventure, though some days more than others.......


We wish everyone a merry holiday season and a healthy & happy 2010!
Toni and Andy

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lessons From Oprah

Recently, a friend mentioned that she had learned a lot from an article in Oprah's magazine.  I thought it was a great article, and thought the holidays would be a great time to share some highlights from "What I Know for Sure" by Oprah Winfrey:

"Every birthday, you decide whether to mark it the end of your greatest days or the beginning of your finest hour."

 "Reading gives you the ability to reach higher ground"

"When you get the chance, go for it.  You can't accomplish anything worthwhile if you inhibit yourself."

"Live so that at the end of each day, you can say, 'I did my very best.'"

"What have you done today to make you feel proud?"

"Making the decision to look after yourself is the ultimate in healthcare."

As long as we play the 'us and them' game, we don't evolve as people, as a nation, as a planet."

"If you feel incomplete, you alone must fill yourself with love in all your empty, shattered spaces."

"A healthy relationship brings joy--not just some of the time but most of the time."

"You are the only person alive who can see your big picture —and even you can't see it all."


Monday, December 21, 2009

Cough Drops

Okay, the cold is back and really hanging on, so there goes my theory about the no processed foods/no colds thing.  I did find some cough drops without artificial colors or flavors, but they seem to have no "active" ingredients either, so I broke down and bought some bizarrely pink lozenges that do have artificial--albeit really bad--flavoring, and of course they work really, really well.  I promise I really was trying to stick to the rules and have been gargling with saltwater like a maniac, but I'm getting a bit desperate. Maybe not desperate enough to try a mustard plaster or anything really horrible, but if this is still hanging around by Christmas, who knows???????

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What I Have Learned This Week

*  Mice apparently don't hibernate

*  Having a huge cup of coffee before trying to paint ceramics is probably not the best idea unless one is fond of polka dots

*  There really is no limit to the number of times I can watch A Muppet Christmas Carol.

Diet Pepsi tastes just as good as I remember

*  If any of your friends have children in college, it's handy to have a math whiz on speed-dial

*  Having one's alma mater make it into a bowl game will make even the least-interested alumna consider attending the game for at least 20 seconds.....right until she remembers it would involve sitting outside on December 30 in an area that has "winter"

*  One can NEVER have too many groups of great girlfriends

*  The "live-and-let-live" policy for bugs that I talked myself into this summer does not include fruit flies.

*  A week of temperatures right around zero will stop one from whining about ANY other winter weather one gets
 
*  She who feels smugness about getting over a cold quickly is headed for a relapse

Fudge!

Admittedly, I was pretty worried about making fudge.  How easy is it to just taste a little here & there? 

So I started to make it Thursday and discovered in my exuberance to be buying chocolate of any kind that I had purchased the WRONG chocolate chips.  I purchased milk chocolate instead of semi sweet, so I put it off until Friday.  Fortunately or unfortunately, my cold returned Thursday night.  I made it to the store & back before having to return to bed and sleeping most of the day, so no fudge yesterday either.

Determined, this morning I got up feeling a bit groggy but slightly better, and finally mixed up the fudge first thing--before I could get dizzy AND before my stomach could feel better enough to stop being nauseous at the very thought of chocolate.  And I am happy to report that the layered mint fudge is done, in the fridge, and I didn't have ANY!!!!  Okay, to be fair it didn't even sound good, but still.....I MADE FUDGE WITHOUT HAVING ANY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

12 days to go........

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I Suppose It Had To Happen

             2 cats
          + birds that aren't bright enough to fly south for the winter
          + lots of people at Soup Night to impress with one's hunting prowess
        -----------------------------------------

            Theo's Live Bird Floorshow!!!!!



Personally, I think it might have been to get even for the cast/water therapy thing, but maybe he was just sharing.  Luckily, one of the guests is a actually a pretty decent bird hunter, since somebody


turned the bird loose under one of the tables.

And yes, our guests CAN move pretty quickly when properly motivated.....

Monday, December 14, 2009

17 Days To Go

I'd like to say that we've been discussing art, literature, philosophy--anything remotely thoughtful--over the last couple days, but most of our conversations right now are about food.  Forbidden Food.  What can we have January 1?  What are we most looking forward to?  What can we have January 2?  Etc. 

While we know that we can't really go back to a "normal" diet, there are some things I'd REALLY like to have access to once in a while:

* Worchestershire sauce
* salad dressing
* cream cheese
* coconut milk
* ANY soup stock that hasn't involved a whole bunch of chopping and simmering on my part
* the occasional ham sandwich
* chocolate chips
* soups from cans or bags (only occasionally, but I really miss Campbell's tomato soup)
* Grape Nuts
* sour cream
* olives
* almost anything that hasn't just taken at least 20 minutes to make



We haven't exactly decided what will happen on January 1--definitely not a food free-for-all unless we decide that January 2 will be "get your stomach pumped day," but we are going to celebrate by fixing something we haven't gotten to have all year, which leaves us with LOTS of options.  I'm currently leaning toward mulligatawny but the thought of chocolate chip cookie dough has crossed my mind.....

Saturday, December 12, 2009

We Cheated

OK, so we didn't set out to cheat.  Today we had arranged to meet a friend at one of our favorite restaurants and we had actually looked at their menu online to discuss what would be legal & what wouldn't, and I was excited to see that they made their own Caesar salad dressing (though mercifully not at the table, because as I aware of the egg & oil & anchovies, I don't like to be reminded of it) so I was looking forward to a legal salad. 

It turns out, they are not open for lunch on Saturday, and when it is snowing and 18 degrees is not the time to be standing around debating options, so we opted for a nearby Chinese restaurant because it was A) open, B) nearby, and C) likely to be heated. 

It turns out, the food was not even remotely legal but it was warm & I got to have some of that marvelous "Americanized" chow mien with the crunchy completely-processed noodles.  Unfortunately, it was our third cheat of the week, but I just can't feel much in the way of remorse.  That usually comes later--like at 1:00 AM.  But for right now, dang it was good stuff......

Recipe | P Allen Smith Garden Home

Recipe | P Allen Smith Garden Home

Friday, December 11, 2009

Know How Many Easy-To-Take Appetizers Involve Cream Cheese?

Most of them.

This month almost everything we've been invited to attend involves bringing food of some sort.  When taking food to a party, it's easiest to have things that can be served cool or at room temperature.  Crackers, cheese balls, dips--they all work really well and are, of course, illegal.  Even normal cheese in a block is a bit daunting--we have had several inadvertent "cheats" because initially I forgot that in reality, there's no way for cheese to be orange, and then I was foolish enough to believe that smoked gouda might be slightly off-white because of the smoking.  Nope--all food coloring.  And I have discovered at least one of the reasons that most of our dairy products contain some sort of stabilizer--yogurt separates.  Make a dip out of yogurt and IF you can cover up the tangy yogurt taste that, by now, we're frankly a little sick of, it might STILL separate by the time you get it to where you're going. 

So, this year every party is getting zucchini bread.  Every single party.  It's good zucchini bread, but since several parties involve the same people I've been waiting for a little muttering or rumbling about the zucchini overdose.  This is a big thing for me--usually I am very careful about taking healthy appetizers or food to parties, but this year all bets are off.  I sort of made a rule that I had to take legal food to parties.  I guess we could have said that I could take whatever and then not eat it, but that seemed like cheating.  And to be honest it's a bit of a relief to know that at least one thing isn't likely to cause stomach issues for the next few days.  One of our rules has been that we could--within reason--eat what was served at other people's homes, but usually these episodes have been evenly spaced out.  This month there are SO many parties, and it's been sort of an indigestion-marathon so far--and fasting seems likely for the next round of parties.  Interestingly, I caught a cold this week...which in all fairness could be attributed to the fact that it's been below freezing all week & not anticipated to get warmer in the immediate future, or to the rampant socializing, but it is hard not to wonder if it doesn't have something to do with the poorer diet this month as well....

That's it--maybe it's time to finally cook one of the 35-pound squashes and dig in.......

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

'Tis The Season To Be Eating

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Scores of friends we must be meeting

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Don we now our loose apparel

Fa la la, la la la, la la la

While our health and waistlines we imperil

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA.......

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Rules That Should Exist

*  Furnaces should only have problems in October when they're only sort of needed....not in December when they're really, really, REALLY needed

*  Food eaten at Christmas parties should not make you fat since you're really only eating to be sociable and it would hurt the host's feelings to abstain

*  All stores should be required to keep at least ONE replacement carafe in stock for every coffee maker they carry.  Depriving customers of a regular caffeine fix is really low on the customer service scale

*  Companies should just admit that unless they are involved in anything regarding retail, Christmas, or perhaps food that they really aren't going to do any business in December anyway and should stop interfering with their employee's holiday enjoyment

*  Cats should come with "snooze" and "mute" buttons.  "Rewind" might be interesting as well

* My Yahoo mail account would automatically realize that I do not have a penis and therefore don't want it enlarged, that I have never and will never buy a replica watch, and that it would take a special breed of stupid to buy drugs over the internet from an anonymous spammer and delete all such emails accordingly

Friday, December 4, 2009

Turns Out, The Answer Would Be "No"

We had frozen blueberries


and frozen cherries

so I thought "Great, I'll get pink and purple frosting."  Since I didn't want the frosting to actually taste like cherries or blueberries as it turns out that even I have some food weirdness limits (who knew?), I defrosted them and smashed some of the juice out

stirred the juice into the frosting--being careful to add a little more sugar to compensate for the extra liquid

and voila!

I think there's a sort of slight hint of purple in the one on the right.  Of course, you can see it better when you compare it with just the white frosting

See?  It looks like 3 paint samples of "beige," doesn't it.  On the cookies doesn't help much

but I think from this angle

you can see a bit of color.  And that my counters are dirty, but we're "overlooking" that part....

And, of course, all those decorator things--sprinkles, red hots, colored sugar--are completely off limits, so this is as good as these cookies are going to get.  Not great, but considering the last time I tried making sugar cookies, they morphed into one bizarre giant cookie in the oven, so progress is progress.

And to hedge our bets, these aren't going to any parties where alcohol isn't being served, so......

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Today's Question....

Can one color sugar cookie frosting with berry juice and would one want to?  And even if they end up completely bizarre looking, will people still want to eat the cookies at the Christmas party?


It has taken 11 months, but I have finally missed food coloring....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Allergies

One of the problems with living the Year of No Processed Foods experiment is it often takes so much time JUST to live it that I don't have as much time as I had hoped to do research into topics that come up.  Like allergies.

Spending as much time as I do reading labels this year, I regularly see allergy warnings--usually the nuts, wheat, and gluten issues.  Sometimes it will actually say that the product doesn't contain any allergens, but was processed in a plant that processes other things that contain allergens.  And this seems to be necessary.

When I was in first grade, it was discovered that I am allergic to milk.  Know how they discovered it?  My mother took me to an allergist, he gave us a list of common food allergens, had her remove all of them and then introduce them in serious quantity one by one, and when I reacted we would have found the one I was allergic to.  We didn't question this, it worked like a charm, and I was only sorry that we started with the onion week and didn't get around to the strawberry week.  Even given the fact that my recollections of all this are colored by a six-year-old's reflections, while I remember that not being able to drink milk or have ice cream was a serious blow, there was never any real cause for concern.  Sure, it was a pretty big bother, and our experiments to try to find something to replace milk were often pretty disgusting, such as apple juice on Rice Krispies which is possibly more disgusting than it sounds, but we never had to check labels to search for trace elements of milk.  It wasn't--and still isn't--that serious, nor that dangerous.  Nobody has to make adjustments for me, I have it down to a science how much ice cream I can have without a reaction, and even having an all-night fling with Ben & Jerry's wouldn't send me to the hospital.  It's just something to work around, and for most of my life, my having a food allergy made me odd or unusual.  True food allergies, they say, are extremely rare.  NOW, however, it seems that my food allergy is odd or unusual for the simple reason that it doesn't try to kill me.

Looking up allergies, I found that they are classified as an exaggerated immune response to a substance that is typically harmless, but that the body mistakenly identifies as a threat.  OK, that makes perfect sense for hay fever and the like--you breathe something in, your body doesn't like it, so you sneeze your head off to get rid of it.  Fine.  I, however, get blistering headaches from too much milk, which I have to say is pretty pathetic if this is the best my immune system can come up with to protect me.  Ah!  Foreign invaders!  Code red!  Code red!--launch severe cranial pain!!!!!!  We are under attack!  Code red!  Code red!


But the ones that really surprise me--and the ones that are becoming so widespread--are the deadly allergies, which I believe are usually peanut or other nut allergies.  I won't even cook with peanut oil just in case one of my guests might be allergic.  And what is the point of such a severe allergy?  Why would so many people's bodies choose death over a peanut?  I mean, I've tried plenty of foods I hope to never encounter again, and if I had to choose between death and eating liver I might have to think about it, but it seems like having such a vicious immune system should be very, very rare....and yet it seems to be becoming more and more common.  So, my question--which needs more exploration--is why?  Could it actually be because of what we are eating, and if so, would we be willing to change our eating habits?

And in the 12th and final month of a food experiment, is it normal to get philosophical about peanuts, or have I finally cracked under the lack of cinnamon bears?

The Look

Anyone who thinks cats can't learn things hasn't lived with one. It took Theo maybe a month into his diet to figure out that I can...