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Our Alter Egos
Our Alter Egos (Photo credit: Tracy Rowan)

I don't know if I mentioned it here, but I've started a new blog.  I share this one with Glinda North, and it's called "Those 2 Nice Girls Next Door."  Why?  It's a complex story and has to do with the things we talked about when we were contemplating our move, searching for a house and all the rest.  We joked that people would probably not remember our names and would call us "Those two nice girls next door" or something similar.  So when we were sitting together having coffee a bit ago, Glinda suggested that we start a blog with that title and talk about our life here.  How we got here, what we think of the arrangement, the house, our lives and so on.  I thought it was a terrific idea and set up a blog, which I'm currently monopolizing because she's been so over-worked lately.  When my quarterly calls start in a week or two, she's going to have to take up some of the slack.  It was her idea after all.  Fair warning: Right now we're obsessed with the garden and probably will be so pretty much through June.  Spring is always our most active time out there, so many of the posts are going to be garden-related.

Amber and Green beaded braceletThe other thing we plan to do is open an Etsy shop with that name.  We're both crafters and it would not only do us good to earn a bit of money, but I think it would be good for us to have that outlet.  (The bracelet to the right is one of mine, I sold it under the name "Belle Epoque Originals.")

We need to clean up the basement first, and set up the Art Box I won.  God knows when that will happen.  There never seems to be enough hours in the day.

I've been working on "Winter Rose" aka, "The Russian Novel" and "The Time Travel Novel."  It's coming along slowly but the characters drag their feet abysmally.  And today I decided that I was going to... not rewrite an old novel, exactly, but revisit it.  Many years ago, around 1980 or so, I wrote a novel called "Cat Tales," and I've been thinking seriously about taking some of the original ideas and developing them into something different.  I won't be reselling an old story, just cannibalizing the best of it to make something new.

The Pantry Project is still ongoing.  I'm not doing as well as I'd hoped I would be by now, but we're eating better and wasting less.  I cook more often and we're eating less meat and ordering out less.  I can't expect habits to change overnight or even in a year, really.  Not when they're this ingrained. I want to get back to trying new things.  Tonight we had Hasselback potatoes for the first time.  They were very successful, though the mess in the baking dish is scary.  And a trip to a new Sur la Table store on Saturday ended with me buying avocado oil for our salads.  We are trying new things.

The cats are great.  Leo is having a lot of asthma problems since I started using a supposedly asthma-friendly clay litter, so we're going back to cedar.  And Peeb seems to be not having a lot of 'sodes since I plugged in the Feliway. I don't think to ask for miracles.

So... new and old, and old made new again.  We work with what life gives us.


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Here’s the cover art for my upcoming release with Silver Publishing.  It’s by the very talented Lee Tiffin.  Isn’t it a delight?

Devil in the Details: Rafe is a young man with a problem. His lover, a wealthy and powerful man, has become increasingly demanding and possessive, and is occasionally abusive. Gavin is prepared to do anything to get what he wants.

What Rafe wants is a little peace and security. And he wants it with the owner of the new cafe in the neighborhood.

Driven to despair by his lover, Rafe calls on his half-brother, a demon named Grim, to help settle things.

Here’s a taste:

Rafe returned to Maraczek’s café about eight-thirty the next morning. He’d brought a book and was prepared to read while he waited, but Dave saw him and let him in. “They’re cooling. Come on in back and we’ll have milk and a cookie to start the day.”

“Really? In back?”

Dave laughed. “That’s right. The Inner Sanctum! C’mon. I don’t want anyone seeing you in here and rapping on the window.”

They went back into the kitchen and Dave pointed him towards a stool. Then he brought two big glasses of milk to the table. “Chocolate syrup? I make my own. You really should try it.”

“Oh sure, why not?” The butterflies started flitting around inside Rafe’s stomach. Was Dave going to put the moves on him with chocolate syrup and cookies? Rafe had to admit it would be a novel approach and one he could appreciate, but he wasn’t sure if it was such a good idea. Hard on that thought came the certainty he didn’t really care too much if it wasn’t a good idea.

“Why not indeed? It’ll make you feel like a kid again.” Dave fetched a big cobalt bottle, and a plate full of cookies. “These are also known as never-twice-the-same-cookie because I use whatever’s on hand.”

They were huge, heavy cookies that smelled heavenly. “What on earth is in these?” Rafe asked.

“Try it and see if you can figure it out.”

It was something to distract him from the awkward but very exciting attraction he was feeling for Dave. On the first bite he got oatmeal, walnuts and chocolate chips. “Chocolate chip oatmeal, right?”

“That’s a start. What else?”

Rafe took another bite. Dave was watching him closely. Watching him take bites, watching him chew. Rafe nearly forgot how to do both, but then the flavors tugged at him. “Not raisins, but… wait,” There was an almondy quality to the dried fruit. “Dried cherries?”

Dave seemed pleased. He nodded as he mixed chocolate syrup into the milk. “Right. And?”

“Coconut?” Dave confirmed it. “Spices…” There was the rich, friendly aroma of cardamom, the brightness of cinnamon and the warm bite of clove. And more, a whole lot more, but it remained mysterious. “It’s sort of like pumpkin pie spice with some cardamom, but not really,” Rafe said. ” Honestly, that’s as far as my thinking takes me.”

Dave patted his arm and Rafe almost shivered. He liked touching Dave far too much for his own good. “You did really well. There are some sunflower and chia seeds in there, and the spice is my own garam masala blend today with some extra cardamom because I love the stuff. The last batch I made with bits of crystallized ginger, and orange flower water. The next one? Who knows?” He grinned and took a big bite of his cookie.

Rafe sipped his chocolate milk and was again distracted from watching Dave by the flavors. “What’s in this?”

“Just chocolate syrup.”

“Oh no, there has to be something else.”

“Nope. That’s what it tastes like when you use real cane sugar and very good raw cocoa.”

“It’s amazing. It’s got this… I don’t know what to call it.” Sensation was coming at him far too fast; he was having a hard time sorting it all out.

“It’s rich and it’s a little musky, fruity, and kind of warm, isn’t it?”

“Yeah! Man this is good. You should sell this.”

Dave reached out and ran his finger over Rafe’s upper lip. “Chocolate milk moustache,” he said with a chuckle.

This time Rafe did shiver a little.

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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 30:  'Next Iron Chef'...

If Alton says it's okay it is!

So the pie… it’s good, but it’s not as good as I’d hoped for.  The fruit, particularly the plums, wasn’t as sweet and flavorful as I’d have wished.  As I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to sugar, I never add more than is called for in the recipe and sometimes I add less.  While I added the full amount — one cup, which I thought was overdoing it a bit — the result was a little tart. *rimshot*  We’re keeping an eye on an elderly neighbor while her niece is out of town, and I meant to take her a slice, but Glinda suggested that it might be a bit puckery for her.  Fortunately I tend to like things that are sour, so I rather enjoyed it.  And the pastry was quite good.  It was a Pillsbury, refrigerated crust.  Hey, Alton Brown said store-bought pie crusts are fine, so I don’t feel a bit guilty using them.  I can make a homemade crust; I have, and it was quite good. I just prefer not to be bothered.


Tabbouleh (Photo credit: dronir)

Today I’m concentrating on salads, I guess.  I’ve got bulgur soaking for tabbouleh and quinoa cooking with curry powder.  Tabbouleh is pretty straightforward for me these days.  Bulgur, tomato (Can’t wait until I’m using our own tomatoes in this.), parsley, a little cilantro, olive oil and lemon juice.  I’ll probably add some chopped garlic scapes as long as I have them.  For the quinoa salad, I’ll be adding walnuts, snap peas, onion and diced apricots.  I’ll probably dress it with an apricot-curry vinaigrette.

Early girl tomatoes

Early girl tomatoes are (still too) early

French Breakfast Radishes

Fresh Picks should be here soon.  I managed to cadge some French breakfast radishes out of them again this week, and I’ve got a baguette coming, and a cheese-garlic spread from River Valley Ranch, so dinner is going to be really excellent tonight.  I’ll make some herbed butter for the radish sandwiches with either with Lake Shore Drive Seasoning or Sunny Paris Seasoning  from The Spice House. I’ll make up my mind at the last minute, I’m sure.  All in all, there’ll be some serious locavore action going on around here tonight.

I’m also planning to make a small batch of hummus today, but that’s by no means a sure thing.  I don’t have pita, but I do have a lot of different crackers and I’ll have a baguette later, which is really very good with hummus.  And the kicker is that none of this is really the type of thing I could take to our elderly neighbor and say  ”Bon appetit!” They’re really not her sort of things at all.  Maybe I’ll pull something together next week.

Coreopsis and rose

Coreopsis and rose (Photo credit: Tracy Rowan)

Glinda and I stayed inside last night and ordered a pizza.  She’d been home sick all day (I didn’t even realize until I heard someone walking around upstairs, freaked out, and phoned her.  She felt well enough to come down and watch Eureka (I say again, curse you SyFy, or whatever you’re calling yourself this week, for cancelling the best show you’ve got.) and eat pizza.  So when I was getting ready to close my back windows, I turned on the lights and the fountain briefly — I run the fountain for a few minutes each day to discourage mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water — and something that had been squeaking below the window, fled into the coreopsis.  So there I was at eleven-thirty yelling out my window “Dude, we’re going to have words about this!”  Not even rats take me seriously.



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The heat broke sometime last night after a couple of hot and humid days.  I opened my windows this morning and turned off the a/c.  Decided to make a pie because 1) I had all the fixings and 2) I couldn’t bake anything over the weekend, the a/c and washing machine were pulling too much juice; I started getting a lot of power fluctuations.

Strawberry Rhubarb pie

Looked good anyway (Photo credit: Tracy Rowan)

So today’s pie is a plum-strawberry-blackberry affair with cinnamon and cardamom.  It’s got cornstarch in the filling so I’m hoping it won’t be quite as soupy as the strawberry-rhubarb I made a week or so ago.  Last night I made leek-potato-garlic scape soup in the slow cooker because it runs on very little electricity and puts almost no heat out into the room.  I’m already planning Friday’s supper, a roasted pork belly, new potatoes with dill and zucchini salad extravaganza.  Cooler weather brings out the cook in me.  I’m going to be using herbs from the garden since they’re starting to look pickable.

Alas, we continue to have a rat problem.  Little ratty guys zoom across the patio when we’re out there, and linger there when we’re not.  I’m feeling kind of sorry for them because they’re fleeing all the work that’s being done on nearby streets, work that’s destroying their burrows.  Glinda’s not too sympathetic, but it makes me sad.  Not sad enough that I want them in the house or anything, but enough to make me philosophical. And then I worry about the bunnies.

We tried putting out coir soaked in peppermint oil which is said to be a potent repellent to them, but no joy.  Our next move will be ammonia or bleach.  We’ll also be caulking up the little open space where the concrete patio was taken out and the new pavers were laid.  Nobody ever plugged the gap, which is not big enough for rats, but it might be for mice. Might be.  We’ve got steel wool to use as filler and then a good exterior caulk.  Anything wants in, they’re going to have to get past both.

Sun pot corner

You have to admit it's a nice place for rats, too.

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To discourage seed predators, pulses contain t...

There's no point to doing this project unless I start digging down and using some of the less attractive stuff that's sitting in my pantry, by which I mean, food items that I look at and think, "What the hell was I thinking when I bought that?"  One of those things is a whole array of lentils.  I have a jar of green, half a jar of black and a metric fucktonne of red lentils.  I suppose I bought them during one of my bouts of "I'm going to get healthy/go vegan/be an earth mother" and the good thing is that they can sit there forever and not really suffer for it.  The bad thing is that they're always sitting there staring accusingly at me.

So this morning, I cooked up some lentils because I wanted to make a lentil salad.  I'd found a couple of interesting recipes on the internet and really wanted to give it a try.  I used green, red and black because I thought it'd be nice to have a multi-colored salad.  Yeah you lentil eaters know what I'm going to say. What I got out of the pot was a big, mushy glop of black lentils. So now I know to cook them for a shorter time and to NOT cook black lentils with anything else. They were too mushy for salad so I stirred them up with olive oil, lemon juice, a packet of dip mix from Wildwood Specialty Foods (Jalapeno-green chile) and some lemon-garlic marinade from The Spice House. Roasted, chopped walnuts and salt to taste, and I have a KILLER dip. I am not kidding when I say it was so good that I kept on eating way past where I should have stopped and now I'm regretting it. I also regret that I won't be able to reproduce it because that dip mix was from a store in the wilds of Wisconsin  (The Elegant Farmer; they make pies that are to die for.) and the company website is pretty unhelpful.

Well really, I shouldn't say I won't be able to reproduce it. I've got a list of what's in the mix:  onions, garlic, jalapeno pepper, green chili pepper, parsley and chives.   So I know it's an oniony mix, and that the amount of garlic in it wasn't enough to get the flavor I wanted so I'd need extra garlic in any event.  The peppers are easy as is the parsley, so I can probably get close with what I have in my spice cabinet.  This is a great thing because it's a pretty healthy dish, and also versatile.  I can use it as a dip, a spread, or mix it into broth for a soup.  I'm sure I'll think of other applications.

I also finally baked the tofu I'd been marinating for several weeks (not on purpose, I just got sidetracked) and it's really tasty. I marinated it in Litehouse sesame ginger salad dressing and baked it @ 350 for half an hour. Then I turned off the heat and let it sit. The result is that I have cubes of tofu with the consistency of soft caramel and a fantastic flavor. I've been snacking on them right out of the fridge.  I haven't been too nuts about the Litehouse line as dressings, but as marinades they're really very good.  I see they have a new cherry vinaigrette that looks tempting.

I expect I'm babbling on here about healthy food in part because I've been taking a lot of flak about my review of "The Blood Sugar Solution."  Now bear in mind that I gave the book four stars and said that I thought it was a valuable resource.  Apparently that's not good enough for the rah-rah brigade.  They're all over me because I suggested that 1) the process might be too expensive to jump into feet first and 2) that it might be too huge a change for many people, and perhaps a slower approach could bring people to the same point with less attrition.   Since the review went live two days ago I've been informed that anyone can do the program you just have to want to do it, with the unspoken implication that those who can't do it are somehow morally deficient and didn't want to from the get-go.  I've also been told that if you can afford a burger you can afford the program.  Leaving out the cost of the book for a moment, I would say that a $3 burger is vastly different from having to throw out all the food in your house and start over with only approved items.

So far I've been responding politely, though the last comment which accused me of pre-programming my own failure, got a snarky response.  But I have to admit I'm losing patience.  I don't consider haranguing to be valuable motivation.  If someone asks for your cheerleading, then by all means break out the pom-poms and the brass band.  I wrote a positive review which expressed some concerns.  I didn't say it was impossible, I didn't say not to try, I didn't say it could never work.  I said, take a moment to consider your needs and prioritize them.  Then approach the program with those priorities in mind, always intending to reach the point where you do spend those six weeks eating the way Dr. Hyman suggests.

On the plus side, 116 of 120 people thought my review was valuable to them.  That's only four people who didn't, the four presumably, who left comments.

And finally, on my way back from the garbage cans this afternoon, I noted that the garlic sprouts are starting to get quite tall.  That's exciting.  Our garlic was excellent last year and this year we'll be using garlic grown from garlic that we grew ourselves.  How cool is that?  I'm looking forward to the first scapes in late spring.  Glinda and I have been talking about the garden all winter, and one of the biggest thrills, for me at least, is seeing it start to come to life.  The chard is still coming up -- we have a local bunny who grazes on it -- and I see the first buds on the nectarine,which means it's time to get out there and prune.  The mint is sprouting along with all the bulbs, and the ferns never died back.  They're big and lush and green; even more so than they were in the fall.

Frankly, we didn't have much of a winter and that worries me, but at the same time I'm really looking forward to spring this year.    

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Let me cut right to the chase: Do I think this book is worth buying? Yes. With reservations. Before I get to them, though, let me tell you why this is such a valuable resource. Dr. Hyman understands that there are a myriad of factors that affect both our weight and our overall health. One of the things I find most helpful about this book is the focus on environmental factors such as pollution, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics in our food. Taken a step or two further he has nothing good to say about heavily processed food, and while there are processed foods that I genuinely enjoy like Nutella (which I will no longer eat because it contains palm oil, which is a whole other issue) I recognize they're not good for me, and I try to avoid anything that falls into this category. Fair enough, I say, it's relatively simple to cut much of the processed food out of your diet. You just have to make smarter choices and work a little harder.

It's also relatively easy to buy foods that are organic, rBGH-free, free of high fructose corn syrup and so forth (non-GMO foods are harder.) Relatively easy. Not simple, and certainly not cheap. If you make a commitment to avoiding these things, it takes some homework, and rebudgeting. But doing these two things are good starts.

Taking supplements because our diets will probably never provide the level of nutrients many of us need, that's a good start too. Again, quality supplements aren't cheap, and by now you're beginning to see that good health is a bigger commitment than you might imagine. It's not just about eating less and jogging for an hour each morning. Far from it. It's about making the choices I've mentioned, and as Dr. Hyman points out, it's about advocating for change in every aspect of life that affects our health. Big business isn't going to worry about whether we're fat and miserable, they're just going to keep shoveling cheap, sugary, salty food at us and watching their bottom line. Industry isn't going to clean up the air and water voluntarily because it costs them money. So part of taking control of your health is becoming an advocate for everyone's health.

Exercise is another important part of Dr. Hyman's program, and I can testify to the effectiveness of even a little exercise. It has improved my blood glucose dramatically and put a big dent in my depression. We have to move to be healthy. I hate to say it because I'm sedentary by nature, but there it is. We have to move.

Where I tend to disagree with Dr. Hyman is in the way he's structured his program. Now I have no argument with the idea that cutting out whole food groups will help pinpoint whether you have a problem with them. That's just common sense. What I do have a problem with is that you start the program by cutting out all sugar, including the so-called "healthy" sweeteners like honey, agave, stevia and all artificial ones; all gluten, all other flour products, even gluten free ones, all dairy, all processed foods, all grain, all starchy vegetables and all fruit except for 1/2 cup of berries a day. In fact, he says you should start by throwing out everything in these categories, just dump it. I say, I'm sorry, but who -- apart from someone in a blind panic about his or her health problems -- has the money to do that, not to mention the will power to wake up one morning knowing that you're going to spend at least six weeks eating virtually nothing but lean meat or fish, legumes and leafy vegetables? I can't. I can't afford it and I sure know that I'd maybe last two days on a regimen like that before I'd be running out for a burger or some cookies. To me it's like setting yourself up for failure and self-flagellation.

You do start adding foods back into your diet once you've... I guess de-toxed is the word. Not that I necessarily buy into detoxification diets, but hey, whatever, right? You add them in and you pay attention to how you feel as you do. And that makes a lot of sense in terms of discovering where your problems lie, if any -- there are group of questionnaires at the beginning of the book to help pinpoint where some of your problems may lie, and no matter what your score, Dr. Hyman says you need his plan. Well yeah; why would he say you don't right? So so you might well ask what is the point of all those questions? But I think they're valuable because they can show you where you really may be having problems. Sensibly, to me anyway, that's the place to start. By all means work the program, but work it in a targeted manner. There's so much in it that's good that you have to start feeling better if you do even part of what he recommends. If you can do it all, then wow! Go you! You're a star. But for most of us, that's simply not going to happen no matter how much we may want to do it.

Bottom line: This is a commonsense plan save for the fact that he doesn't seem to accept that human spirits are always willing, but the flesh is very, very weak in most cases. It's certainly a plan that's worth working with, but if you find it overwhelming, you'd be better off working at it slowly than giving up on it entirely.

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It's February now, and I've moved to phase two of the Pantry Project which is about not buying  anything that won't be used within a week or two.  I'm not always successful at that, but I'm getting better at saying, "No, I don't need those things.  I have plenty of other stuff to use up first." which really is the point.

I managed (finally) to get my kitchen rearranged, no small feat, let me tell you since while it looks as if I have ample cabinet space, the truth is that one is virtually inaccessible without a step ladder and grabby stick and two more have lost a substantial amount of space to the duct from the range hood/microwave.  Why they didn't run it straight up through the top of the cabinets and then out is beyond me, but then this house is a study in bizarre choices and awkward construction.  The housemate and I refer to it as "a benevolent Hill House." Yet another cabinet is ginormous, but most of the space is inaccessible because the door is located at the far end.  (I use it for baking sheets and rarely used small appliances.)

The Pantry Project

In any event, I did want to share an end-of-project photo to prove that I actually did finish.  To the left is my pantry.  It's all open and I'd prefer if it had doors, but I can't afford that right now.  Maybe one day I'll learn how to make doors, or be able to afford to have them made (It'd probably be a custom job since the niche was constructed for me when we re-did the back exit.)  I love having all the packaged food here because that's my kitchen desk to the right, and while I sit there, I can look at the shelves and think about what I might fix for any given meal.

Everything that doesn't go in the fridge or the seasoning cabinet is here.  As you see, there's a LOT of stuff, though two of the six shelves hold mostly baking items which I consider to be (in general) a bit different from cans of soup and boxes of pasta.  Kitty food also takes up a big chunk of space.

Since I've started baking two or three loaves of bread a week, I'm going through flour and yeast at a good clip, also dry milk, honey and millet.  I'm also using up the mixes I've had in my cabinets for way too long.  So far I've made Bob's Red Mill rye bread (a clear winner; soft crumb, slightly sweet, good sandwich bread) King Arthur Flour sweet almond bread (dry and surprisingly not as tasty as I'd have hoped) and one other KAF bread mix which I can't recall, in part because it ended up being a complete failure.  I also made gingerbread and chocolate cake, and I'm finally down to two mixes: One more chocolate cake and a KAF brioche mix.

I made a curry the other night from a mix I got through the Amazon Vine program (Briefly, if you're a member, they send you free stuff, you evaluate it and write a review.)  It wasn't great, it wasn't bad, but I used it to get rid of one package of ground beef that had been sitting around here for way too long.   If you're sharp-eyed, you'll see that I have about five or six more boxes of Indian food mixes sitting on the shelf.

Tonight's supper will be saffron risotto and chard with ginger.  If I can arse myself to fix some lentils to go with them that'll be great, otherwise I'll just let it go.  What I really want is an Italian beef sandwich from Marco's.


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I am seriously sick of schelpping stuff from one end of the kitchen to the other and sometimes back again.  This week I've been rearranging all my cabinets, and in the process, washing every dish and glass, and wiping down the insides of the cabinets.  I've moved half the dishes into the cabinet where I kept my packaged food, and all my baking supplies and part of the packaged food over to where the dishes were.  It's really a much more efficient use of space, but boy it's a boring process. My friend, Karen, would say otherwise; she loves cleaning and organizing things. When confronted with a household task that chaps my hide, I ask myself, What would Karen do?

I did actually enjoy the part where I found jars for all the bagged spices and herbs I had sitting here, and then made labels for them with our Dymo label maker.  I felt so accomplished as I surveyed the rows of neatly labeled and stacked jars!  I also made an inventory list of what I have in that cabinet.  Karen would be so proud!

Needless to say, now virtually every flat surface is covered with stuff waiting to be put away.  I got the herb and spice cupboard assembled thanks to a new two-tier lazy susan I found at for $12.  Everyone was complaining it was too big for their cabinets, but because I was going to put it into the corner of a corner cabinet, it was exactly what I needed.  The cabinet holds two of the two-tiered lazy susans, and two one-tier ones, plus a lot of plain old surface space on the second shelf, so I've got all my oils and vinegars in there as well as extracts, salts and 
syrups.   The best thing is that now I have more room, so if I need some ground this or cracked that, I have a space to put it, and I won't lose it.  (I swear I had ground ginger at Christmas but I can't find the jar anywhere.  It's gone on my Spice House shopping list.)  I was sad to find that my vanilla beans had all but dried out so I'm going to be making a jar of vanilla sugar with them.

In any event, the whole point of this is that I'm sick of arranging and incidentally also sick of editing.  I have four of the five sections on the Scrooge book edited and I think they're in good shape now.  The middle one -- Adagio: David Tarried at Jerusalem -- was the worst, but it was the last to be finished and the one that had kicked my butt right from the get go.  The emotions I'm trying to deal with there are difficult for me because I've felt them, and it's hard getting that down without making it sound whiny and self-pitying.

So what did I do to ease my ennui?  I baked.  When I was cleaning the cupboards I found a package of Bob's Red Mill 10-grain bread mix, and figured I'd give that a shot since I could just reach my mixer. I added millet, oats, chia seeds and raw honey to it, and for the oil, I used some herbs de Provence olive oil that Glinda's sister had given me.  It's in the oven on proof right now, and should be finished rising in another 30-60 minutes. Of course there was a lot of stuff added and I'm not sure how old the mix was so who knows if it'll turn out?  The dough was awfully wet, so I had to add about two tablespoons of flour.  Eh, what's the worst that could happen?  I could end up with a high fiber brick.

It actually looks pretty good, I think.  Now if it’ll just rise.

Oh, and that red and purple thing in the first photo?  That’s my vacuum.  If it wasn’t enough that I’m cleaning all the cabinets, I spilled a lot of mustard seeds and had to vacuum them up.  I had to sweep anyway, but I’d have preferred to wait until all the schlepping was finished.  Basically there's nowhere to walk in my kitchen and nowhere to set anything down.
I'll get there.  I always do.  And when I do I'll have a much better arrangement for my kitchen than I do now.  Moving from a larger place to a smaller one means you have to find analogs for the space you had or get rid of a lot of what you brought with you.  I've already done the latter; it's time to make a real effort to do the former.
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Macaroni and cheese in a white bowl.

The process is starting to get interesting because I'm almost out of the things I eat rather habitually (V8, Mrs. Grass chicken noodle soup, packaged mac and cheese, tuna) and am now having to force myself to take a good look at what's in the cabinets and ask myself, "What can I do with this that will be tasty and  economical?"  In other words, what can I fix that I will actually eat?

Over the weekend, I used up two pounds of oxtails I'd had in the freezer downstairs.  I'd never cooked them before, but I had  a recipe from one of the cookbooks I got at Christmas, so I ordered the fresh ingredients that I needed -- leeks, carrots; I had the garlic from what we grew over the summer -- and asked Glinda to bring home a bottle of red wine for the wine reduction that was the basis of the braise.

The result was very nice.  Oxtails are very fatty, and even after trimming them I ended up scooping quite a bit of fat out of the pot that had been refrigerated overnight.  Even then, the sauce was over-rich, in my opinion, and a little went a very long way for both Glinda and myself.  Jim liked them, so he got all the leftovers to take home.  I also made a loaf of semolina-cheese bread from a mix I'd bought a while ago from King Arthur Flour.  The bread was also a little over-the-top in terms of flavor and while I enjoyed the meal, it wasn't one I'll ever duplicate.  However I did manage to use up frozen meat and a baking mix, so it was a good end to week two of eating from the pantry.

Week three begins with my decision to use all the powdered milk I have stored in the freezer before I buy any more.  I saved an Oberweis glass bottle and mixed up half a gallon of milk this morning. I had to use the blender because dry milk tends to be lumpy, which is just a nasty surprise when you're drinking it.  This is going to take me a while, but it'll save me quite a bit of money which is all to the good.  While I pay off my Christmas debts, I really want to cut my grocery budget to the bone.  Tonight I'll be making a pan of gingerbread and mac and cheese.  Yes, Glinda will be buying a package of that today on the way home from work.  There is a reason; we'll be watching the last ep of season 2 Sherlock, and we both felt the need for comfort food.  Still, packaged mac and cheese is cheap; it's not going to dent the budget too dramatically.

US Meat Consumption

Today is also Meatless Monday.  For those of you who don't know, there's a movement to eliminate meat from American diets for one day a week.  I know some of you are probably recoiling in horror right now, and okay fine, nobody is going to force you to give up you moo or oink at every meal habit.  But though I like meat -- yes, I genuinely enjoy much of it -- I'm concerned about various aspects of meat-eating and would like to cut my consumption.  It's nice to have one day where you know you're just not going to indulge.  The Pantry Project is fantastic for Meatless Mondays because so much of what's stored is vegetarian or vegan.  I even unearthed a can of vegetarian baked beans this morning.  I'd forgotten I had them, and was ridiculously excited to see them sitting there.

Yet another advantage that I'm discovering as I pursue this resolution (One which I may extend to two months, with a bit of alteration.) is that I'm learning what works and what doesn't.  I'm paying more attention to what I like, what's easy to make, what's more economical.  I'm eating smaller portions because I'm more aware of what each one is costing me.  You don't notice stuff like that as much when you've got a pantry filled with food.  Say what you will about stockpiling food when it goes on sale, the effect can be just the opposite of what you intend.  It can encourage us to waste food because there's so much left, and it can encourage us to eat larger portions for the same reason.  YMMV.  I'm starting to know where my head is at, and what I need to do about it.

My goal is to at least open and use everything that's sitting in my fridge, cupboards or freezer.  I don't have to like it; I should make an honest effort to finish it, but if I don't I'll know I don't need to buy it again.  I'll know what I should have on hand and what I shouldn't bother with.  I'll be able to plan my cooking more efficiently, and cut down on waste.  Who doesn't want to do that?

And then, once I've got those cabinets cleared out, there's going to be what my mother called a "Grand clearing up spell." They're going to get cleaned, things too old to eat will be tossed, and the storage will be rearranged. so it makes more sense.

The thing I'm happiest about?  I'm proving to myself that I'm not too old to change the way I live.  Go me!

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Tracy Rowan

August 2013

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