Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy New Year!

It's been a while.
I've been busy/sluggish. It didn't take much to keep me busy given the sluggishness.

ANYWHO, I'm at a hotel right now next to the Spokane Airport. Very classy. It's supposed to snow and freeze-thaw overnight and I have a flight in the morning so easier to drive today (and cheaper than getting a new car).

I continue my poo-paper research and will post the results of a survey soon.

I did want to update the pantry consumption/no groceries efforts.
Overall, it's going well. Boredom with delicious chilis and bean soups (featuring dehydrated peppers so much like chili except not as thick) has been broken up by the holiday meals offered everywhere and a few trips into town where someone said "can I buy you lunch" and I head for the nearest place offering a nice club sandwich and some SALAD!
I bought groceries to make spiced nuts for holiday giftery...nuts and spices. Other than what I tasted and an over-run on the curry powder and cinnamon, all went to gifts.
I DID buy groceries for the house before the holidays. I am getting a bit sick of having so little fresh food. I grew sprouts but forgot to eat most of them. Oh well. So I bought myself three bags of salad mix and some oranges and an apple. Surprising how good salad tastes after a few weeks without much fresh food.

My pantry food has been delicious. Black bean chili. Salmon with brown rice pilaf (that lasted 4 days...2 meals each day. I was actually sick of salmon). Fresh sourdough bread once or twice a week. Dried apples for snacks. Black bean soup with a tomato base from the tomato powder I made by pureeing tomatoes (all but the cores) and dehydrating the result in fruit leather trays. It turned out really well. There has also been lentil soup and veggie soup in chicken boullion broth. One failure was a veggie soup in a veggie bouillon broth. I knew the bouillon powder was kind of yucky and used it anyway thinking it just needed some spices to fix it up. Wrong. Ended up chucking a pot of soup. Lesson learned. That bouillon will go in the compost. Hope the bugs like it more than I do. I have chicken bouillon left and I'm sure I can make a broth mix from dried veggies too.

I still have 3 small squash and 1 big hubbard squash in the root cellar/front bedroom along with a head or two of elephant garlic (a little fried garlic makes a bean soup really good). Quince are still awaiting jamification but I'm counting on them to give off that gas that ripens things since the small squash are still under ripe. Today I had a pb&j sandwich for supper on homemade sourdough. The jam was strawberry from 2008 and was still excellent though a bit dark in color. On the side I had some butternut squash from the freezer heated up in the hotel's microwave. And 3 oranges (they are clementines, not very big). For lunch I had candy...not smart but delicious. One friend gave me a big bag of various candy and a box of ding dongs for christmas. I have been cutting back on candy and she must have thought it was through cheapness rather than fatness. I was going to share it all at work but the dove milk chocolate thingies filled with peanut butter are too good to share.

So was the ghirradelli bar (spelling?).

And the Ding Dongs.

Hence the appearance that I am wearing the hated jeggings. In fact, I'm just so fat and so bloated with water from the salty holiday dinners that my jeans look like jeggings. I've cleverly disguised my post holiday muffin top (it's more of a cake than a of those giant cakes strippers jump out of) with a baggy sweater. That paired with my aversion to bust-support has me looking like a refugee. Oh well. Tomorrow is another day and they do make bigger pants.

Back to the groceries. I also bought sea salt. I was going to muddle through with the regular table salt, but I can't use that in the neti pot unless I want my sinuses to feel like I just snorted battery acid. And it tastes better in soups and things.

(This hotel computer is next to the entrance to the lounge so the blog post has been previewed by traveling drunks who keep looking over my shoulder on their way into the bar.)

I'm almost out of high-gluten flour and may need to stock up on that in a few weeks. I have not been successful making sourdough with all whole wheat flour as my whole wheat is a lower gluten variety. I wish I had some all purpose flour as well since trying to make a cake or cookies with low-gluten whole wheat and/or high gluten white has not been going well. I've eaten the cakes and cookies, but the texture has not been good enough to share.

So far, eating out of the pantry along with using the freezer-soup-bucket has meant less waste than usual. When nothing is fresh to start with, not much goes bad before it is eaten.

I must say that the dehydrated onions are delicious and rehydrate very well this year. I dried them at 190degs Fahrenheit, much higher than recommended, and until they were very very crisp. They taste like toasted onions and make up a little bit for not getting to fry them for soup base.

OK, the spell check isn't working well on this so pardon bogus spellings.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Toilet Paper Debates

FOR THE RECORD: I do not use cloths in lieu of toilet paper.
But, I'm not against it.

I'm putting this post up now because it's one of the extreme frugality tips that gets people worked up.
Check out this post where the tip to use cloths instead of constantly buying toilet paper to throw away, reuse small cloths.
The comment by James Coffey is pretty intense. He seems to think that we'll die of poo poisoning if we use washable cloths rather than toilet paper. Cloth diapers used for babies is OK because apparently, their poo doesn't stink. Well, it's not as toxic anyway. He states that he's a scientist. According to his contributor profile, he's an anthropologist. So am I. Thus our opinions are equal. Except mine isn't based on "ICK! POOP!" but instead uses logic.

OK, here's my point. Using cloth in place of toilet paper won't kill you.
1) Cloth diapers are an option for adults with continence (bladder and/or bowel) problems. If adult poo were as alarming toxic as J.C. believes, who would offer this service? (I do like J.C.'s comment that adult guts are crammed with rotting meat and that makes it more toxic than baby poo. Uh...try a little metamucil, or a salad, or a bran muffin, or an apple.)

2) Toilet paper is a recent invention. I'm not sure of the exact date, but not before paper production became automated. I can't imagine that in colonial America people were using the few scraps of paper they might have (mostly bible pages) for potty purposes. For that matter, people haven't always had cloth either and you are welcome to use leaves. Do remember "leaves of three, let it be" unless you want poison ivy of the nether regions.

3) There are pioneer and other records of folks using rags in the outhouse. Some washed them for re-use and some chucked them if they had enough extra cloth lying around. Other options were catalogs, corn cobs (hopefully before they dried into raspy round files).

4) Poop is pretty easy to wash out of stuff. Easier than blood.

5) If poop was that toxic, wouldn't many a wife have died from husband-undies-exposure? Many men, and a few women, stripe their undies from poor wipery or something and do not throw out their undies every time. Many of them are still alive.

6) Soap does amazing things. As does heat. You can adequately wash poo out of things (see adult cloth diapers above).

7) You can't die from cooties. You might think that using cloth is gross. That is just cooties. Cooties do not kill. If you find you have a cooties infestation, contact a 6 year old girl for a cootie shot or to have your home cootie sprayed. I think cooties (anthropological term: Ritual Impurity) are the main reason folks are resistant to this.

I know folks who will not use a cloth hanky because they fear the germs. I do use cloth and just wash them. When I have a nasty cold and need something more substantial than a small hanky, I use old dish towels or defunct t-shirts.

I know people who are creeped out by my cloth napkins (granted, some of them are pretty stained from wiping out frying pans when I don't have a dish rag handy) and think that those must be paper and disposed of. I recently brought dish towels to a community cooking event and was shortly quite popular. One person seemed grossed out when I used the old towel to clean squash and vegie scrapings from a counter, but when it was time to dry the dishes they came around. I had to round up the towels a few times before I left. When no one brings dish towels (which appears to be most of the time) they use PAPER TOWELS! to dry dishes. Can you imagine the waste?

Anyway, one part of frugality for me is not buying stuff that will simply be thrown, or flushed, away. I've managed that with most paper and plastic products. I DO still buy toilet paper and recognize that it is largely due to cooties. It is not a scientific logical reasoned action, it is cooties. The Eww-Factor is still there. I buy 100% recycled paper toilet paper wrapped in recycled paper and I recycle the wrap and the tubes. I hear that Sheryl Crow limits the number of toilet paper squares she uses so this concern with pooper paper isn't just mine. I wonder what Ed Begley Jr. does. I'll have to send him an email.

There is a modified version of toilet cloths. Using them only for number 1. This is more palatable to most folks and is often used as a starter place. Another option is the one used in much of the middle east, India, and other areas. Having a spigot or jug of water and a small pitcher near the terlet. This way one can clean the affected area with running water. Sort of a manual bidet. This works best with a squat toilet and I think we all know how I feel about squat toilets. I'm fine with their existence, but don't care to use them myself. Sort of like bread machines.

OK, there are my thoughts on cloth vs. TP. I think cloth is more noble, but I am weak and use TP.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Lunch Report

The local food coalition had a luncheon event yesterday and I helped. (please read that last bit like the kid on the shake-n-bake ads from the 1970s).

It was supposed to go all day, but we had a low (though appreciative turnout.

The menu was pretty impressive:

spinach dip with crackers and veggies as an appetizer
Beverages: water with lemons, coffee, tea.

Soup: Roasted Butternut Squash (with roasted garlic, pears, and spiced with nutmeg and cloves) (I made this one...I split it and put walnut milk in part of it. It was good)

Meat: Elk roast

Veggies: roasted root veggies with a soy-vinegar-spice mix on them
AND green beans sauteed (or roasted) with garlic and creole spices.
AND mashed potatoes and cauliflower (just cook it all together and mash up) with roasted garlic

There appears to be a "roasted" them with an emphasis on garlic. Hmmm.

Anyway, also had some tart cranberry sauce to put on the roast or whatever you wanted it on.

It was all lovely.

For desserts:
Fudge (made with pinto beans...I SWEAR it is good, very fudge like)
Apple cake with caramel sauce.
Chocolate bread pudding with real whipped cream.

At least one person there had never had whipped cream, only cool whip. Wow.

The low turn out appeared to be due to multiple factors:
1) it's winter and folks would need to drive 6 miles. (though usually free food AND door prizes (I won't a cooking lite cook book) gets folks there)
2) it was payday friday and that afternoon tends to be thin on staff anyway
3) there was a competing fund raiser at the early childhood learning the kiddies' parents probably went there
4) Our advertising was not fabulous, but not bad either, certainly more than the kiddies' advertising.
5) the title was "enLITEned holiday cooking" and perhaps people prefer their holidays full fat
6) It was lunch and many of our folks who attend evening events would have been at work and may not have had time.

We had some food left, plenty, but it went home with folks and/or got donated to the fund raiser. I took some but gave it to a friend who couldn't get away from the office long enough to come to lunch.

The good parts were that 10 women and 3 kids cooked together in one kitchen (commercial size kitchen) with no conflict and in fact, with some fun. There is something very fundamental about food sharing (ask any critter...primates, lions, cats, dogs, vultures...). And something quite bonding about cooking sharing.
I was popular due to bringing actual sharp knives though I was fairly selfish with them. The organizer brought her own electric skillets (the lid of one got shattered), some pans, and some spices. The clinic's dietitian had brought examples of slightly healthier options (e.g. raw sugar, whole wheat flour) and shared them when we ran out of a couple of things. Another woman was willing to supervise kids running a stick blender (brave not due to the danger of getting cut, but rather due to the danger the kids would discover it is way more fun to run the blender at an angle and send mixture all over the kitchen. They did discover this and she did not kill them).

I was cool until I saw a little girl at our serving table sneeze. Fortunately I already had food from that table and double fortunately the cake had not yet been put out.

I think the best part of our food events is that we hand out the recipes. I've incorporated one from an earlier event into my frequent rotation (wheatberry salad), the squash soup from this one already was in my frequent rotation and I think the green beans with garlic and spices will be in there now (in green bean season anyway). I already do roasted veggies. Honestly, I'm going to try the fudge again. It was really surprisingly good. The texture was right and it still had 4 cups of powdered sugar, but almost no dairy. I usually can't have much fudge.

I think every thing but the elk had a good dose of fiber. That isn't just a hunch. I'm feeling pretty cleaned out today.

And a shoutout to my landlord/lady who I don't think read this. My hot water tank started throwing the breaker thursday night. As I roasted 12 lbs of squash and 5 heads of garlic. I told them Friday morning. It got diagnosed friday afternoon and fixed this morning. Not bad. I was able to get warmish water so managed an unsatisfying shower Friday to avoid stinking at the food event, but doing dishes in slightly warm water doesn't work well.

Speaking of food:
Today I made 2 loaves of bread (and ate was good), oven fries (at them all...oops) and ginger lime steelhead. The steelhead was so thick it took forever to cook. The fries were done first so I ended up eating way too many of those before the fish was done. I'll be eating that for a few days. There are worse things than extra steelhead.

As a bonus: here is the recipe for the fudge. I think I've already posted the squash soup. If not, I'll do that later.

Pinto Bean Fudge
1 and 2/3 cup cooked and cooled pinto beans (or 1 16oz can rinsed and drained)
1 c cocoa powder (NOT hot cocoa mix...we've had to tell people this)
2/3 c butter
1 T vanilla (yes, a BIG T, not a tsp. Also, almond extract would be a most excellent substitute)
4 c powdered sugar
Optional: chopped walnuts

Put beans in a blender or mixer and puree (or mash well). Add cocoa, butter, and vanilla. Mix. Combine powdered sugar with the bean mixture. Beat 3 minutes until thoroughly mixed. Add nuts if using. Spread into a greased 9X13 pan.

We used a variety of pan sizes rather than just the 9X13.

My biggest adventure at the food thingy: being a turd about keeping my stuff. People kept borrowing my paring knife. It's one that Gram gave me YEARS ago and I keep sharp. Unlike new knives, it holds an edge (hence everyone wanting to borrow it). I caught more than one woman eyeing the covered pans I brought the squash in (I had roasted it at home the day before as the ovens at the long house (that's rez-talk for "community center) are unreliable and I needed an hour of roasting time and an hour of simmering time). These pans are old and have sturdy slide on lids. I don't know if you can get them anymore and I've nearly had to punch people to give them back when they try to say "oh, these are mine." Really, did your Gramma ABBY put her name on medical tape with permanent marker there on the bottom too? Jeez. Actually, I may have stolen one of the pans from Sher. Sorry Sher, but tough honkers. It's mine now. The B-team pan is metal with a clip on metal lid. Still way better than the crappy modern plastic lids because you can put on a metal lide while the food is still hot if you don't mind the food steaming a bit. A plastic lid melts and/or puts a crap flavor in the food if you put it on while the food is hot. AND you can't use the plastic lids as cookie sheets. My pan lids are actually my main cookie sheets.