Sunday, January 29, 2012

Big Greenhouse

Whiskers checking out the new greenhouse. You can also see part of the chicken coop in the background. The old clothes line, to the left has been converted to a grapevine line.

My tiny greenhouse worked out so well that I invested in a larger $70 greenhouse. In the small one I planted lettuce, spinach and arugula. All of the plants have sprouted to some degree. I only have 4 sprouted spinach plants, but they were old seeds and spinach doesn’t all come up at the same time. It is amazing how well the greenhouse works. Someday, I might construct a more permanent structure.

The big greenhouse took a little over an hour for me to build. A strong wind could easily topple it, but the kit didn’t come with stakes, so I found some large tent stakes and used those to hold it down. Sometime this week I will plant some collard greens, swiss chard, radishes and more potatoes.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Chicken Nugget Girl

I am absolutely fascinated with the 17 year-old girl who ate virtually nothing except chicken nuggets for the past 15 years. She is a living testimony to just how much we can punish our bodies and not die. The teen collapsed at work with a swollen tongue and anemia, but it is amazing she has lived for so long without eating any fruits or vegetables. There are so many vitamins and nutrients not present in her diet and yet she lives. It really flies in the face of everything nutritionists, scientists and doctors tell us about which foods are necessary for us. I saw a picture of the girl and outwardly she appears fairly healthy at about normal size and a good complexion. I noticed she has dark circles under her eyes, but her hair looks full.

I read some of the comments about the teenager and most criticize the parents who probably should be criticized, but it seems sort of obvious that she now has a severe eating disorder. I was a picky eater as a kid and refused to eat most meats but especially hamburgers. My aversion to ground beef was related to an event that happened when I was 3 years old. I ordered a hamburger and then refused to eat it, but my parents made me eat the burger. I don’t remember what they may have threatened me with… maybe a spanking or they just told me in an angry voice that I had to eat it. After the incident of coerced feeding, I rebelled and didn’t eat another hamburger for 16 years. Children are stubborn.     

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chicken Language

Chickens are incredibly social animals and even have their own language. Different vocalizations mean very specific things. For example, when one makes a similar sound to a cooing pigeon it means that she is scared and tells all the others to stand perfectly still under a bush. Another sound is like a chattering which is only used when a hen is sitting in the nesting box and another one walks in while she is laying an egg. The chattering is like a scolding or mild threat. Chickens give a proud cackle when they have just laid an egg. A fourth vocalization is like the cackle but a little different because it is faster and more alarming. A hen will only make that sound when she alone and separated from all the other hens. When two hens are together they will not make the call of, “Help, I’m all alone and don’t know what to do!”

I’m starting to sympathize with the vegetarian way of life. I couldn’t eat one of my chickens because I know them. All of my hens have unique personalities and they always seem so happy to see me. I couldn’t break the neck of such a trusting animal. I can now understand what George Bernard Shaw was talking about when he said, “Animals are my friends… and I don’t eat my friends.”

I think most people would become vegetarians if they had to raise and kill all of their own food. It is really amazing how separated we are from what we eat. In the history of humans such a distant relationship with our food didn’t happen until very recently. We are so spoiled and careless with where are meat comes from that we seldom think that what we are eating was at one time a living and breathing individual. Meat is usually packaged in such a way that the animal it once was is unrecognizable. I remember as a kid the organs of the turkey were always in the turkey, but now the organs are gone so we are not reminded that the Thanksgiving turkey was once alive.

I stumbled across a news article which listed the ingredients found in chicken nuggets. I haven’t eaten chicken nuggets in many years, but when I was a kid they were my favorite fast food. What is in those nuggets can barely be called food. It is a concoction of chemicals and flavorings with chicken only accounting for 50% of the ingredients.

Here is a complete list of all the ingredients from the McDonald’s website:

White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, seasoning (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, rosemary), sodium phosphates, seasoning (canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, extractives of rosemary). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch. Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Added Coffee

I broke down and added coffee as one of my 10 store-bought foods. It was a moment of weakness when I had to read through a particularly dry chapter of a textbook. Maybe it is a wasted food item, but sometimes a little caffeine gets me out of a bad mood or relieves a mild headache. I went for nearly three weeks without coffee which shows I’m not addicted to caffeine. I just need a little jolt of energy every now and again. I don’t even like the taste of coffee but the caffeine is worth drinking coffee. The smell used to make me nauseous and still does if I make a pot early in the morning. I tend to drink coffee in the afternoon or when I need to study.

I found some interesting facts about coffee on natgeo:

-It is the 2nd most traded commodity in the world surpassed only by petroleum
-Coffee is the 2nd most recognizable odor and burning wood is the first
-The nation’s most popular drink that isn’t water
-1670 – Dorothy Jones of Boston was granted a license to sell coffee, and so became the first American coffee trader.
-1688 - Coffee replaced beer as New York City’s favorite breakfast drink.
-1861-1865 – During the Civil War, soldiers went to war with coffee beans as a primary ration.
-1865 – Coffee percolator was invented.
-1995-present – Because of Starbucks, coffee consumption skyrocketed, rising 700%.   

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Whiter Teeth

For the past three weeks, I haven’t had many ill health effects from my food challenge. A couple of weeks ago, I became dizzy from not eating enough but since then I have felt great. Yesterday, I noticed something strange about my teeth… they are becoming whiter. There seems to be a large calcium deposit forming on my right front tooth. For several years, I have noticed my teeth becoming thinner and see through. The transparency isn’t so noticeable, but my bottom front teeth and top front teeth are transparent at the ends. When I have had x-rays done those teeth are transparent in x-ray printout. I always thought it was from having so much heartburn that my mouth was extra acidic from it, but maybe it was caused by a vitamin deficiency.

Even though I don’t eat as much as I used to, the food I do eat is more nutritious and vitamin rich. I have suffered from heartburn off-and-on for the past 15 years, but now I don’t have heartburn or any digestion problems. Since I gave up so many foods, I’m not sure what the original cause could have been. I almost think it was caused by too much milk and cheese. Other than butter, I’m not eating dairy. I have also not been eating any meat or heavily processed foods. 

Perfect Pound Cake

I have discovered the recipe for the perfect pound cake. I even tried the recipe twice just to make sure it wasn’t an accidental perfect pound cake the first time.

2cups Flour
2cups Sugar
1cup Butter (2 sticks)
7medium Eggs (or 6 large eggs - my chickens produce medium eggs)
1-1/4tsp Vanilla

Put in Bundt cake pan for 1hr 20min at 300degrees

Make sure to add the eggs gradually to the creamed butter and sugar. Another important step is to sift the flour.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Potato Eyes

On Monday, I planted a couple of potatoes. Usually, I don't plant them until March or April, but these potatoes were already developing eyes. I put each one of them in a 5-gallon bucket filled with dirt from the garden, then I sifted through the soil, took out all the large rocks, and put them in the bottom of the buckets to aid with drainage. The important thing about planting potatoes is the make sure each of the planted section has an eye. When I plant potatoes in the spring I cut them into halves or thirds depending on the number of eyes, but on Monday I planted the whole potatoes. I have heard that you shouldn't cut potatoes when planting them because it raises the chance of infection from a disease or parasites, but I have never had any problems with planting cut potatoes.

Today, I learned something interesting about potatoes from my botany class about local plants. The professor defined a tuber which I always thought was a root, but a tuber is really a modified stem.

My class notes: "tuber - underground stem much like a rhizome but more round and less horizontal. Eye is a leaf scar."

When my potatoes have grown new potatoes, in a few months, I will be able to dig up the modified stem and eat fried potatoes with onions. When I am enjoying their potatoey goodness I will think to myself how wonderful modified stems taste.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Marble Egg

Look at that tiny chicken egg! It was from one of my neighbor’s chickens. I watched them last week and found this marble-sized egg lying in the corner of the coop. The chicken that laid it didn’t even bother to go into the nesting box. When my neighbor came home, we broke it open and there was no yolk.

Sometimes hens will lay eggs which are not perfect. When they first start laying, the shells may be soft or there may be no shell at all. Even chickens have bad days. In our society, we are so used to seeing eggs which have passed inspection that we forget eggs are not always uniform in size or color. Farm factories kill the chickens which do not lay our version of “normal eggs.” Even though I only have two breeds of chickens, all of their eggs are slightly different shades of brown and are not uniform in size. They would never pass inspection. The eggs are always fairly clean which surprised me that chickens do not poop where they lay. The nesting box for my chickens is just a medium plastic box filled with straw and a brick in the bottom. One of the Dominickers likes to hog the box and sit in it for hours at a time. I think she hopes the unfertilized eggs will bring forth little baby chicks. I put another box in the coop today because the other hens seem to become anxious when they need to use the box and can’t because she is sitting in it.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tiny Greenhouse

I put together this tiny greenhouse which I hope it will let me plant seeds a little earlier. I paid $20 for the contraption it may have been a little much, but I bought it on an impulse. Some women buy shoes on impulse… I guess I buy garden supplies.

I planted a couple of rows of spinach in the greenhouse, and if all goes well I will have a salad in 50-75 days. I’m a fan of extreme delayed gratification. Spinach likes to grow in the cold. The soil only has to reach 45degrees for the seeds to germinate and most plants require at least 60degrees. I have a couple of spinach plants growing in a pot on my desk. Originally I planted the seeds in August hoping to have a winter spinach crop, but I didn’t pay attention to them so the weeds took over the plot. During mid-December, I was picking up rocks from the garden and found the two little plants in the weeds. I dug up the spinach and put them in a pot to watch them grow. 

As you can see from the picture, the spinach isn’t big enough to eat. I’m looking forward to eating fresh leafy greens again. I’m getting by on citrus fruits, but it will be nice to eat some other fresh food.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ten Pounds Dizzy

I have already lost 10 pounds in less than 10 days. I’m not doing this food challenge for weight-loss, but I need to lose a lot of weight. According to my height, I’m supposed to weigh anywhere between 145-170lbs. I started on January 1st at 223lbs and this morning I was 212.4lbs.

For the past 9 days, I have mainly been eating fruits, vegetables and eggs along with a high carbohydrate food such as homemade bread or white rice everyday. Even with the carb-laden foods, I’m still eating way fewer calories than I used to which is a good thing. I used to buy a candy bar several times a week at school or when I went to the store. Eating candy was a habit and it only cost $1. I was also getting into the habit of eating fast food more frequently because it was cheap and convenient. I think I eat a more varied diet now because I only eat the same fruit or vegetable for a max of two days in a row and then change to another for a couple of days.
Today was the first day back to my university classes. I didn’t plan very well and just brought a large bottle of water with 1tbs honey diluted in it and two boiled eggs. Monday classes are from 9am-1:30pm so I thought I would be at the latest by 2:30pm. I stopped by Wal-mart on the way home and I felt a little dizzy in the store. I think I went too long without carbohydrates.

Tomorrow my classes are from 8am-5pm and I’m bringing adequate provisions. Tonight I have already packed my lunch for tomorrow. Planning my food everyday is a challenge, but I’m having so much fun with this project. It feels good to have control over the foods that I eat and not the food controlling me. I also don’t feel so deprived because I know there are 33pints of green beans if I reach a point where I’m absolutely starving.   

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pound Cake Failure

Before starting this project, I intentionally left room for two additional items from the grocery store if I should want them. I haven’t really needed anything other than the ingredients needed to make bread. I also eat white rice every other day. So far, I haven’t used vinegar or cooking oil in anything. I plan to use more of those two items this summer with the vinegar used as a base for salad dressing and the cooking oil for fried vegetables and trout.  

I added vanilla extract as one of the ten store-bought foods I’m allowed to have this year. I chose to add vanilla because it is in all the cookies and pastries that I would like to make. It is versatile as a baking ingredient and my sister-in-law even uses it for French toast.

I attempted to make half pound cake today and it came out very bad. It was so greasy from too much butter. I have never made any cake from scratch because I prefer the taste of the boxed kinds. Here is the recipe for pound cake that I will never use again:

Greasy Half Pound Cake.  
1-3/4cup Flour
1cup Sugar
1cup Butter (2 sticks)
6 Eggs (It called for 4.5 but the eggs from my chickens are a little smaller)
1tbs Vanilla

The batter tasted heavenly, but the end result was a thick oily pound cake. I then made the problem worse by trying to broil it in the oven to cook some of the butter away which resulted in burnt pieces of greasy pound cake. As much I hate to waste food, I had to throw it away.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Wild Onions

There are so many non-cultivated plants that are edible and often overlooked. Wild onions are prolific in the yard and by the garden. Every year I mow over them, but it has little to no effect because they just pop up again. With my food challenge, I’m very happy they didn’t disappear because wild onions will be a major ingredient in the foods I eat this year. 

The two onions in the photo were eaten raw. They have a sweet flavor and are so tiny. I’m not sure which species these onions belong to but the genus is Allium. It would take a lot of these to smother a hamburger steak… I’m not eating hamburger steak this year unless I find a cow to raise and kill. Maybe I could fit a cow into the dog lot, but I would probably wind up with a pet cow named Bessie who would follow me around the yard with the pet chickens.   

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fresh Grapefruit Juice?

Yesterday someone came to the house and said, "Look at that! A grapefruit that hasn't been in a grocery store. It doesn't have a coating of wax on it." She was right in her observation. The grapefruit was picked a week ago from my aunt and uncle's tree by me.

Several years ago, I was working as a waitress in a diner. I was waiting on a couple and the wife was questioning everything on the breakfast menu...

Woman: Are those hashbrowns made of real potatoes?
Me: Well, I'm sure at one time it was a potato.
Woman: Is it actual bacon on the bacon and cheese omelet or bacon bits?
Me: Actual bacon.
Woman: Oh. Is the ham super salty?
Me: Nobody has ever complained that it is too salty.
Woman: Is the grapefruit fresh squeezed?
(I thought to myslf, "Is this lady joking? This is a small diner. Does she really think we have a stockpile of grapefruit in a backroom and make to order grapejuice on the extremely rare occasion someone orders it?) Me: Yes, every morning bright and early, we have our assistant cook make fresh apple, orange, grape and of course grapefruit juice. (I said this with a smile.)
Woman: That sounds delightful, I will take the grapefruit juice. I would also like one piece of lightly browned toast with butter... but not too much butter,one fried egg which is only a little runny and a half order of hashbrowns. Also, I would like everything on separate plates because I don't like it when different foods touch.

I went back to the waitress station and popped open a can of grapefruit juice. I looked at the ingredients and there were so many non-juice substances in it that I was unsure how it could be packaged as juice. I poured the contents into a glass and brought it out to her. I told her that the assistant cook was so careful in straining out the pulp. She took a gulp of the liquid and said,"That's the best grapefruit juice I've ever tasted!"

I then laughed an evil internal laugh :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Raspberry Cookies

I was so hungry today for something sweet. It is a shock to my system to go from eating candy nearly everyday to eating absolutely none. I am a chocoholic, but chocolate will not be on the menu this year. It is a sacrifice for the food challenge. I just have to keep reminding myself that chocolate gives me heartburn, and it is better for my body if I stay away from it.

To curb my sugar craving, I made raspberry shortbread cookies. I modified a shortbread recipe and added juice from boiled down frozen raspberries. It wasn’t complicated and they taste good. As you can see from the picture, the cookies came out a light purple. There are probably ways to make them look more palatable. My raspberry cookie recipe is a recipe in progress.  

Raspberry Shortbread Cookies
2cups Flour
 1/4cup Sugar
3/4cup Butter (1-1/2 sticks)
1cup Raspberries 

It is like any other cookie recipe where the butter is softened and mixed with sugar until they become creamy. Add the flour at the end. While I mixed the shortbread batter, I boiled down a cup of frozen raspberries. To make syrup out of any berry, put the berries in saucepan or pot with just enough water so they float. Cook at about medium heat until the seeds are cooked out. Strain the juice into a cup and pour only juice into the batter. For the first batch, I dropped them onto a cookie sheet and baked them at 350 for 30min. For the second batch, I was a little better prepared and flattened the cookies so they cooked faster.

In the future, I might try this same recipe with using blackberries instead because I have many more of them frozen.