Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Therese - 20 Questions Answered

It took me a while to get around to answering.  I apologize for the delay.  I just want to say that I intend to keep posting to this blog as I start my spring and summer plantings this season.  If there are any willing participants for a challenge next year - I'm in.  This was a very rewarding experience.  I learned a lot and had a great time sharing food, recipes, experiences and my thoughts.  Thanks for playin'.

1.  What was the best part of the challenge?

The best part of the challenge was that I felt so much healthier with the mostly organic diet.  I had lots of energy and I lost several pounds during the process.

2.  What was the most difficult part of the challenge?

I agree with Mark on the worst part.  There was not enough time to accomplish all of the tasks that were necessary.  There was always a sink full of dishes and coming up with creative new ways to use the same main ingredients also took lots of time.

3.  What was the most valuable lesson you learned?

The most valuable lesson I learned was the valuable gardening lessons.  Due to the extremely wet spring and rainy early summer, I didn’t start planting until mid-June.  My garden plot is 20’ x 40’ so I planted a little at a time.  My last planting was around August 15.  That was wayyyy to late to plant and expect a bountiful harvest.

4   What was the best recipe you made during the challenge?

I really enjoyed the butternut squash soup which was very simple to make.  I also liked the green beans with tomatoes and garlic that I often ate with polenta.  Sharon’s eggplant dish was also very tasty!  I don’t have the recipe for that.  I also loved the turkey and summer squash pizza and the blackberry jelly and blackberry applesauce was a very tasty treat!!!

5.  Was there anything that you did, grew, cooked or tasted that you
would never repeat?

Well, the Christmas soup was not my favorite.  I used a lot of ingredients I would have normally added to the compost pile. It was okay fresh but not so good after being frozen.

6.  What was the most valuable purchase?  What was least valuable purchase?

Probably the most valuable purchase was the turkey.  The turkey weighed nearly 9 pounds and cost $5.02.  It went a long way both in trade and for my own use.  It was really my only source of protein other than the eggs ($1.00 per dozen) which were also part of my purchases. The 10 pounds of potatoes were also very valuable.  I'll watch for another 99 cents for 10 pounds of potatoes if I do this challenge again next year.

7.  What was the best trade item? What was the worst trade item?

I would not have survived past the second week without trade items.  The most valuable was probably the wheat.  The most tasty was the bread and butter pickles from the Jacksons and the eggplant dish that Sharon made.

I don’t think I had a worst trade item.  I used everything I received in trade with the exception of some canned summer squash and I have an abundance of bran remaining.

8.  What disappeared from your stores the fastest? What never left the shelf?

I probably started out with over 20 containers of applesauce in various flavors – strawberry, plain, sweetened and blackberry.  I traded a lot of the applesauce away.  What never left the shelf? – I guess I have to say I have way too much grape juice left over but I used a lot of that as well.

9.  Did you lose any food to spoilage? If so, what?

The only thing I lost to spoilage was a jar of tomatoes that went bad.

10. What is the most questionable thing you ate? Suspect food, dropped food, etc.

Questionable?  Hmmm – I had to think hard about that.  Everything was very tasty.  I did mix some crazy juices together that had a little bit of a funny taste.  I think it was beet and pickle juice.

11. Are there any ingredients you never used before the challenge, but now that it is over you plan to add to your repetoire? 

I loved the turkey and turnip green soup.  I would never have eaten turnip greens before the challenge.  The soup was very tasty.

12. What surprised you during the challenge?

What surprised me was the fact that I was still harvesting root crops during the month of January.  I was hoping to have harvest into November but I never dreamed I would be able to get fresh garden vegetables well into the winter.

13. What was the most important "AHHHH HAH" moment?

I think there were many AHHH HA moments.  Most of them came when I went to the garden and felt a deep sense of overwhelming gratitude that is difficult for me to convey in words.  I would just pause at those moments and offer a little “thank you.”  Those moments often brought tears to my eyes and a peaceful feeling of being totally taken care of and protected.

14. What was the biggest disappointment?

The biggest disappointment was the August 15 plantings.  All of them came up very well and had lots of flowers but not much production at all.  I’m not certain if it was the shorter days or not enough pollinators.  Although, the peas are self pollinating so I think it had more to do with shorter days.

15. What do you think your most important cooking implements/tools were?

Hmmmm.  This is a tough question as well.  I guess it was my soup pot because I made lots of soup.  Other valuable tools were the sheets that thwarted the first few frosts.  Mark's corona mill was also awesome.

16.What did you enjoy eating that everyone else would say is 'gross'?

I can’t think of one thing that everyone else would say is gross.  I know that Mark would say the beets were gross and Kathy would say the turkey was gross.  Sharon might say that the squash soup was gross and Katelynn might say that most of the food was gross but everyone is a broad term.

17. What are your feelings about your diet of ‘normal’ food now that the challenge is over?

I keep thinking that I need to go back to the challenge diet because my system was feeling and working so much better.  I made the mistake of drinking two cups of regular coffee on the first post challenge day and I only slept two hours that night. 

18. If you did the challenge again, what would you make certain to plant more of?

I would plant corn (which I didn’t plant last summer).  I would plant more green beans because I loved the green bean dishes.  I would plant more carrots and lots more squash.  I also plan on planting some grapes and blackberry bushes.

19. If you had $10 more, how much longer do you think you could have survived the challenge? What would you have spent that $10 on?

Another $10 could probably have taken me through the month of February.  For $10 more I would have purchased another $5 turkey, two dozen eggs (when they were $1 per dozen), a can or two of tuna fish (.69 each) and another pound of butter.

20. If you were to do the challenge all over, what rules would you change?

I would either have a bigger allowance – say $25 per person or allow a certain amount per week (maybe $5 per week.  So you could use about $20 for each month you participated in the challenge).  I think $20 per month would make it REALLY easy to last well into spring!!!!!  I would also allow one free day a week and if you were invited to someone’s house, you could bring a dish that was challenge friendly to share but you would also be allowed to eat what the host or hostess was providing “free of charge.”

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mark: Twenty Questions, Post-Challenge

1. What was the best part of the challenge?

A sense of accomplishment, for having undergone a rare experience. Tasting lost flavors.

2. What was the most difficult part of the challenge?

The amount of time it took to cook and clean every meal.

3. What was the most valuable lesson you learned?

Life in the past must have been real tedium! You see people complain about the tedium of food making and cleaning on reality shows. It is all true!

4 What was the best recipe you made during the challenge?

As a staple, my crackers came out well. As an individual meal, turkey soup.

5. Was there anything that you did, grew, cooked or tasted that you would never repeat?

Ugh. Beets.

6. What was the most valuable purchase? What was least valuable purchase?

I bought sugar, salt, vinegar, milk, cream cheese, and 1/4 jar of baking soda (using the 'Jackson stores' rule.) I don't think any of those was a bad purchase. I actually had $.95 of unspent money at the end of the challenge. I did buy too much salt, but that was a $.29 purchase.

7. What was the best trade item? What was the worst trade item?

Best trade item is a toss-up between the turkey and eggs. Without those two items the challenge wouldn't have gone very long at all!

8. What disappeared from your stores the fastest? What never left the shelf?

I tried very hard to eat my stores evenly. If I had to say one item I would probably have to pick the chow-chow relish I got in trade from the Jacksons. It was great on crackers and the two little jars I had weren't nearly enough.

9. Did you lose any food to spoilage? If so, what?

Lots! For those of you who didn't read this blog daily, I made a very stupid error last summer. We were going to visit friends in Mississippi, and I had a frantic day of work before we left. I unplugged the freezer in the basement to plug in a bandsaw, and, well, I forgot to plug it back in. 6 summer days later I noticed my mistake! I think I had 5 or 6 lbs of fish and small game, along with various vegetable stores. That mistake definitely cost me days in the challenge.

10. What is the most questionable thing you ate? Suspect food, dropped food, etc.

Well...I had a jar of spaghetti sauce. There was a good bit of hair growing on the top. I considered for a while, scraped the top off, and gave it a smell. It smelled okay, so I ate it! And I lived! I figure most of the things that grow on vegetable matter are yeasts and the like, nothing truly awful like rotting meat.

11. Are there any ingredients you never used before the challenge, but now that it is over you plan to add to your repetoire?

I never really used rosemary before, and it was a staple spice for me. Coriander seed too. I ate a lot more eggs and a lot more pickles than I normally would. I haven't really been eating a lot of pickles since the challenge ended, but my egg count is still up.

12. What surprised you during the challenge?

I was surprised at how much better the food was in the second challenge! The few dollars we got to spend at the store made a big difference. Having all that wheat, maple sugar, an abundance of eggs, all those things really helped make it a positive experience.

13. What was the most important "AHHHH HAH" moment?

It came too late! After I had already processed 25 lbs of wheat I figured out how to separate it using a rolling pin. That would have saved me so much time!

14. What was the biggest disappointment?

My fish soup. I was really looking forward to making it for a long time, and it turned out terribly. Worst of all I didn't finish it in one sitting and had to eat it the next day.

15. What do you think your most important cooking implements/tools were?

The Paste Queen noodle maker and Corona grain mill. A wire wisk came in a distant third.

16.What did you enjoy eating that everyone else would say is 'gross'?

The pate I made from turkey gizzards. It was FANTASTIC!

17. What are your feelings about your diet of ‘normal’ food now that the challenge is over?

It is convenient. It is heavy. It is oily, and I eat sooo much meat.

18. If you did the challenge again, what would you make certain to plant more of?

Last year was a terrible planting year for me. I don't think there is anything I couldn't have used more of. Except beets. I am done with those.

19. If you had $10 more, how much longer do you think you could have survived the challenge? What would you have spent that $10 on?

I think I could have made it at least another week for $10. I would have purchased a flat of 30 eggs, a gallon of milk, 10lbs of flour, and 3lbs of peas/beans. I think I could get all that for $10.

20. If you were to do the challenge all over, what rules would you change?

I won! I wouldn't change any rules!

If we are talking about doing another competition, well, you'll just have to stay tuned to see what new rules we come up with!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Post-Challenge Fare

A few people have asked me, 'What did you eat the day after the challenge?' SANDWICHES.

Breakfast; shrimp po boy sandwich. I was at an auction and a company called 'Zydeco Bistro' had a truck there. It was probably the finest foodstuffs I have ever seen offered at an auction. Usually the food is terrible. Theirs was quite good. I also had two cups of coffee.

Lunch; quarter pound steakburger. Same company. I was there a long time that day.

Dinner; teriyaki chicken sandwich from Penn Station. They were on the way to our evening excursion. Also pretty good, I was hungry afterwards though, and had some snacks when I went home.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

The Last Supper

Turkey, baked potato, pea pods, applesauce, crackers, freezer pickles, and breaded polenta.

It was all pretty good. Thus the challenge concludes.

I will be posting some final thoughts in a few days, and I plan to post a few challenge inspired projects here. Thank you all for your support and interest in our little project here. I am sure we all learned something, and as soon as I figure out what it is I'll let you know!

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Day 36

This will be my final day in the competition, and pictured here are my first two meals of the day.

I had 4 eggs and 5oz of turkey as my only protein foods left in stores this morning. I crushed one of the eggs trying to get it unstuck from the carton. I ate two, and made a batch of crackers with the remaining one. Lunch used half my turkey, and the other half will go to dinner tonight. All my beans were eaten a few days ago.

The proverbial wind in my sails has really left since I won. I hardly ever thought about 'cheating' and eating non-challenge foods when it was a competition; for the past two days I just crave all the little snack foods - chips, little debbies, pizza rolls, you get the idea. Of course my food variety is dwindling, and that may contribute, but more than that I feel like, 'Why am I still doing this?'

I didn't have any real motivation to make it to the 37th day - that was my Mom's idea. I don't really care. I initially though that I would make it into the low 40's (I think I originally calculated 42 days.) Once I decided I wasn't going to deprive myself of food for the sake of winning, that number dwindled.

The reasons I continued are; a) I thought winning by taking my 'party day' on the day my Mom finished was poor form; b) I had perishable stores that needed eaten; c) I still had good protein foods available, and d) once I am finished, I don't plan to take on another enterprise like this for at least a year.

Enough about me, more about the food!

Breakfast; 2 eggs, applesauce, bran cereal with grape jelly. This was my Mom's blackberry applesauce. It is quite the delight. The eggs were of a questionable quality.

Lunch; skillet fried breaded turkey, pea pods, half a baked potato, peaches, crackers and tomato sauce. Bread crumbs don't stick very well when you don't have egg whites or something else to bind the breadcrumbs to it. As for the peaches, which I have never mentioned before; I went to make the mini pies yesterday. I decided to put some of the summer squash in them, but when I opened my last jar of summer squash they turned into peaches! Guess I should read the labels on stuff.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Day 35, I just deleted my entire post again

Breakfast; eggs, bran cereal, applesauce, grape juice. That was the last of the milk

Lunch; 4 turkey mini-pies, crackers and tomato sauce.

Dinner; 2 mini-pies, vegetable soup with turkey added, apricot glazed carrots.

Protein stores consist of 2 portions of turkey and 4 eggs. It will all be over soon!

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Day 34 started out like any other except . . .

To start off this blog post today, I have a little (well, maybe not so little) story to tell.  During the early 1990’s, I took pottery classes at the local community college.  I LOVED doing pottery.  I soon bought my own kiln and slab roller and participated in many art shows and exhibits.  While doing one of the projects in those early pottery classes, I was making a sculptural piece that looked like coral.  I made it out of slabs that I formed into tubes coming out of an irregular base.  I painstakingly textured the tubular forms by poking into them with a chopstick.  It took several classes to complete the texture.  When I was finished texturing the piece my instructor asked if it was finished.  I said “No, I think I want to make some clown fish and have them swimming in between the tubes.”  She said “Make some rough looking fish and don’t take a lot of time, then we’ll see.”  So, I spent the rest of the class forming several clown fish.  She said “Okay, now place them on the sculpture where you think they should be.”  So, I did.  She had me stand back several feet and asked me what I thought.  I said “I think I should make a few more.”  At this she became very frustrated with me.  She went over to the sculpture and picked each one of the fish off and threw them across the room.  It was hilarious!!!!  She said, “You NEVER know when to stop!  The sculpture stands by itself.  It doesn’t need the fish.  You have to learn when enough is enough!”

A few years later I attended a glass fusing class.  Our group’s project was to make a series of large garden fused pictures.  They were probably about 3’ x 2’ each.  I made an octopus hovering over a treasure chest and there were glass “jewels” and all manner of fused glass treasures covering the surface.  I loved it.  As the instructor walked around to each piece, he stated “Some times too much is not enough!”  He said that at each piece until he got to mine.  Then he said, “Therese, sometimes too much is TOO MUCH!”

When I am doing an art project I always feel as though I can do a little more to make it better.  However, in other areas of my life, I am learning when enough is enough.  That being said, I’ve decided that I am ready to concede this challenge.  I feel so blessed to have participated.  I’ve learned a lot and had a blast!  I met with Mark this morning to give him one of the handmade gift(s) I am making for the Victor of the Starting From Scratch Challenge. (See picture below.  Funny how the blue balloon in the background looks like a crown over his head - Or maybe a jester's hat - tee hee.  And, I didn't even plan that.)  The wall hanging is a compilation of items from thrift stores.

Seriously, Mark really deserves to win.  The foraging and preparation he did to make the maple sugar, wheat flour, cornmeal, walnut meats and chicory root were over the top.  I congratulate Mark on a job well done!!!  I know I would not have made it through the second week without the supply of grains he provided in trade.  The final gift will be presented on or around March 15, which was the original completion date of the challenge.  Good luck Mark!  I know you have limited supplies left.  I hope you can make it through February 7 which will be 50% of original challenge time frame.  

Just wait until I complete the final handmade gift for the challenge – it will be OVER THE TOP!!!!  See, sometimes I know when to quit and sometimes I still think too much is not enough!  

Day 34

I took my exemption day today in celebration. What is there to celebrate? Why not hold out until tomorrow, when there are lots of superbowl parties? My mood can be summed up by this.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Day 33

Breakfast; eggs, breaded polenta, apples, polenta with grape jelly. This jelly is fantastic.

Lunch; fish Friday! Last one, as I have no more fish. I had a little bit of turkey left over from yesterday too. Half a potato, green beans, grape juice, and crackers.

Dinner; slightly burned soybeans, crackers, green beans, and freezer pickles. I milled the bran and the rest of the corn I had. I got 2-1/4lbs of flour from the bran and 1lb cornmeal. Now I have some grains to get me through the last days of the competition.

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I took this inventory yesterday, so some of this stuff has been eaten. I tried to keep it in the same order as the last inventory, for those who care to compare.

Canned and dried;

Grape butter, very little

Grape jelly, half a jar

Elderberry preserves 1/2 pint

Whole tomatoes 1 pint

Summer squash 1 pint

Apples in light syrup 1/2 pint

Dry beans (all soybeans) 2.5oz

Whit vinegar 1 qt

Wine vinegar 6 fl oz

White sugar 4 oz

Maple sugar 8 oz

Salted fish 1/2 oz

Wheat flour 4 oz

Corn flour 4 oz

Wheat bran 3 lbs

Elderberry oil 1 tbs

Vegetable oil 3 fl oz

Basswood nuts, small container

Bread crumbs, 1/2oz

Fridge and perishables;

Green onion, 1/2 small

Yeast, 2 oz

Milk, 1/2 cup

Grape juice, 1 cup

Apricot syrup, 1-1/2 cups

Eggs, thawed, 3

Applesauce, 1-1/2 cups

Raisins, 2 oz

Cheese, 1/2oz

Carrots, small bag

Polenta, 4 oz


Rose hips (pressed) 2 oz

Eggs, 10

Lemon, 3/4

Melons 1 lb

Grape juice, 1 qt

Tomatoes, frozen whole peeled, 2lbs

Green beans, 8 oz

Turkey, 4 oz

1/2 baked potato

As you can see I added some cheese to my inventory. I made it using the slightly sour milk. I added some apricot syrup to water and put it on the stove until it was hot. I added the milk, then stirred it until I saw the milk curdling. It smells and tastes sour. I am debating whether I should eat it or not.  And no, if you weigh in with your suggestion, I probably won't listen.

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Day 32

Breakfast; polenta with grape butter, apples, eggs.

Lunch; turkey and noodles with garlic sauce, green beans, 1/2 baked potato, 2 tomatillos. A bit of milk and a bit of water, garlic, flour, and salt made up the sauce. This was a good meal.

Dinner; 2 eggs, bran breaded polenta, tomatillos. Lunch was very late today, and dinner came only 3 hours later. I snacked out on a bag of watermelon later in the evening.

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Day 33

Breakfast included 1 1/2 scrambled eggs, cornbread with grape jelly, applesauce and chicory beverage.  You may be wondering how I figure 1 1/2 eggs.  If you weren't wondering that, please skip to the next section.  If you were wondering, for part of my $10 allowance, I purchased eggs when they were 5 dozen for $5 back in November.  I froze one dozen by breaking and scrambling them.  I then put them into ice cube trays until frozen.  As soon as they were frozen, I took them out of the trays and sealed them in an airtight Ziploc bag.  I ended up with 24 cubes from 12 eggs.  So 3 egg cubes is equal to 1 1/2 eggs.  CAUTION:  Don't try this at home unless you use something in the trays for easy release.  They were extremely difficult to remove from the trays.
For grazing today I have loobee beans (last of the beans) with polenta and tomato sauce, apricot glazed carrots, cornbread and grape jelly, applesauce and tomato vegetable soup.  This batch of glazed carrots also used all of my remaining carrots.  This spring I plan on growing lots more green beans and carrots.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Day 32

For breakfast I had 1 1/2 eggs, applesauce and cornbread with grape jelly.
Lunch included some of the vegetable soup I made with turnips, carrots, summer squash and tomato sauce.  I also had a slice of cornbread with grape jelly.
For supper tonight I had loobee beans with polenta and tomato sauce.  I also had another piece of cornbread.
For snack this evening I had some of the apricot glazed carrots I made for tomorrow.

Day 31

Breakfast; bran cereal, fried polenta, 1 egg, applesauce. Remember how I said I am done with bran cereal? I am. But I sill need to eat, so there you go.

Lunch; leftover fish soup, breaded fried polenta with tomato sauce, crackers. That soup was still not good. The breaded polenta is a great dish, I just wish I had come up with it sooner. I will be eating it all too frequently in these waning days of the challenge.

Dinner; mixed vegetables with soybeans. I threw everything in the crockpot to make soup. I used the juice from canned tomatoes as stock, soybeans, fresh turnips, fresh beets, frozen and fresh carrots, turnip greens, and garlic. I didn't put the lid on straight or it got bumped off, because when I came in at dinner time it was cocked to one side and almost all the water had cooked off. It was still edible, save for a few choice bits. I can say with certainty now that I do not like beets.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Day 31 Meals

I seem to be using the last bits of a lot of my inventory.  I don't think it's going to be too much longer.  I may be talking concession soon!!!  I know that Mark is smiling as he's reading this!!!!  I used the last of my beans for the loobee beans.  I split the batch in three so I have enough for the next two days.  As far as frozen vegetables go, I only have a bag of carrots, a very small bag of beets, a bag of pea pods, a bag of freezer pickles, two 1/2 baked potatoes and a few wilting lettuce leaves.  I have 3 1/2 eggs and about 3 oz of turkey.  I have lots of grape juice, bran and corn meal but I'm afraid I can't survive on grape juice and corn meal.  The time is ticking down away . . .
Breakfast consisted of 1 1/2 scrambled eggs, applesauce, cornbread with grape jam, 1/2 baked potato with chives and some chicory beverage.

Grazing snacks included polenta with loobee beans, the last of the applesauce zucchini bread, applesauce, bread and butter pickles, and a tomato vegetable soup I made last night with the last of the tomato sauce, last turnips, second last bag of carrots, summer squash, chives and garlic.