Thursday, June 30, 2016

Day Six Of The Plan: Zucchini

Thank goodness the brain fog lifted long enough for me to notice that there was a "Spring Menu" section at the very end of the book.  Spring Food or Warm Weather Food.  Not so many menu ideas requiring baking of winter squashes.

I have been eating my way through a few pounds of "on sale" zukes and kale the past 2 days.  Fried with some onions until browned and a bit crispy.  Eaten with my first animal protein: grilled chicken.  The book says I will be eating quite a bit of chicken.  And the snack fruit in the Spring menu is watermelon.  Two full cups.  Sweet.

This morning I finished my flax granola, but had another 2 cups soaking in water in the fridge (overnight) to activate the gluey-ness.  Into the oven on a baking sheet at 275 for an hour to get dry and crispy.   Then I added broken pecan halves, unsweetened coconut shreds, and pumpkin seeds (and back in the oven to let it all get toasty).  Then cooled and packed into a jar.  The pumpkin seeds are a beautiful shade of green.  I had them (pumpkin seeds) in my salad today with an Orange Muscat vinegar I had purchased at Trader Joe's on some visit or other.  So, so delicious.  So many new and interesting tastes in this diet plan.  My Balsamic Vinegar may also be a thing of the past.

Back to the Granola.  I have been reading reviews of the book on Amazon.  The reviews are sometimes lengthy reports of the diet results (one described the brain fog and bill paying mess-up on day three--I laughed out loud--same day as my bill fiasco) and comments on the food.  I already told you some find the diet "too expensive".  Well, the Flax Granola is the one thing you either love or hate.  But what I just described to you is the entire recipe and "work"of making the stuff.  "Too hard", "too much to do", "too expensive", "specialized ingredients" etc.  I found the whole organic flax seeds right below the regular Gold Metal flour.  And my grocery is very small.  Nothing special.  $3.49 and the bag will make enough Flax Granola for the next 2 weeks.

I Love the stuff.  Funny.  Remember I was in agony over replacing my beloved Bran Flakes?  I've got 2.5 boxes left in the cupboard I will probably never eat. Who would have guessed???

I had a regularly scheduled doctor's visit yesterday (to check on my weight as my doctor is obese-phobic).  She was thrilled that I had lost 11 more pounds (in 2 months) and that my blood pressure was 121/74.  She though my new diet was hogwash but appreciates that I was still dieting.  We both believe that a slow weight loss stays off easier than the fast weight loss.  And there were lots of days in the two months when I had Dairy Queen cones.  And Chinese food.  And pasta.  My lipid panels were stable and identical to last year (when they were awesome and I was 22  pounds fatter).

Today:  I got to test a new protein and chose egg.  In reality I chose EggBeaters.  That's what I have in the fridge.  I also got to test cheese yesterday--Goat Cheddar.  I can't test cow's cheese yet.  I also had one ounce of dark chocolate.  yummy.  Tomorrow is Unsalted potato chip day.

This Plan diet has much in common with the Atkins Diet. Brain fog in the beginning. Euphoric highs once the diet chemistry is "working".  Energy.  I vacuumed the entire house and did four loads of laundry, baked granola, made my lunch and then went off to work @ 11:30 am.  I drove to work wondering who I was and where the old me had gone.  And I had the car windows open and the radio cranked up.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Day Four of the Plan (goat cheese)

Yesterday wasn't such a good day.  Too much water?  Not enough protein? Too much sunshine?

I went to work with my container of carrot/ginger soup mixed with the half cup of chickpeas (my test food for the day) and a container (usual size) of romaine and carrots but with a dressing of olive oil and cider vinegar (Balsamic is not okay yet).  

I lost 1.5 pounds the morning after day one.  One half a pound the morning after day two (almonds). And 1.5 pounds after day three (chickpeas).  I finally had some protein (chicken) at dinner after work alongside a large roasted beet topped with the most amazing orange zest olive oil.

Today, day four, I am finding it difficult to FOCUS.  I wrote checks for bills this morning and wrote July 28 instead of June 28.  Nearly closed the car trunk door on G's head.  Forgot to feed the dog his lunch.  And I went out grocery shopping without washing my face, brushing my teeth or combing my hair.

Today's menu includes my (surprise) favorite flax granola.  I am picking out the peanuts and almonds. I know a half pound is an okay reaction to the almonds but I prefer to stay with the 1.5 pound loss until after the weigh-in with my nasty doctor.  I would recommend eating the granola dry (flax gets gluey when wet).  And I am mixing mine with ¼ cup of the Granola #5 from Orangette's blog.  Because I made a huge batch and it's delicious and hasn't caused any reaction. The entire ½ cup of granola (mixed) is too much for me to finish. Really!! And I had a cup of Coffee.

I'm supposed to be having leftover steamed veggies and goat cheese for lunch.  There are no leftover steamed veggies.  And I did, actually, buy some Goat Cheddar to try.  Because, I am willing to experience new things.  (ROFLOL)

I have made three or four things---because I am so very frustrated by the weight---that I would NEVER in a million years eat.  And. I. Have. Liked. Them.  So, I will try Goat Cheese.

My snack later today is carrots with homemade hummus.  I had to really look to find the low sodium chickpeas for this recipe.  I do prefer my own, homemade, hummus to store bought.  We'll see if the recipe in the book is a good one.

Tonight I get to eat my chicken with a mango cucumber salsa.  I also get a salad and some steamed broccoli.  Good thing I love broccoli. And, drum roll, one ounce of dark chocolate (less than 65%).

I found a site with reviews of this book and the diet.  There were so many negative comments (even though the diet had WORKED for these people) who complained the food was too expensive.  We are talking about broccoli, lettuce, carrots, kale, zucchini, onions, garlic, ginger, beets, apples, pears, cucumbers, lemons and oranges.  I don't understand.  Do any of you understand?

I am hoping that I feel more energized in the next few hours.  I have gardening to do.  It's cloudy and overcast--PERFECT weather for transplanting my seedlings into the garden.

I am afraid I will test "reactive" for tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant (already in the garden).  The nightshade family.  My favorite family.

Monday, June 27, 2016

"The Plan" or a new way to find out what I am allergic to.

Today is day three of "the Plan" a book by Lyn-Genet Recitas.  I discovered the book while trolling the internet looking for information on my "sudden weight gain" after the tick bite last summer.

Day one was spent at the grocery looking for the supplements and the food.  Of course, once I got home and was trying the new recipes, I found I had not purchased the right things.  So, the second day was back to the grocery for more kale, more broccoli, more onions and more zucchini.

How is it going?  The morning weigh-in the second day was fantastic.  I lost 1.5 pounds.  I am finding it easier and easier to drink my 100 ounces of water a day.  I managed 72 yesterday and I am already working on 54 ounces at 10:30 am on day three so it looks good.

I have lots of energy (and G reported this morning the the past two nights have been the quietest he can recall as I must be quite a noisy sleeper usually) and am actually enjoying the recipes (which, otherwise, I would NEVER have tried).  The spicy coconut sauce is something I will make frequently and G likes it as well ( OMG--he doesn't like anything healthy).  I had leftover sauce on my sautéed kale and brown rice last night for dinner alongside steamed broccoli with orange oil and grilled carrots and I nearly swooned and I sort of forced myself to finish--which I shouldn't have  done. That's a lesson learned.  I  can save the remainder for the next meal.

Now the book interested me (in the first place) as it is an elimination diet.  The first three days are pretty much just vegetables which are on the lowest scale of reactivity -10%--- inflammation and allergy.  From day four onward--every other day is a "test" day for a new food.  If there is a reaction (usually weight gain) then that food is removed from the diet (to be tested again later) and two rest days follow to allow the body to recover.

There is a list of foods that are reactive for 85 to 90% of the clients who use "the Plan".  Guess what? Well, you already guessed didn't you?  I have been eating most of those two lists pretty much all the time.  In fact, my top 5 foods are on those lists.  Like Greek yogurt.  Like Balsamic vinegar.  Like soy milk.  That's my breakfast and lunch--like every single day for the past year.

I haven't had a test day as yet--so will be interested in seeing which of those foods is the "trigger" food that is causing the inflammation and weight gain.  Today is my first day with a salad and no Balsamic vinegar.  I subbed apple cider vinegar.  But perhaps I will sub again and make it with lemon juice instead.  Better safe than sorry.

The flax seed granola is terrible.  I can never finish the serving even with additions of dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds.  But it aids in elimination if you know what I mean and this is an elimination diet.

My eyes itch less, the eczema around my eyebrows is gone, I am sleeping soundly, wake up ready to take my supplements, drink that first 18 ounces of water and get busy with my day.  Day Three is a Good Day all around.  And it's the second to last day for me to go to work.  Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Best Lobster Rolls In Maine

Red's in Wiscasset.

But, any lobster roll is better than no lobster roll.  Last summer G and I didn't have a single one. We don't know how that happened but both of us have sworn to not repeat that sorry experience.

Yes, that's a buttered and grilled New England hot dog bun.  No, there is nothing on the lobster.  No mayo, no lettuce.  The side of melted butter can be added or the sandwich can be dipped.

I am always still hungry after eating one.  Right now lots of restaurants have the "two steamed lobster" specials for $19.99.  Buying the two lobsters for "take out" and then chilling them---I could make a couple lobster rolls for the price of one.  I'll be sure to let you know what I decide to do.

The clouds are piling up outside.  And the AC unit is on.  Sultry.  I should be out in the garden watering and weeding.  (G said it's finally looking like a garden)  The work takes a good bit of time and there isn't a lot to show for it somedays.

I had to go into Town to pick up some repaired shoes for my daughter.  So, I stopped at the Farmer's Market and purchased a large Tarragon plant (French) for a customer's order at work.  We didn't have any. It was fun to look at the stands and see what "real" professional gardeners have managed to grow already.  Lovely heads of lettuces.  Turnips.  Garlic scapes.  And of course the herb plants at the Kennebec Flower Co.  Lovely Tarragon and some very nice Rosemary.  Other stands even had duck eggs.  And Goat cheese.  One of the larger farms had big bundles of kale, baskets of lovely zucchini and tables full of strawberries.  Only one stand had rhubarb.  No one had yogurt.  One stand had dry beans.  I was tempted as I have always wanted to make a pot of beans using fresh dry beans from a farmer.

But it's only June.  I have weeks and weeks to visit and see what's growing.

But now---I must water and weed.  And if there is time, plant my eggplants in a nice row.  And stand and think and decide where the cucumbers, zucchini and potatoes are going.

Last year, at this time, I was still taking meds for my tick bite.  And the house was being painted.  The garden was the furthest thing from my mind. The potatoes never got planted and the zucchini went in late. Oh, and last year, we were one week away from the fridge dying.  And all the frozen berries being turned into compost.  Knock wood we don't have to live thru that a third year in a row.
For most of the past year, I have written "fridge still working" on the calendar-- each week.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Working In The Garden

Taking time off from WORK to work in the garden.  The major crop here at Chez Joanne is the weeds.  I covered one raised bed (5 by 8 feet) with black landscape fabric and cut little squares and planted 20 pepper plants.  Ace and New Ace.  They are your basic green peppers that mature into a nice red pepper.  Like the ones in the center segment of today's picture. I initially bought New Ace but later saw the regular Ace seedlings and got them.  That's why there are 20. I think I like regular old Ace.

I add about a Tablespoon of sulfur, some Epsom salts, some quick to dissolve lime, and Osmocote 6 month granules to each plant.  I also go back and water the transplants with Plant Starter which helps new transplants settle in and make new roots.  I like to transplant at about 4 pm so the new plants don't have to deal with the hot sun until the next day.  Saves them from serious wilting which can be fatal. Plant Starter smells like B vitamins.

My seedlings (I started them myself from seeds) are growing nicely.  Outside under a row cover on nice days and under lights in the house on dark, wet or cold days.  Since we are starved for rain here in Maine--it's usually cold days.

G and I dug around in the garage and found some nice large pieces of black landscape cloth.  I'll be using those pieces when I plant my squashes and cucumber seedlings.  I also want to plant potatoes and green beans.  Then I will be nearly finished.  Still have to replant carrots. I also got about 15 leek seedlings planted in the onion and garlic bed and it looks like a few scallion seedlings are coming up.  My arugula has gone to seed but that's okay with me as I like it sautéed with onion in a frittata-- so old and really strong tasting is okay.

I made a batch of Orangette's Granola #5 this morning.  Do use the entire cup of maple syrup called for in the recipe.  I had a few spoonfuls before heading out to the garden.  It's very good.  I also baked a Rhubarb Custard Pie.  Old fashioned and tart.  But delicious.  I now have three large bags of frozen rhubarb in the freezer and we saw the roadside table set up---I have my cash money and I'll be buying Maine strawberries in the next few days---- to make jam.  Strawberry Rhubarb Jam.  I also need to buy the gigantic bag of sugar for all the jam making in the next month or 2.  Blueberries.  And if there are "too many" blackberries--I'll make jam out of them as well.  But I love blackberries with my yogurt. Too many blackberries is impossible to imagine.

I have only two boxes of TJ's Bran Flakes left.  Which means by the end of June I need to have another breakfast cereal to eat.  Or, since it's summer I could go over to the dark side and have Smoothies.  Easy enough to do since I won't be working in July and August.  Not working at the greenhouse job.  Trial Retirement.  Seeing if I can stay at home and be happy.  Wish me luck.  I think I'm going to like it.........

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Chairs & Escarole Soup

I collect pictures (images) of chairs all the time.  I have a journal, made a few years ago, with delicious line drawings of chairs from Architectural Digest advertisements.  A  chair seems to embody all the characteristics of a person.  Legs, arms, back, seat etc. And they are easy enough to freehand in pencil or pencil.  I should make more.

I like the looks of this particular chair but think it would be uncomfortable to sit in.  Good looks and poor function.  Like the chairs in waiting rooms.  Don't get too comfy.

Yesterday was another of the unending "cold, cloudy, windy" days we are having here in Maine.  A summer salad was out of the question so I went shopping and got a head of escarole and a bag of on sale yellow onions.  White Bean & Escarole Soup was on the stovetop in minutes.  Beans and Greens.

IT olive oil in the big cast iron casserole pan along with 1 yellow onion, 2 carrots and a clove of garlic.  All in a rough or fine chop as suits the chef.  Seven minutes.  Then add the washed head of escarole cut into slices and then chunks.  3 minutes to wilt and soften.  Then 4 cups broth (I use vegetable cubes), 2 rinsed 14 ounce cans of white cannelloni beans, one 14 ounce can diced tomato.  Simmer 20 minutes.  Eat.  As listed: the calories for the entire pot of soup is 1021.  For me--it's three portions.  Ah, I forgot the salt and pepper.  You can also shake in a few flakes of red pepper for some heat.

I think anyone writing about gardening should also write about cooking.  Of the ingredients listed above: I have tried and failed at carrots and escarole (growing them) but do a very good job with yellow onions, garlic and tomatoes (most years).

As soon as the kale is big enough I will be making my Sausage, Onion, Kale Frittata.  Heavy on the kale.  Life is good when there is kale.  I seem to be able to grow that.

The weather here in Maine is perfect for growing grass.  G is out mowing.  I have lettuce to plant, amaryllis bulbs (with leaves) to set out in the garden to increase the size of the bulb for next Winter, and I have to check on the strawberry plants--to see if the chipmunk I see running in the garden has eaten them all.  I have serious weeding to do and I need to settle my pepper plants into the raised beds.  The fennel plants that overwintered and then started growing again this Spring--are now chest height.  Good eating for caterpillars.  I try to do my part.  I was hoping to see bulb growth but I will be buying fennel bulbs at the grocery again this year.  The garlic looks good and my radishes might be ready to pull soon.  Oh, and I have potatoes to plant.

A busy time of year in the garden.  Later it's just weed, water and wait.

Oh, I purchased a Concord Grape vine at work.  Supposedly seedless.  It's very nice looking and already has baby grapes on the vines.  One more source of "fruit" for the household.  I've named it "jelly" (laughing).

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Almost Summer (But Still Spring, Technically)

Here in Maine --the COLD spot on the US weather maps-- we are cloudy and cool today.  Not a good day for the vegetable garden.  I have floating row covers on the tender stuff.

We, here in Maine, are the only state with a Brown Tail Moth infestation.  The moth lays eggs which overwinter in little bundles of folded leaves.  In the spring (now) the eggs hatch into caterpillars that eat all the leaves off trees.  They especially enjoy crab apples, Japanese maples, and this year, oaks because this year there are 300,000 times more caterpillars. The caterpillars fling off "hairs" as they move through the trees, shrubs and travel on the ground.  The hairs fly thru the air and land on skin, clothing, pets.  The hairs create a blister that itches like the dickens and weeps, spreads etc.  Everyone I see has red blisters on their arms, legs and especially around the neck.

The local hospital will mix up 100ml of anti brown tail moth itch spray for $43 a bottle.  A co-worker says its simply a mixture of benadryl cream, cortisone cream and Witch hazel to make a sprayable liquid.  So, being the girl I am, we went to the store and bought the three items and I mixed up a batch.  Seems to be working.

I finished a book this week.  Blood Lure by Nevada Barr.  I have a second Nevada Barr book to start reading, but it's out of order and I really don't like to do that.

My picture up top is representative of summer eating here.  Some sort of grilled vegetable or meat with salad greens.  Today, my day off, I breaded and fried the eggplant I sliced and salted on Tuesday or Wednesday. I only seem capable of cooking or prepping things on my days off.  Such is the depth of my fatigue from working with customers who are on the low simmer of resentment regarding available plants and the cost of said plants.  This year more than the 8 previous years.

I feel their pain.  The prices are higher and the size and quality seem to be lesser.  We have too much of the things they don't want and none of the things they do want (a new grower seems to be having difficulty seeding successive crops).  Our new tomato seedlings are an inch tall and the cucumber seedlings are microscopic.  There isn't enough summer here in Maine for them to produce tomatoes but possibly pickles.  But I have no control over that.  It's not my problem.

I am counting down the days until July 1st when I go on my two month summer furlough.  My preview of retirement.  When I can spend long hours in the garden pulling weeds where I wanted to be growing carrots and beets.  The lettuce didn't germinate either.  I have rhubarb stockpiled in the freezer for when the Maine strawberries arrive on the roadside stand.  Strawberry Rhubarb Jam. Another rhubarb pie.  And, wonder to behold, all G's weeding, pruning and lawnmower riding over the blackberry patch has finally paid off.  Branches and branches of flowers and buds for the big juicy blackberries not the weedy nasty berries.  Summer yogurt with blackberries.  A Blackberry pie. I will gladly have thorns rip my skin raw for the glory that is a plump sun warmed blackberry.

The fig trees aren't enjoying the cool June.  Only the smaller one has leaves.  The taller, older one did have leaves but a cold night did them in.  Now there are leaf buds on the bare branches.  I am spraying the branches with a foliar spray--trying to boost the growing power.  But G and I are quite sad as there isn't enough warm summer for the trees to make leaves and then fruit and for the fruit to actually ripen.  I know it's only June 11.  But this is Maine.  Summer is limited to the month of August.  The 4th of July is sometimes (often) quite cold.  We may need to build a greenhouse for the fig trees.

That's about all from here.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

June Is Also Peony Time.

Luckily for me, my plants are still in very tight bud.  Because it's raining.  And rain always destroys the flowers on the peonies.  I grow red (which is actually magenta), white and pink full bud peonies and an open faced white with yellow center and another open face with pink center (Bowl of Beauty).

I like the big pink ones best of all.

Work has been wearing me out.  And I have to choose a new breakfast cereal since Trader Joe's has changed my bran flakes.  Instead of staying crisp to the bottom of the bowl--they now get soggy. I am thinking about a muesli (homemade with Bob's thick oats) or a return to my "roots" with original shredded wheat biscuits.  Change is never a good thing with me.

I have my summer clothing sorted out.  Bean knit pants (black) capri length for daytime and ankle for evening.  Bean linen shirts (white) in every sleeve length except sleeveless as I follow the fashion advice (no woman over 60 needs to wear anything sleeveless).  Shirts I haven't worn (Eddie Bauer) in a long time are now back into the white linen shirt rotation as well since I can now button them all the way past my hips.  EB shirts are heavier in weight and longer.  Good for rainy days.  Bean linen is thin--almost see-thru these days.  And I absolutely detest the new style with "darts".  Good thing Goodwill always has some of the older ones--no darts and longer sleeves.  I also have cloth espadrilles to wear on my feet.  Black.  The black and white clothing looks wonderful with my very dark greenhouse tan, white hair and red eyeglasses.

I am wearing last year's Goodwill work capris to work everyday with the green company tee shirt (I love clothing that can stand up to being washed 3 times a week for the entire summer and then still be wearable another year-or 2). I have another (just a bit smaller) pair of pants that I can (hopefully) wear later this month.  I also have an XXL pair of drip dry, very baggy men's shorts that I wear on super hot days.  They cover my legs to the top of my knee caps but don't touch my body below the waistband.  I have been seen wearing them to the grocery store on hot summer days. I bought them when I noticed a tiny Japanese woman with huge shorts on over black capri length leggings.  I just need to find knee length leggings.  Loose ones.  Loose-Ish.

The diet has stalled at a 15 pound weight loss.  In order to get it going again I have to actually stop eating.  By this I mean I have to stop eating at around 3 or 4 pm and go to bed hungry.  The calorie total for days like this is around 500 to 600.  Deciding when and what to eat on days like this isn't fun.  I just deleted a bunch of diet words.  Who cares???

I am now going to vacuum.  The entire house.  Do two more loads of laundry.  Maybe have a protein shake with frozen strawberries.  Or go to Freeport and have eggs and blueberry pancakes.

I decided on the eggs and pancakes at 2 pm and then nothing until this morning--guess what? The new number is 19.5 pounds lost.  I guess I wasn't stuck on 15.  Or else I just needed to eat something like pancakes, bacon and 2 eggs to get the body working again.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Folding Towels

I have Kondo-ized some of the folding that gets done here at Chez Joanne.  The "tea" towels get folded into thirds, longwise, then folded in half and then again.  Then stored folded edge up.  God love her but it does save room and it just plain looks "tidy". Love, love, love opening the drawer to get a fresh towel. My flour sack towels need an extra fold to fit in the drawer (so the drawer will close). At work we have a blue strip dish towel for sale for $6 and I gaze at it longingly but just can't justify buying a new towel when I have so many.

Tomorrow off.  It's been a tiring week for this brand new asthmatic.  It's now pollen season here in Maine. The Pine Tree State.  Pine pollen on every surface (including me if I stand still too long). I had to use my rescue inhaler yesterday.  First time since being diagnosed.  But, I have felt very tired. I think just plain ordinary breathing takes more effort.  Or I could just be old.

I drove into Town early on Thursday to get my unruly (letting it grow long enough to cover my ears which get too much sun) hair cut.  There I was and my appointment is NEXT week. So, it's been like that around here.

We grilled pizza dough on the grill this week.  Topped the browned and crusty dough with sliced tomato, arugula and Balsamic glaze. Plus a bit of cheese.  Good.  Now, today, I get my son's issue of Cook's Country and see I should have gotten the dough all oiled up before placing it on the grill.  It did stick.  So, we'll have to try it again.  Darn (smile).

My Georgia Peaches from the grocery specials aisle sat under the microwave plastic splatter shield to ripen and soften for a few days.  I thought they were okay but this morning I cut up hard unsweet peaches with my yogurt.  I lived in Atlanta for 6 years. I like my Georgia Peaches soft and juicy. I don't like crunchy peaches. We lived just 15 minutes from the Georgia Farmers Market and had the ability to buy produce (still warm from the Earth) by the bushel or peck.

In sad news (I very nearly started crying)--my BMW needs $1800 worth of fluids, battery etc. etc. etc, in order to be road worthy. And the saddest news is that the car is practically worthless.  Too many of them for sale.  Not enough people interested.  The guy who is working on my car said "drive it, have fun".  Easy enough for him to say.  Still have FOUR vehicles.  I wanted TWO, total.

My automotive restructuring plan is not working.  We have a two car garage.  And four cars.  In Maine.  Where uncovered cars freeze solid in snow banks. I could rent a storage unit and park the car in it.  Then abandon it.  Just kidding.  Or maybe not. I have been watching too many episodes of Storage Wars.  Could donate it to PBS.  That's a tax deduction isn't it?????  Older cars just have no value these days.  We should have tried selling it when it was 3 years old.