I have been stockpiling killies all week again down by the boat ramp in preparation for Saturday morning fishing. I had a bunch of nice big ones which I'm sure will produce very respectable fluke in the river.
The wind picked up pretty heavily this morning from the Northeast but i was going to give it a shot anyway. The tide table let me know that the best time to go would be around 8:30am. I trailered the boat to the ramp and walked over to pull up my bait bucket and trap. Low and behold, they were empty! Someone had stolen all of my precious bait and had left my bucket behind. I was absolutely furious! I had just re-baited and checked it the night before and the only people using the ramp this early were the fishermen who left before me. I had no way of knowing who it was but I was so mad it hurt.
I was determined not to give up hope however. I remembered about the fluke strips that I cut from those fish that I accidentally let go bad the other day and I went back home to retrieve them from the freezer. These may not work as well as killies but they should do the job.
The wind sure was howling but luckily the wind and the tide were going in the same direction. This made for a really fast drift which I like. In just about 2 hours I am happy to report that I caught about 12 nice fluke - keeping 5 to take home to eat. The alternate bait worked and what makes me more happy is the fact that I was able to utilize the bait that I made just the other day. Those fish were not wasted after all and I was basically able to convert 3 dead fish into 12 new fish today. And without that bait I may not have gotten any at all. I was able to turn a mistake into a fortunate event and I am very happy about that.
I was quick to remember to get these new fish on ice as soon as possible. Through this learning process I have also developed a system of freezing big blocks of ice in my garage freezer so that I never have to buy ice again to chill fish (hopefully).
After icing the fluke I decided to try to make another primitive fire in the backyard. One more weekly reward would really help to make the rest of this week a breeze. I gathered all of my equipment and my knife and started spinning away with my hand drill. It took several attempts and I was close to quitting several times but in the end I got it done. My little baby ember came to life and allowed me to make a flame from a cedar bark tinder bundle. From this, the fire grew and grew as I kept feeding it fuel from scraps of wood strewn throughout the yard.
I successfully unlocked my third reward consisting of a dozen eggs, a bag of flour and some yeast. I have a plan to start the bread making process and as long as I moderate and do not over eat it, the bread will be a welcome addition to my diet. I can also 'officially' make my own breadcrumbs and have a few pieces of breaded fluke - my favorite.
I followed an old recipe I had in the memory bank - 3 cups of flour, 1/4 teaspoon yeast, 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt, 2 cups of water. This will be the start of my favorite bread boule. Couldn't be simpler and it usually comes out fantastic. This mixture of ingredients will sit overnight and be ready to bake sometime tomorrow after rising.
I used the hot coals from my fire to heat a tin foil bag filled with wood chips to be used on the smoker grill. I had dried a batch of bluefish and fluke strips the night before and it was time to add some smoke. The hot fire did a great job to ignite the wood chips and after a quick dowse of water it was ready for the smoker. A few hours of smoking, followed by a couple hours of dehydration will yield a nice batch of jerky for the next few days. This is my first attempt at fluke jerky. It is not a very oily fish like bluefish so it should be interesting to see how it turns out.
Morning health update - weight is 178.4 BP is normal at an average of 122/78. I've been a little bit gassy. Probably from a Peligrino water I drank at lunch the other day. I'm very happy with my weight. It seems to have stabilized at the high 170's and that's exactly where I hoped to be in the final week. I will most likely put on about 5 pounds after this is over so if I can stay at or below 185 I will be happy.
I am only working until 2 today because Debbie and I have a wedding to go to this afternoon. I was still able to take Ty out to lunch and went to the same deli as I took Jamie yesterday. Interestingly, Ty ordered the same exact thing Jamie got yesterday - without any prior knowledge of her order. And yes, again we went to Hoffman's for an ice cream. I'll be attending this facility quite a bit starting next week I can assure you.
Before the wedding I wanted to get some Survivor Diet food in me in order to resist the temptation that were to follow. I made 4 fluke sushi hand rolls with lettuce and ate them right before we left. The wedding was at a really nice red church with an old pipe organ in Elberon. A couple hours later the reception was at a place in Shrewsburry called Shadowbrook. I had heard very good things about this place in the past. Typically weddings have incredible food and this might have been a good opportunity to invoke my "Special Occasion Reward" so that I could partake in the culinary delights to come. It would mean I would have to give up one of my other weekly rewards but I have two or three to potentially give up that I have not even used yet.
Tough to pass up
Well, when we got there I was tempted by several things but not tempted enough to break form. That was, until I saw the ice sculptures filled with jumbo shrimp cocktail, oysters on the half shell and caviar. Hmmm. Time to invoke? I grabbed a plate and filled it with these delicious looking seafood items and took it back to my table. However - - - I made a last second decision to NOT go off the diet despite this special occasion. Pass the water please. It was difficult to resist but I did it. I think the sushi rolls that I made prior to the wedding did the trick - just enough to fill me up so that I had the will to resist temptation. A pat on the back for me (from me).
I dropped off the truck this morning and have been anxiously awaiting a call from the garage to see what it needs. I was hoping for them not to say that whole under body is rusted out and it's a goner. I'm glad I got some fishing in yesterday morning because I may have been without a boat for a short while. However, when they called late in the afternoon they said that the problem was with the left front hub assembly and that it was all fixed. How about that! It wasn't cheap but to have it done in a day and not have to wait very long - that was well worth it. I was very grateful especially since I thought it was going to be a much bigger problem.
I took Jamie and her friend Corrine to lunch today. We stayed local because I didn't have my ride. I suffered through watching them eat at the Italian deli followed by some pretty impressive ice creams at Hoffman's. I had a sparkling water for lunch today and all I got from it was some uncomfortable gas.
It was a huge relief to be able to drive my truck home from work today. I had the usual for dinner and followed it up with a popcorn dessert again.
I'm getting hooked on this stuff! Too much of anything can start to take its toll over time though. I'll have to keep the moderation idea in mind.
Not to sound fanatical or desperate for food (because I'm not), but I got up 'naturally' this morning at about 5:30am and decided to go fishing for about an hour and a half before having to go to work. This is very unusual for me. I am certainly not a morning person. Perhaps I am becoming one? I looked at the weather forecast and the tide and saw a brief window of opportunity to get out for a little while.
I was on the water fishing by 6am. The weather was starting to get lousy and there will be few opportunities for the next several days. It was windy, foggy and drizzly. On top of that there was a tremendous amount of seaweed in the water and it was getting snagged on my line every time I dropped it into the water. Not a good sign. However, I had several good spots marked from the previous few trips that I decided to go directly to in order get a few quick fish and head home.
2 fish on at one time!
Despite the adverse conditions, my plan worked very well. I got the job done. I managed to catch 4 keeper sized fluke with at least as many short throw backs. I spent about an hour fishing and was home before the rest of the family was even awake. I was smart about putting these fish right into an icy cold cooler and there they will sit until cleaning time. There will definitely be another big fish fry soon!
On my way to work I noticed a strange grinding noise coming from my truck's left front tire area. This did not sound good at all but I can't imagine what would have caused this overnight. At lunch today I stopped in at a local garage and they were nice enough to have me bring my truck in tomorrow to check it out. On a whim I went to the Chevy dealer to see what they had available. Even used, these Suburbans are quite costly. I think it would be a much better idea to try to fix what I have rather than get something new or used. Hopefully this will be a pretty quick fix because without the truck, the boat is out of commission for a while.
I worked all day and it was a bit stressful at times. When work was over I had all of that fluke to clean at home so I set up a fillet station in my garage and got busy. Unfortunately, the fish from the previous day (that had died in my live well) had gone slightly bad. I didn't want to risk it so instead of cleaning these three fish for food, I made bait slices out of them. Hopefully they will come in handy sometime in the future and not be wasted. Other than those three fish, I meticulously cleaned all the others and I have a very nice stock of fluke at the moment.
Wonderful fish and veggies for dinner
I had a nice dinner of broiled fish, asparagus and rice and after dinner I treated myself to a wonderful bowl of popcorn with spiced honey butter. Man, I really found a winner with this treat. It's got salty, sweet, spicy and crunchy all rolled up into one pretty healthy treat. I have a feeling I will be making this quite often in the future.
Today is the last Tuesday that I will be starting work a little later (10am start). After that I start at 8am on Tuesdays. It's along story, but that's just my work schedule in the summer. Today I decided to take advantage of the early morning and invite my friend Brad out for a sunrise search and destroy fluke mission. We left at 5:30am and were fishing in the river by 6.
It didn't take long to start bringing in the fluke using my Wonder Rig. Brad started by using a jig and shortly abandoned this method in favor of mine. It's just that good. We found some really nice holes that produced some quality fish. In under 2 hours we were finished and had about 7 very respectable fluke and one bluefish in the livewell. We also threw back several fish that we just about a half inch short. I landed the largest fluke of the year today - a nice 23.5 incher.
Please excuse the NY Giants sweatshirt I am wearing. I have designated it for wiping fish guts and slime on - so it will officially be my garbage hoodie. But I agree, no self respecting Cowboys fan should be caught dead in a Giants sweatshirt!
We were back home by 8:30am and it felt like we had already had a full day. The rest of the family was just waking up. I gave 3 nice fluke to Brad and kept 4 for myself. More fluke to clean!
I left my fish in the livewell on the boat with the aerator pump on all day. My objective was to keep them alive while I was at work and then make up a nice ice water cooler to chill them in overnight. This was a big mistake. When I returned home from work (8 hours later) I found only one of my fish still alive in the tank. The others had died and without the ice to chill and preserve them, they had been sitting out in a warm water bath all day long. Not good.
I attempted to chill them all, despite a slight funky smell that the dead ones had. My gut is telling me that these 3 fish are just not going to cut it. We'll see tomorrow when I get the knife out. I feel bad but I only have myself to blame. If these fish go bad then I will chalk it up to a learning experience and try to not make that same mistake again in the future.
I brought some Honey Bits into work today to offer to my co-workers as a sample tasting. Almost everyone enjoyed them. You just can't please all of the people all of the time can you? I packed a nice lunch of, you guessed it, fluke, asparagus and rice in a tin foil pack to be broiled in the toaster oven. It was a long, tiring day and I suffered some lower back pains on occasion. I'm not sure why I had the pain but I'm sure I was tired because I was up at the crack of dawn and going non stop all day long.
For dinner I enjoyed my first salad of the season - right from the garden. I also managed to pick yet another helping of asparagus. Did I mention that it seems like a never ending asparagus crop? Man, they just keep on coming. I should post some photos of the garden soon. It's really starting to change now. It's amazing what can happen in a few weeks. It was good to get some greens tonight. Always nice to have fresh garden veggies during the SDC.
First Garden Salad
I also enjoyed a small plate of fluke sushi. It's a very mild fish when it comes to sushi and sashimi preparations. I can't really rave about it but it's easy to make and a nice treat.
Another long day in the books. I may have another fish fry in the near future because my supply is growing again. That may depend on the quality of the fish tomorrow. The weather is turning lousy again starting tomorrow afternoon so I'm glad I had time fish today despite being a work day. As long as I'm not lazy, and the tide is right, I can get a couple hours of fishing done in the morning before work. Pretty cool.
Today was the last day off of a long weekend. I have several straight days of work ahead so I wanted to see if I could gather some more food for the next few days. I met up with my new friend, Dave and we made an attempt at the first spearfishing of the year. the ocean temperatures have reached an acceptable level and the water was relatively calm. Time to jump in.
We started at 6:30am and headed to Deal. There are several rock jetties in Deal that usually have fish around them. I had read some fishing reports the night before talking about several 50 pound striped bass that have been caught in the area. Boy would that be nice to see.
Filled with delusions of grandeur, my expectations were set way too high. Unfortunately, when we got to the water it was so cloudy that I could not even clearly see my hand in front of my face. I made several attempts to go to the bottom to see if the visibility was any better but it wasn't. In fact, I didn't even know I was at the bottom until the tip of my speargun hit the sand. Never saw it.
Conditions looked perfect - different story underwater
This is the worst possible situation to come across while trying to spearfish. It takes a lot of energy and preparation just to get into the water and when the conditions are this bad it makes me miserable. We packed it up and left - disgruntled.
At home I was faced with the task of cleaning and drying my wetsuit and equipment - not to mention all of the SAND! I hate sand. It was everywhere - despite all of my efforts to keep things clean. I also spent a good part of my day working on a new design for a diving board/float that I plan to use on my next dive.
In the afternoon I finally made time to cook all of this fluke I have been accumulating. I have way too much to keep refrigerated so my plan was to bread and fry a mass amount of fish and then freeze it for later. It took a couple hours but I think it was well worth the effort. This is my favorite way to eat fluke and although the breading and frying is not part of the Survivor Diet, I will have several bags of ready-to-eat fish for after the diet.
This is where the Foodsaver vacuum sealer comes in handy. I don't really like to freeze fish for any extended period of time but when you have this much, the vacuum bags are the answer. These pieces will stay very fresh for about a month. After that, the quality starts to go down a little. I prefer cooking the fish first instead of freezing it raw and then cooking it. I think this makes a big difference. When I go out fishing I can now take a bag of fillets out of the freezer and bring it on the boat. It is an easy lunch. Once it defrosts you can just open the bag and eat. It's best on a sandwich though. I remember that from last year - The Best Sandwich Ever. You're going to have to look that one up if you're interested enough.
Fluke - ready for the freezer
Finally, at the end of this very long weekend, we made a nice fire outside in the pit and I made a batch of smoked bluefish out on the smoker grill. It should be ready for tomorrow.
While we were spending a lot of time in the backyard I made an attempt at another primitive fire. Fail, fail and more fail. I got lots of smoke but I just could not get an ember to ignite. I was so exhausted after this day - after this week! Back to work tomorrow - and once again I will be working on Wednesday so I will have to prepare enough food to last the week.
After getting up really early and working hard for several consecutive days, I decided to sleep in a little today. It was really nice. I had a softball game scheduled for 10am so the early morning belonged to me.
While playing my game, I snacked on a large piece of my Honey Bit candy. This was a chunk that was stuck to the dish and after we finished making the and wrapping the little bits, this big hunk was left over. It wasn't huge but definitely too big for one mouthful. I made it last throughout the game but I made the mistake again of overeating the candy. Ugh! That's right - a sugar rush headache. It wasn't terrible but it was dull and nagging for a good part of the rest of the day. This sucked because we headed down to Lavallette and I was not feeling in the party mood.
I made the most of it and having other people around was a slight distraction from my headache. When we arrived, the cousins were fishing off the dock. I sat with them for a while and we managed to pull up a very small crab. Everyone wanted to toss it back but this was the first crab of the Survivor Diet and was not to be wasted. It didn't take long to quickly steam it and although it was small, it still tasted the same as a large one. I should have taken another misleading photo like the jumbo shrimp cocktail from a few days ago.
The crab was a nice treat but there were oh so many other delectables all around me - not to mention the beer and alcohol. I was offered sausage and pepper sandwiches, jelly donuts, brownies, sliders, chicken, broccoli, drinks, etc. - the list goes on and on. I brought some fluke with me and broiled up a few nice pieces for dinner. I resisted the temptations as long as I possibly could but in the end I am only human and I did some illegal picking.
To keep things honest, I made a list of my cheats and I'm coming clean with this confession: Bite of a slider burger, about 5 strawberries, a chocolate peanut butter brownie, some Caesar salad and a bite of breaded chicken.
In my defense (for what it's worth), the sliders were about to go into the garbage and the Caesar salad was dressed and left over and was not going to make it another day. Essentially these things were going to be wasted. If anything, I could use more greens so I felt it was my duty to have that salad - and I didn't even finish my plate becasue the dressing was just a bit 'heavy' for me.
The other stuff, well, I don't really have an excuse for it. I'll tell you this though. . . if I wasn't doing the SDC, I would have eaten about 5 brownies, 20 strawberries, a sausage pepper and onion sandwich, about 4 pieces of breaded and fried chicken, 2 sliders, two plates of salad, broccoli, tomatoes basil and mozzarella with olive oil, wild rice, multiple beers, a couple mixed drinks, other finger snacks, a jelly donut, a cream donut, milk, juices, sodas, chips, dip, pretzels, a large ice cream cone and a variety of other desserts and candies.
Wow! That's a long list. I never realized how much I would normally consume in an afternoon down the shore. Moderation just goes right out the window. I feel pretty good about my slight cheats considering what might have happened. There ya go folks. Modern American gluttony at its finest. And that was just a basic weekend afternoon in the summer.
I'll have to try to remeber this post when I am no longer on the Survivor Diet. Making a list of everyting you eat in a day can be a real eye opener.
Rise and shine - 6 am. It's another weekend to get up early and get busy. My fishing partners today were Jamie and Corrine. I woke a little earlier than the girls so that I could make them a couple of bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwiches to bring out on the boat this morning for breakfast.
June, the dog, decided to come along on this trip and once again we had a successful outing. I came out on top with the largest fluke measuring 22 inches. Jamie was a close second with 'Stumpy' - a 21 inch fluke with a mangled tail. It was a somewhat slow start but once we found the hot spots we kept pulling fish up and started to fill the live well. Overall we came home with about 8 keepers. The girls did really well hooking and netting all of their fish. We made a video with the GoPro and I will get around to editing and posting it some day soon. It was a little chilly but the girls stuck it out for several hours.
Back at home I had a bunch of fluke waiting to be cleaned from the day before and this new bunch took their place in the ice bath - waiting their turn to be cleaned tomorrow. Now I had a significant amount of fish to last for all of next week as long as I am careful. I even have enough to give some away. I'll probably bring a few down to Lavallette to give to dad.
I also cleaned a bluefish today that I am planning on putting on the smoker grill for some bluefish jerky. This was the first bluefish of the season. That's a bit of a surprise but I'm not going to complain about that. I put the cleaned pieces into a zip top bag with a honey and salt brine and in a day or two I will dehydrate and smoke it.
We are planning on a trip down to Lavallette tomorrow afternoon to spend some time with the family. This will be a big test of will as I know there is sure to be a lot of food available. I almost don't want to go all together but I think it will be a good challenge for me to try to resist. We'll see.
Weight update 180.4 pounds (down 17.6 pounds overall). Blood pressure 122/78. Pretty good so far on the healthometer.
Ok - today I had a very pleasant surprise! I have been talking all week about the opening day of fluke season this Saturday but stupid me - - - it turns out that it is TODAY! Wow - good thing I am totally prepared for it with my bait and my rods and my secret spots.
As I was going to bed last night I was checking some of the local fishing forums online and I came across several posts of people looking forward to fluke fishing Friday. I did a double take and then checked the dates to make sure. How cool is that? I worked Wednesday so that I could take Friday off and it's paying off big time right now. It would have sucked if I had to work today.
I woke up at 6 and the tide, current and weather forecast were just right for fishing in the river today. Unfortunately I didn't have anyone to fish with but I managed quite fine on my own. I even made a video that I hope to edit and post soon. Overall I did very well while many other boats around me did not. I have a great system for fluke fishing in the river and as long as I have some killies it's almost a guarantee of catching fluke. I caught my 5 fish limit in an hour and threw back a lot more that were undersized. Overall I must have caught about 20 fish.
When I got home my fish were still alive in my live well that I made out of a large garbage can. I went to the store to buy a few bags of ice so that I could chill my catch before cleaning them. I dunked the fish in a cooler with an ice water bath and will chill them for 24 hours. It's going to be fluke, fluke and more fluke for the next week.
Jamie had her friend Corrine sleep over tonight because I offered to take them fishing in the morning. We thought it would be fun to make some more Honey Bits candy. I showed them the process and they were both very helpful - especially when it came to cutting and wrapping all of the individual candies. Instead of bunching them all together like last time, we cut little squares of parchment paper and wrapped each piece. It took some time but it was worth it. These candies will last me a while as long as I don't gobble them all up like I did last time.
Honey Bite - round 2
It was very late when we finished and we had to get up early for more fluke fishing in the morning. I certainly had a full day today. Very busy. I am looking forward to tomorrow and the rest of the long weekend.
I have to be honest. I have not been updating my daily events lately. So busy. For today, I'm drawing a blank. It's a few days past Day 27 as I write this - trying to recall my day but I've got nothing. Thursdays are typically 8-5 work days for me and the only thing I can remember is that this Thursday is like a Friday because I took tomorrow off to jump start the Memorial Day weekend. My plan for tomorrow will be to try a little early morning fluke scouting - again, looking forward to opening day of fluke season on Saturday.
I know that I have been diligently checking and baiting my killie trap - but I also know that I have written that all before. Oh well. Sorry that I couldn't provide more information about Day 27 but sometimes that happens. It's not easy doing the Survivor Diet by itself - let alone trying to take photos and video and keep up with a blog and a Facebook page. Oh - and run a business and have a family and a life all at the same time. So I think I deserve a little slack for this day.
One thing I do remember is my Thursday lunch out with Jamie. We went to Fuji (sushi restaurant) and instead of just sitting there twiddling my thumbs watching her eat a delicious meal, I ordered a couple pieces of fluke sashimi and a bowl of white rice. I'm doing a little Survivor Diet trading. I am very confident that I will be catching many fluke in the upcoming weekend. As long as I give away at least one fish then it will make up for the fluke that I eat today. It's a bit of a stretch of my rules but I think it's acceptable. After all, I make the rules. And although I try to stick to them as closely as possible - there are times when they can be bent a little.
Normally I am off on Wednesdays but due to the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, I had planned to work the Wednesday in exchange for taking Friday off and having a nice long 4 day weekend. Sacrifice now and hopefully enjoy later.
I have been diligently checking and baiting the killie trap and I am beginning to accumulate a good number of killies. They're not very large however. I prefer the large ones but I can't really control that part. All I can do is keep the biggest ones I catch in my holding bucket and continue to catch new ones in the trap. I even had the trap out without any bait in it and still managed to get a bunch. I will be ready for the fluke on Saturday that's for sure.
I have been still eating much of the same foods with an occasional new item from time to time. The norm has been rice, fish, asparagus and I have had the occasional treat of candy and popcorn. I have also started to incorporate some sushi rolls into my menu but I am not really using much soy sauce because it is so salty. It's amazing how you begin to notice these things when you have been eating bland food for a few weeks.
When I have to survive during the work week I have to use my time wisely - especially during my lunch hour. Sometimes I will pack a lunch in tin foil that I can bake or broil in the toaster oven at work. Sometimes I will cook at home in the morning and bring something prepared to work. When I do that I usually eat it all before 10 am. Today I was a little unprepared for lunchtime so I had to improvise a bit. As a result, a meal was made that was a Survivor Diet first, once again.
In preparation of the upcoming fluke season, I knew that I needed to stock up on some bait. this meant putting the killie trap out every chance I could get between now and Saturday. Last year the killies were scarce and it was unreliable to think I could just put the trap out the night before and be fine. In addition, my trap is vulnerable to vandalism from kids in the park and other anglers who would steal my bait for their own use. I tried a new tactic this time. I tied my trap to an area that is very difficult to reach. It was a little dangerous - and I almost fell into the water while doing it - but I think this location may prevent the occasional tampering. I can easily use a boat hook to grab the rope to the trap when I check it or change the bait.
My plan was to check that trap every time I drove by the park going to and from work. When I catch some killies I would relocate them to a holding tank so they could not escape. By repeating this process I should have plenty of bait for the fluke next week. To catch the killies, I put a bit of stale bread into the trap. I have been accumulating this bread in my freezer over the past few months instead of throwing it in the garbage. This is a good recycling process and a way to put unusable bread to good use.
Today, on my way home from work at lunchtime, I checked the trap and there weren't many killies in it. Disappointing. However, there was about a dozen little grass shrimp inside the trap. This is not uncommon. I usually see quite a few tiny shrimp in my trap and I usually discard them because they are so small. A couple times I have tried to use them for bait but again, they are so tiny that it seems impractical. I do know that they are a primary food source for the fluke and weakfish this time of year. I always see the little shrimp in the bellies of the fish I catch and clean.
Since I had no food to speak of, I decided to keep this small sampling of grass shrimp and prepare them for lunch today. It was more of a joke than anything - as you will see from the photos. My plan was to quickly cook them like shrimp cocktail, peel and plate them and then take a deceptively close photograph so that they look like normal sized shrimp. It was tedious but I had fun. And after it was all over, I ate them and they were quite tasty. I wasn't surprised - after all they are just miniature versions of their larger cousins. I ate all the heads and shells too. With a little butter and seasoning they were very flavorful. This meal was a SDC first.
Pictures can be deceiving. Especially when tiny shrimp look exactly like their bigger cousins.
I was a little too excited yesterday to have a whole bunch of candy at my disposal. I gave a lot of samples away to people but I just kept eating it over and over and over. It was delicious - but I think the excessive sweet has gone to my brain and the result is a headache. It's not terrible - but this just confirms that too much of any one thing (especially sugar - or in this case honey) is never very good.
I tried drowning my headache with excessive water consumption and of course - eating green vegetables and some rice and fish - but once it starts I think it just has to run its course. Regardless, a headache puts me into a bad mood and makes me not want to be on the Survivor Diet.
My supply of fish is starting to run low. I need to make it to Saturday when fluke season opens. I know how to catch lots of them. And they are very easy to prepare in a variety of ways. For now I'm still surviving off what I caught last week. I didn't freeze any but in hindsight I should have vacuum packed a few pieces when I had excess. When I smoke it - I just eat it all. I think I have a problem with moderation! Debbie tells me that all the time and it becomes very clear as soon as I make something that I really like. Like candy.
Well, I am grateful to now have my week 2 reward (10 days late) after successfully making fire Saturday. I will put these to good use and try to moderate my consumption.
Weekly Reward - popcorn, soy sauce, nori, wasabi
I drove past a road killed deer today. It looked freshly killed so I stopped my truck to check it out. It was very obvious, upon further inspection, that it had been dead for a while. No scavenging today - but if I ever do witness a fresh kill, I would definitely attempt to get some meat from it. I haven't done that yet on the Survivor Diet Challenge but it could happen at any time. Maybe I should drive around at night when I'm bored.
Road Kill - Too far gone to scavenge
I will be working on Wednesday this week so I will not have my normal mid week break to try to gather food. On the plus side, I will have a 4 day weekend for Memorial Day - just have to survive until then.
Are you sleeping in this Sunday? Not me I've got things to do. I made some breakfast out of my depleted supply of fish hoping it gives me enough energy to get through 2 softball games. I also brought along a tin of Honey Bits so that I would have a sweet pick-me-up if needed. Vegetables are scarce right now but I will continue to get whatever I can from the garden and backyard. We're about a month late this season for many crops and that will make it difficult for me in the weeks to come.
I made it through my games surprisingly well. I hit with a lot of power getting 2 home runs, 2 triples, a double and a few singles through both games. My legs didn't do as well though. Toward the middle of the second game I started feeling pain in my right knee - a nagging injury that doesn't seem to want to get better. I'm not even sure what type of treatment I would need but the fact remains that I never really give it enough time to heal - going from one sport to the next without much of a break in between. I'm going to need to take some time off from sports if I plan to be well enough to play football next year.
I ran out of salt today. That's the first time that has happened to me during a Survivor Diet. I used up a lot of it in the brining liquid for smoked fish. For now I will get by using some of the other spices I have but someday soon I am going to have to get another bucket of sea water to make some more salt. This is especially true if I am going to do any more smoking. I haven't caught a bluefish yet (surprisingly) but if I do, that will get smoked.
I've been working on creating a new 'modern' primitive fire making tool. The punishment to my hands from the hand drill yesterday was just too much. I will have a huge open wound on my right hand for the next week or two before that gets much better. I can't afford to do that again.
A fire piston is another fire making device that may prevent stress to my body. It has several components to it but I think I can take some of the items from my hand drill and cannibalize them for the fire piston. Again, I will be using some PVC components but as I've said before, this doesn't necessarily make it any easier to get an ember. In fact, I found out the last time that the super smooth sides of the PVC made it difficult to get enough friction. As a result I used honey to make it more tacky and ended up tearing my hands apart. I'll try to be smarter this time around.
I will be working on the design in the next few days so that I can try out the prototype. Meanwhile, I am also thinking of other primitive survival skills that I can attempt in order to unlock the week 3 rewards. Either I'm not being creative enough or these skills are just that difficult. It's also tough to focus on projects like this when I have a life to lead (work, family, sports, etc.). I have to find just the right balance of my usage of time.
Later in the afternoon I took the boat out to scout out some possible fishing opportunities. There were some fluke around but no signs of other (in-season) species. It's kind of stupid to put a season on our ability to catch wild fish. I believe the reason is because of over-commercial fishing for certain species. The recreational angler gets penalized while the commercial fishing fleet decimates certain food fish to the brink of extinction. This subject irks me to no end. If a particular fish is showing signs of scarcity, just close down the commercial fishing season for it. I know that's easy for me to say because I don't make my livelihood catching these fish but people think that a natural resource is never ending - until it suddenly ends. Then people will wonder what happened to all the fluke. It will be too late. Anyway, don't get me started on that subject. I will most likely be eating tons of fluke next week and for several weeks after. As long as they remain plentiful in my backyard bay.
I got up this morning with the desire to create something new from some of the honey I stole from my bees. Does it make it "my honey" if I stole it from bees that are mine? Interesting. . .
Anyway, I was watching some cooking shows and YouTube videos not too long ago about candy making and melting sugar to re-purpose it into something else. Specifically, I watched how candy canes were made and found it very interesting. Honey is basically a liquefied, concentrated sugar so perhaps it functions in a similar way when heated. Sugar goes through several stages on its way to becoming burnt and if you bring it to a specific temperature and then cool it, you can create so many different things with it. For candy canes, sugar is melted and heated to about 310 degrees to achieve what is known as the hard crack state. This means when it is cooled to room temperature it will be hard as rock and will crack if you try to bend or break it. Would honey react the same way if I heated it to 310 degrees? Let's find out.
At risk of possibly losing 2 cups of my precious honey, I decided to take a chance by attempting to make some honey candy. In a small pot I poured 2 cups of honey and added about 2 tablespoons of butter. On medium heat I boiled it for about 10 minutes while carefully watching a thermometer. I wasn't sure about when to stop it but after a little trial and error I finally settled on 310 degrees to achieve a hard crack state. After letting it cool in the pan for a few minutes off heat, I poured it all out onto a pre-buttered platter for more cooling. Here's what it looked like at this stage:
I used a pretty dark honey so that's why it is so dark on the platter. I let it sit for several minutes to cool down further. Once it got cool enough to hold in my hands I scooped it up from the platter and began the stretching process. Stretching or pulling is a way to get the molten sugar to cool down and to incorporate air into the mixture. It takes about 30 minutes and as you continue to stretch, pull and fold the sugar (or honey in this case) back onto itself, it starts to significantly lighten in color. This mixture went from a chocolate brown to a light golden color as I continued to stretch it.
I took a long video of the whole process that I plan on uploading to YouTube when I get around to it. After I stretched it for about 30 minutes it started to firm up a bit because it was continually cooling down. I had to work quickly at this point and with the help of my faithful assistant Jamie, we got it done. We made long strands of what looked like taffy. Then we snipped it into little bite sized nuggets with a pair of kitchen sheers. It was pretty sticky stuff and it was difficult to keep all of the pieces separated.
Overall it was a lot of fun and the best part about it was that these little bits of honey candy tasted amazing. Remember the Bit-O-Honey candies? Very similar to that. Now, instead of scooping a spoonful of honey when I want a quick sweet snack, I can turn to my little candy bits. Let's call them Honey Bits. Another Survivor Diet success story!
Honey Bits - my candy creation
Later, in the afternoon I was thinking about doing a little fishing in the river. Some of the little kids on my street came by and asked if they could go with me. My kids never want to go - so why not take some other kids out to have a little fun. Fluke season opens next Saturday so this would be a good opportunity to scout out a couple areas and to see if more fluke have come into the river. The kids were REALLY excited and after getting permission from their parents we were off.
I made a nice little video of our adventure and posted it on YouTube so that these boys can see what a great job they did. For some of them it was their very first time fishing and very first time catching a fish. Great job guys!
When we got home I decided that it was time to make my first attempt at a primitive fire this year. I really could use my second reward and if I could just make a fire it would unlock some really nice items to help me prepare my food. I had some ideas yesterday about the type of fire tool I would build. It's going to be a modified version of the primitive hand drill. A hand drill is basically a straight piece of wood that you spin back and forth in the palm of your hands while pushing the end into another piece of wood. The straight piece is the spindle and the wood you are spinning into is the fire board. The basic premise is just like last year's bow drill - drill a hole into the fire board with the intention of creating a hot coal or ember using friction. The hand drill is a little more difficult than the bow drill but both are very demanding on your energy levels.
I mentioned that my design would be a modification of the primitive hand drill. That's because I will be using a straight piece of 1/2 inch PVC tubing for my spindle. So I call my design the 'modern' primitive hand drill. Still, even with the use of PVC, the principles remain the same and the energy and effort needed to produce a fire are the same. You will understand when you look at the photos of my beat up, blistered, bloody hands after my first few attempts.
In preparation for this potential fire, I needed to gather a few things. First - a tinder bundle. I drove around town the other day looking for some dead cedar trees. I found a few nice branches and the bark from cedar trees can be mashed up to make a nice tinder bundle. Second - I need a pile of small kindling wood. Again, this came in the form of twigs and shavings from these dead branches. I simple organized it all into a neat little pile - ready to accept a flame from the tinder bundle. Third - I needed a pile of large kindling and some fire logs. For this I brought my newly constructed fire pit into action and piled up some larger pieces of wood. This is how to grow a nice fire from a little baby ember.
I prepared my hand drill and my fire board and I was ready to rock and roll. Or so I thought. My expectations of my ability to start a primitive fire always exceed my actual ability to do so. This was exhausting! The first hurtle came when the spindle kept continually slipping through my hands. I couldn't hold it firmly enough to prevent slipping. The solution was quite simple. Take a little honey and rub it on my hands for an extra sticky grip. Boy did this work - actually too well. On my next attempt I was sticking to that spindle and spinning away like mad. I finally stopped and looked down at my hand to see a very large blister that was partially torn off the palm. Ouch! Not good at all. I was stupid for not wearing gloves. I rubbed some dirt on it and got back to work - cause I'm a tough guy like that. This time I put on a pair of gloves. (Cause I ain't that tough)
Next attempt - next failure. I think my spindle was too long. Shorten it. Try again. Lot's of smoke - no fire. I think my spindle was a little too short now. Lengthen it. Try again. And that went on for a while - trying to modify some part of my equipment in order to get that precious ember to ignite.
Finally, after several failures, I got my first ember! When this happens you just have to treasure the moment. All of that hard work has paid off and your reward is this teeny tiny little glowing red ember. It's almost like giving birth (sorry for offending every woman on the planet) and now you have to nurture and care for this little guy so that he can grow and grow and live up to his full potential. Well, my first little baby died shortly after his life began. I tried and tried to save him but I just couldn't. Please excuse my foul language at the end of this video - I was under a lot of stress and the loss of my little ember just put me over the edge.
It took me a while to get over this tragedy. However - knowing that it can be done is a firm reminder to me that it can be done again! Back on the horse. Bloody blister be damned - I'm going to get this fire started! I had to use gloves but on my very next attempt I was able to give birth (sorry ladies) to another little ember. I was determined this time to not let him die like the last one. With each failure, hopefully we learn from our mistakes so that we can avoid similar failures moving forward. That is how we grow, succeed and survive. I did it. And now I can do it again and again and again if I have to. Fire can mean the difference between life and death in a survival situation. It also means you can cook your food!
It was a very busy Saturday as you can see. I didn't do much in the way of gathering any food. But my efforts in fire making will unlock my week 2 reward of nori sheets, soy sauce, powdered wasabi, and a bag of popcorn. I used to get a bag of dried figs for this weekly reward instead of the pop corn. The purpose of the figs was to finally give me something sweet to eat but I find that I do not need that any longer since I have all of this stolen honey. Popcorn will make a nice treat on occasion and I don't think it will negatively affect my weight or overall health.
Bring on the sushi. Now I'm ready. Next week is the official opening to fluke season and I am also looking forward to the crabs which may be right around the corner.
Three weeks in and going strong. This morning the scale read 181.6 which comes out to a loss of 16.4 pounds so far. I also took a blood pressure reading this afternoon at work and it was 126/73 on my left arm and 121/78 on my right arm. I really couldn't ask for a much better reading than that.
In addition, I have not had a major headache since the first day. That alone is reason enough for me to love the Survivor Diet. I don't have solid scientific evidence to support why the headaches have stopped but I could make a few guesses. First off, there are no toxins in the form of preservatives or genetically modified food stuff entering my system. No caffeine and most importantly no refined white sugar. All of my sugar comes in the form of pure honey. I am not taking any drugs or medication. Therefore my body has no reason to go into withdrawal from these drugs. I am eating a moderately sized, well balanced meal with protein, vegetables and grain - several times a day. The only thing I consume to drink is water, water, water. No artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors.
If you suffer from occasional or regular headaches, I challenge you to dissect your food choices and to analyze what thing or things may be having an effect on your head. If you're anything like me you would do ANYTHING to get rid of an active head banger. Well, what if I told you that if you ate unseasoned fish, rice and asparagus for every meal for 2-3 weeks straight, that it could prevent further headaches. Would you do it? I would. At least I would try it based upon this testimonial.
My sleep patterns have fallen into a somewhat regular routine. In the past I would sporadically go to bed at random times - sometimes very late at night and sleep as late as I could. Now, I feel tired around 9:30 and I go to bed. I sleep well throughout the night because I'm breathing smoothly through my nose. Snoring has disappeared and I rarely wake up in the middle of the night. I get up in the morning and I often have things to do so I wake up with a purpose. There's very little down time so by keeping busy and active, my body knows that when it's time to sleep, it's really time to sleep. I'm going to need to be rejuvenated to survive again another day.
Additionally with sleep, I don't feel like I go through those highs and lows of tiredness throughout the day as a result of the things I eat. No sugar highs or crashes. No caffeine or chocolate cravings to pick me up. I'm steady - like a rock. It feels good to have that control back.
Halfway point. With my weekly reward yesterday came some butter and spices. Wow - what a difference a little fat makes! (See Weekly Rewards here if you want to read the details). I cooked up the last fish carcass I had in storage and it was just so much better with a little butter and spice.
I did a pretty good job on this one - cleaned to the bone. It's little extra work but overall I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised on how tasty the meat is around the bone.
I finished off the last of my smoked fish jerky at lunch today. I thought that last batch would have lasted a lot longer but I just kept dipping into the bag every time I passed the refrigerator. I am currently brining some more so I'll smoke another batch tonight or tomorrow. I am really pleased with how it is turning out with a very simple water, sea salt and honey brine. I'm running a little low on my sea salt because I needed a lot for the brine so I may have to make another trip to the ocean with my bucket. I suppose, for future brines, I could skip the salt making process all together and just mix honey directly into the ocean water. Why not? It would save a lot of time and generally get the same result.
I had a really nice meal for dinner tonight. Again it was rice and fish and asparagus but the preparation included the use of a little butter and that wonderful morel mushroom that I got yesterday. I also used a little blackening spice and pepper. I'll have to create a container full of one particular spice so that I stay more true to my original rules. Tonight I grilled the asparagus and that was a new and different flavor that I enjoyed. I sliced up the very odd looking morel and simply sautéed it in a little butter and it was really, really good. I see now what all of the hype and intrigue is surrounding these mysterious gems. Tough to describe the taste and texture - a very unique item. Let's just say if you ever see them on the menu at a restaurant, don't pass up the opportunity to give it a try. It would be a rare occurrence that may not happen again. Finding a whole bunch of them would allow me to experiment further with the culinary options available with this shroom. Someday.
A morel victory
I dried and attempted to smoke another batch of fish to have for the next few days. However, I had the toughest time getting the wood chips to smoke. When I bought the chips I decided to try a variety of different woods. These range from Cherry, Alder, Apple, Hickory and others and then some called Mesquite and another that just said Whiskey. I started the other day with the Mesquite and I got a nice billowing smoke in no time at all that did a fine job on the fish. This most recent wood was Cherry and it just doesn't seem to want to smoke. Again, this is a learning curve for me. I just assumed that wood chips are wood chips but now it makes sense that different woods would tend to burn or smoke better than others. Some may be harder wood an thus take a lot longer to ignite. At this point, all things being equal, I just assume stick with the Mesquite and get a quick smoke on. Unfortunately I am all out and I have to make use of all of the other wood chip varieties that I have. From this point forward I will most definitely note which woods do the best job. I may also notice a difference in taste between one wood and another and again this is all a relatively new learning experience. I welcome it.
What a CRAZY day. So many things to show and tell. I love Wednesdays. It's such a perfect break in the middle of the week to not have to work and to spend my day exploring.
The first thing I think to do is to go fishing in the morning. I was a little concerned about the weather because of the wind and cold. It wasn't terrible, but I was considering making the long run out to Raritan Bay again and I didn't want to be too uncomfortable. As I got in the water and began cruising up the Shrewsbury River I made the decision to not go all the way out. I still have some striped bass in the refrigerator and it just wasn't worth it to me to be miserable and cold.
Unknown to me at the time, there was a tremendous amount of action going on up the Navesink River. I rarely explore this area but this would have been the perfect time to do so. Apparently there was a massive school of bunker up the river that was being attacked for hours by big bluefish and bass. Opportunity missed.
I stayed close to home and decided to check out the fluke holes where I have had success in the past. I put two rods out and on the first drift I hooked into a nice fluke. A few minutes later I caught another nice one on the second drift. Fluke season officially opens next week so these two fish went back into the water. It's just nice to know that they have arrived and I will be anxiously anticipating opening day. It's too bad I didn't venture up into the Navesink though. A few bluefish for the smoker would have been nice.
In the early afternoon I decided it was time to test out my primitive survival skills and make a fire. On the internet I came across some information on making a fire using a hand drill. In the past I've used a bow drill. Although they say the hand drill is more difficult, I wanted to give it a try and add some modern modifications to the design. Before picking up the kids from school I went out into the woods to gather some supplies. I found a few dead cedar tree branches. Nothing large like I was looking for - but cedar is a good fire starting wood so hopefully the branches I found will work.
At that moment I received a text message from my co-worker Kathy Angus. It had this photo attached:
Apparently a couple of morel mushrooms had popped up right in her backyard! Morels! For anyone who knows anything about wild mushrooms, this is the king. This is Survivor Diet gold! Kathy was thoughtful enough to recognize this for what it was and offer it to me as a gift. I didn't hesitate. I drove right over and picked up 2 morels from her yard. I did a little perimeter search for signs of any more but those were the only ones. This is a Survivor Diet first for me. It inspired me to plan a mushroom foray in the very near future. If morels are around, I want to find them.
So I get back home and decide to try to take a really nice photo of this crazy looking mushroom. I go into my back yard and start snapping some pics like this one. I wanted to honor this new find, giving it the attention it deserves.
First Morel! What a beauty.
Well, after a few minutes I heard a bit of a commotion over by the small animal trap that I had set up. I couldn't believe it but I had trapped a mocking bird! It was trying to escape and making a ruckus. What luck. By trapping this bird I have successfully demonstrated a primitive survival skill and I have unlocked my first Survivor Diet Challenge weekly reward. It's about time. Butter and spices! And not a moment too soon with this newly acquired morel in my possession.
First Small Animal Trapped (and released)
I humorously 'mocked' this bird for a minute before releasing it. It needed a little bit of its own medicine after bing stupid enough to get caught in my feeble excuse for a trap. Not only have I unlocked my first reward but by releasing this small animal I have also earned the right to purchase a small animal to eat from the market (very small).
Today was a win-win-win day for the Survivor Diet. It feels really good to have a string of successes like that - especially in the face of hardship and despiration. It makes the success that much sweeter.
With a late start for work today (10am) you'd think that I would get up early and be productive. Nope. Not today. Stayed in bed until 8 and got my lazy on. Before I knew it, it was time to go to work and I didn't even prepare a breakfast or lunch - not good. Luckily I had my bag of jerky to dip into quickly but it's not going to last very long with me doing that every time I feel lazy.
This is another valuable lesson learned during the Survivor Diet - planning and preparation. Many people ask me about the Survivor Diet and often their most popular comment is, "I could never do that." Not so much because of the food I find to eat but more so for the time that it takes to get done what needs to be done. When someone gets really curious about the Diet they usually consider trying a variation of my system. They think that by eating the same types of food or food groups that I eat - but by buying the items as the grocery store - they will achieve the same results. Perhaps some of this is true - as observed in similar diets like the Paleo Diet and others.
What I have learned time and time again after doing the SDC for 6 seasons now is the fact that most of the benefits I get from this challenge come from the search, the planning, the preparation, the failures, the successes and the overall energy that it takes to obtain my food. When you have a grocery store from which to buy a piece of fish, all of that is taken out of the equation. The mystery of not knowing where or when your next meal may be, often sparks a bright light of creativity within me. I HAVE TO think of something to do to put some food on the table. Other options are not available. If I get lazy one morning (like today) I spend a lot of time kicking myself for being stupid. And hopefully next time I learn from this mistake.
In addition to the general quest for food, I am (usually) very active during the SDC - much more so that the rest of the year. This is the 'exercise' part of the plan. Even though I'm not exercising in the traditional way you may think - just by being out and about and building stuff and fishing and exploring and diving and clamming - I'm exercising both my body and my brain. This part of the Survivor Diet can not be achieved if you simple obtain your survivor-like food from a store. I hope that makes sense because I get asked that question a lot and it takes a bit of explaining to defend my case.
Anyway - lazy Tuesday morning. Smoked fish for breakfast. Still no animals captured in my traps. Still haven't earned any of my weekly survivor rewards. Fish and rice for lunch. Same for dinner with the addition of asparagus. I'm starting to look for something different in my meals. On my day off tomorrow I am hopefully going to branch out with a little variety. All I need is one small bird or squirrel to get stuck in my trap and I will earn that first reward of butter and spices - man, that will be a huge boost in flavor to just about everything I have been eating.
I will try to gather some wood and tools tomorrow so that I can make my first attempt this year at a primitive fire. That too would release a reward but I don't know if I have the energy to do that right now. At bare minimum I should gather the equipment so that when I feel up to it I can give it a go.
My stomach feels like it's back to normal again today after yesterday's issues. I brought my lunch to work today which consisted of rice and some smoked bass. I made nice supply of smoked fish and have more in some brining solution for the smoker tonight. What I really like about the smoked fish is that it's like a quick snack. I can grab a piece or two any time and just munch on it or suck on it to get the flavor. Once a batch is done, I keep it in a zip lock bag and can simply grab a snack whenever I need a bite to eat. I overdo it a little bit I must say. A little more self control would keep this fish jerky around a lot longer.
bag of fish jerky
Another thing I enjoy about the smoked fish is that I have been using the parts of the fish that are normally discarded by fishermen when they clean their catch. Pieces like the belly, the rib cage and the carcass have very good, fatty meat on them that lends itself well for the smoking process.
I had another grilled carcass or spine or whatever you want to call it - for dinner tonight and I have one more left in the fish bin in the refrigerator. I promised myself that I would eat these parts first before indulging in the thick white meat fillets that are ready and waiting. I find myself becoming more and more fond of the meat around the bones - especially when it is grilled up nice and crispy and coated with a honey glaze. This meal would be a tough sell for anyone to try because it lacks your basic visual appeal. However, for the Survivor Diet it is top notch. Be adventurous. Give it a try and by walking in my footsteps you may actually learn something you never knew you never knew. I did my best to get as good looking of a photo as I could of this meal.
Long day at work Monday but when I got home I had to get the smoker prepped and ready for fish before it got too dark. No rest on the Survivor Diet. It's a challenge the whole way through.
Mother's Day always seems to have big meals and tempting food preparations attached to it. I often consider invoking the "Special Reward" rule when such an event is upon us. Especially when I am doing all of the cooking and food prep. Here's how it all went down. . .
I invited my mom and Debbie's mom up for the afternoon and dinner. Because of the dissimilar interests in certain foods I ended up preparing two main dishes - Grilled Lamb Chops and my now famous Poached Salmon. Let me know if you would like the recipe. It is fantastically moist with a rich and flavorful cream sauce. I invented this dish one day while trying to think of a new salmon preparation and it was so good that I wrote down all of my steps so I wouldn't forget. It's also very simple.
I had to prep the lamb chops a day in advance using a "quick dry aging" method that I adopted from a Good Eats episode on cooking a proper porterhouse steak. Needless to say, I spend the majority of the day in the kitchen cooking delicious foods that I am unable to eat. I timed it all so that everything would be nice and hot and ready to serve at the same time - not an easy task. It all smelled so good.
I sat down with everyone with my bowl of white rice and some smoked striped bass. I have to be honest - I spooned a few tablespoons of the salmon cream sauce over my rice just to give it some power. It was so good - but oh so bad at the same time. I paid the price for cheating. Since my body has been this temple of purity and low toxicity for 16 days the introduction of a rich creamy sauce did not sit well at all. Almost instantly it had my stomach in knots.
A few minutes later I found myself in the bathroom with a bad case of diarrhea. See what happens when you stray from the rules? I don't think people are really supposed to be drinking the milk intended for a newborn calf - do you?
I hear and read a lot of things about people being lactose intolerant. Perhaps this is true but perhaps so many people have adapted an actual 'tolerance' to lactose products like milk over the course of their lifetime. We've always been told of the health benefits of milk for "strong bones and teeth" due to minerals like calcium as well as the vitamins contained in milk. As mammals, we start life with nothing but mother's milk to sustain us. But then as we grow we are weaned off because we no longer need the benefits provided by our mother - like antibodies, vitamins, minerals, etc. We begin to develop our own defense system against foreign invaders that would otherwise compromise our health. Same thing goes for a baby cow or a baby 'pick your mammal.'
I'm going off on a little lactose tangent here but perhaps there is some truth here that my body was telling me. Perhaps it was telling me that this creamy sauce, although delicious, was not welcome inside. My body reacted to this substance by communicating to my brain a message not to eat that anymore - or else there will be trouble.
I spent the rest of the afternoon suffering from food envy of the worst kind. It was all my doing. I bought it. I prepared it. And I served it. The finale came in the form of this caramel coated triple layer sponge cake with a custard filler between layers and chocolate covered strawberries on top. A test of will for sure. Especially when everyone got too full to finish it off. I was throwing away paper dessert plates with chunks of moist cake and half eaten strawberries still remaining. What a day. So glad it's over with. Debbie hid the rest of the cake so I didn't have to look at it for another minute. (Thanks) Sorry there are no pictures to accompany this post - it would be too difficult for me to relive it again with pictures.
Last night I got in touch with my lifelong friend, Rob Mackie. It's been a long time since we fished together so after looking at a weather and tide report we decided to make a go of it in the early morning. He met me at 5:30 am and after a quick launch we were on the water before 6. It was a really nice morning despite the rain for the past couple days. However, the fog was thick and navigation all the way to Sandy Hook was difficult. Luckily I had made this same trip a few days ago and had a nice trail to follow on my GPS map. We just had to be careful not to run into any other floating objects in the water - or other boats.
The fog stayed with us for most of the early morning. When we arrived at the "spot" we started trolling the bunker spoons - as this was a proven method for landing big stripers this time of year. It didn't take long before we got a hit and landed our first of the day. It's really nice to catch a fish early. It takes the pressure off for the rest of the day. Rob and I just cruised around the same location for a few hours having a good time talking about the past, present and future. Before we knew it we had our limit of 4 keepers in the boat and it was time to head home.
We were back by 11 am after a full and productive day of fishing. When the sun finally came out we took a few photos with our catch. I'll wake up early for this kind of success any day.
I packed my 2 fish in ice with the intention of cleaning them tomorrow. My supply of fish is growing and it's almost at maximum capacity. I don't like to freeze fish if I don't have to because I don't like what it does to the meat. Instead, I am going to smoke a lot more than I usually do. It keeps very well in this cured state and is very portable and snackable.
Later today I took the kids out for lunch to one of their favorite spots - The Kitchen Witch. It was challenging to sit there and watch them eat delicious looking food right in front of me while I had my water. The waitress gave me lemon with my water. I took advantage of the situation and enjoyed a little lemon. Ty ordered french toast with a side of bacon. This bacon was so thick and perfectly cooked. It smelled out of this world. There was so much that Ty couldn't even finish it all and instead of taking it to go - to have the next morning re-heated - he refused it and left it on his plate to be thrown away. Oh - this drives me batty. The waste! I had to take a picture. This kid wastes more food than a small country.
After lunch we took a trip to the mall to look for some Mother's Day gifts (which is tomorrow by the way). The mall had a host of it's own culinary temptations for me around every corner. And then it was Costco later in the day - free samples of food abound. This day really challenged my will power. I survived it though. Tomorrow - well that will be a different story. . .
Curse you Annie Lennox! I know it's good for the flowers and plants and trees and veggies - but enough is enough. We should have some sun for the upcoming weekend though. Something to look forward to.
Today completes the first 2 weeks and I weighed 184.4 lbs on the scale this morning. That's a 13.6 lb loss - right on target. Feeling pretty good. I have a nice reserve of fish for the next several days and my rice supply is still substantial. However, the asparagus forest is starting to thin out. It has been such a productive crop but that only goes so far before over harvesting takes its toll. I'm going to have to start branching out in the veg department and nothing else seems to be cropping up right now in the garden. I didn't pre-plant a bunch of lettuce, collards and chard like I had done in years past and right about now that kind of plant would be ready to pick. Poor planning on my part. Stupid. I should be smarter than that.
A thinned out asparagus crop
Last night I spent a lot of time butchering that nice big striped bass that had been on ice for a day. With the exception of the head and tail, I think I made pretty good use of just about every part of that fish. My first meal from it came in the form of the carcass and spine - which oddly enough reminded me of making bbq ribs on the grill. I grilled the bones and brushed on some honey and salt and when it was finished it was quite delicious. There is a lot of meat left on the bones after the fillet process. Most of this is usually discarded by fishermen (myself included). But not this time. I ate it like a slab of ribs and picked every bone clean. It had a nice hint of sweetness thanks to the honey glaze once again.
fish carcass under broiler
I have been anxiously waiting for an opportunity to break out the smoker grill and I finally had enough fish to get it going. Yesterday I filled a zip top bag with a honey, salt and water solution and into it I added several strips of fish. After brining overnight I removed the fish and set it on the dehydrator to dry for a hour or so while I got the wood chips smoking on the grill. Ideally I would have dried the fish longer in order to form a nice sticky pellicle for the smoke to adhere to. I was a little hasty due to hunger so I shortened the drying time from 3 hours down to 1. I got the chips smoking nicely when the fish arrived. I really feel as if I am getting better at this process every time I do it. The fish smoked for a few hours and then I went to bed with it on the dehydrator for it's final drying cycle. I set a timer to automatically shut off and when I woke up in the morning there was an odor of smoky deliciousness coming from downstairs. In hindsight I probably should have done the final step in the garage to avoid disturbing the rest of the family.
I should have a nice supply of fish jerky for several days. And I can reuse the brine solution a few times before it gets old. I'm looking forward to some smoked bass. Yum.