Friday, December 31, 2010

Things to do today

1. Take a walk.

Google pedometer says a typical lunchtime walk is a little over two miles.

2. Take the stairs back to my office.

3: Come home and have a Sapphire martini. Gin soaked olives are special:

4: Fix marinara:

This is a recipe from Tyler Florence. I don't really like Tyler Florence but I love his recipes. This is an authentic Neapolitan recipe. This is an all time favorite. This recipe is a milestone. It was with this recipe I discovered it wasn't hard to cook.

Saute chopped garlic and 4 or 5 chopped anchovies in the anchovy oil. That's the oil from the can of anchovies. Use all of it. Add ground peeled tomatoes. The peeled tomatoes from a can there I put those through a food processor. I like the Cento San Marzano there because there's no basil in there. Barely simmer that for about 20 minutes. Do not let it boil. That's it.

I like to add some red pepper flakes, some parsley and maybe a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil swirled in as a finish, but otherwise resist any and all temptation to mess with it.

6. Have that over some pasta with some calamari.

Edited to add calamari marinara over rigatoni:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ok no, I'm good

I've had enough snow for this season.

26 December 2010

You bring treats?

This is one seriously crappy day!

Even I'll admit this has a certain charm. This might be a "Winter 2010/2011" candidate. But it doesn't take long for its charm to wear thin..

Here, try Swedish meatballs on a day like this!

These are really easy.

Mix 1/2 pound ground beef, 1/2 pound ground pork, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 teaspoon allspice, pinch of salt, 1 egg and a tablespoon of parsley.

Now, the real secrets to Swedish meatballs. Mix 1/2 cup of bread crumbs with a couple tablespoons milk and mix that into the above mixture. Finely chop a half an onion, saute it and mix it into the above mixture.

Now, make 1 oz. balls from that mixture. Use an ice cream scoop. I break up two of the meatballs and saute them in a cast iron skillet to get a fond going, and the rest of the meatballs I put on a baking sheet on some aluminum foil in a 450 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Then I transfer those to the skillet and brown them some more.

I add a tablespoon of butter and make a thin dark gravy with some beef broth and a tablespoon of flour.

I serve that over egg noodles with some parsley.

It sounds like a lot of work but it isn't and it's delicious.

Sometimes I throw in a splash of cabernet when I deglaze the skillet.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blizzard warning

You'd never know she was Canadian!

You can bring me in now

L's little sister P. P loves rolling as much as L does! Obviously a passion they share. P belongs to my friend J and it was love at first sight. P is about as sweet as can be. They're both everything a Canadian Horse is supposed to be.

It's been snowing here for an hour or so and we're right in the center of a blizzard warning that's up for the next 33 hours. The forecast is for 16 to 24 inches of snow with steady high wind. Ya long as it doesn't get cold!

Going to be a nice day for soup!

Soup with Spinach

Hey I made this up! Actually, I screwed it up. It was delicious anyway!

Start with equal parts finely chopped carrots, celery and onion (mirepoix), about 1/3 of a cup each. This is an Italian soup so I added a couple of cloves of chopped garlic, a generous pinch of Italian Seasoning and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes.

I sweat that mixture in a tablespoon of olive oil with a little pinch of salt. For about 7 to 10 minutes. Until the mixture is soft and translucent. When it smells great you know you have it right. You can use extra virgin olive oil but you'd just be wasting good olive oil. The heat will drive off the subtle flavors.

Add two cups of chicken broth and bring it to a boil.

Add a 14 1/2 oz. can of chopped tomatoes and I let it boil for maybe 45 minutes. Canned chopped tomatoes have calcium in them to help keep them firm and you really have to let them boil to break them down. If you're using fresh chopped (peeled) tomatoes 15 or 20 minutes is fine.

Then add a half cup of white rice. I forgot to do that! Let it simmer gently for about 20 minutes.

Taste your soup to see if it needs some salt. Add salt a little at a time if it tastes flat.

Finally add 2 or 3 big handfuls of whole baby spinach, cover, turn off the heat and let it sit until you're ready to serve.

This is *delicious* soup. So easy to make. I don't do anything hard!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

First snow

First day of Winter.

December 21, 2010, 10:00 am

The solstice was last night at 6:38 pm EST. I just hate the wintertime. I don't mind the snow so much but I really hate the cold. It's hard to believe there was a time I loved the wintertime. I used to ski, backpack and mountain climb all winter long. That was a long time ago.

This year I have a plan. My coping strategy is soup. I intend to fix a lot of soup. And chowder. And stew. I know comfort food will help me through this.

That and hot Peppermint Patties:

By the way, I think this really sucks. If nothing else just read the first two words of the report.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Still celebrating

Chardonnay poached rainbow trout. This was just crazy good!

This is a 10 oz. whole rainbow trout. Well over an inch thick along the spine. So, how do you cook something like that? I would love to have butterflied and broiled it but I don't have the skill to pull that off. Poaching is the best (easy!) way I know to get the thick part along the back and the thin part along the belly both properly cooked. And trout I think takes to poaching really well.

I sweated chopped carrots, celery and onion, about 1/3 of a cup each, in some olive oil to bring a little more flavor to the poaching liquid. When they were soft and translucent I put in a cup of chardonnay and after that boiled off a bit I put in enough water to cover the fish. After boiling that for 5 or 6 minutes I turned down the heat and got out a thermometer. Liquid at 190 degrees looks exactly the same as liquid at 160 degrees. So I use a thermometer. I like to put the fish in around 180 degrees and let it drift down, keeping it between 160 and 170.

I poached the fish for 16 or 17 minutes. I put maybe a teaspoon or so of dried thyme into the liquid and gave the pan a gentle swirl.

That's brown rice and zucchini with it. Underneath the fish is a bed of lettuce and this stuff:

I don't know what that's called. It's Cuban or Puerto Rican. It's equal parts of finely chopped jalapeƱo and red onion, a pinch of salt, covered in lime juice. It starts like this:

It's *wonderful* stuff and I have it with salmon, tuna, swordfish, and I have it on hot dogs and hamburgers.

Oh and another thing! My sister has this knack for always finding the perfect gift. She sent me a Penzeys herb gift box for my birthday!

I was going to put some fresh thyme in my poaching liquid but the dried thyme from Penzeys is just so good. Definitely two thumbs up!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Let's get ready to rumble!

You know the William Tell Overture? Part 3? "The Calm"? Think of that idyllic pastoral melody here.

The buckskin in the back there, her name is H and she's been messing with L forever. She's a really adorable little Arab cross. Now, winter turnout is going to be challenging and it will be very much easier if these two can sort out their differences and hang out together.

Edit: Correction. H is an adorable little Morgan/Quarter Horse cross. Not an adorable little Arab cross. But she looks like a lot like an Arab cross!

H just has to understand that L is the alpha mare. Period.

Everything was going just swimmingly. We were shrugging our shoulders and about to walk off when...H decided she needed to take a poke at L.

I don't know what she was thinking. I really don't. So L has to go get all dramatic.

But H is really quick! She has that going for her anyway.

Ok fine. Watch this.

I just love this picture. H is all kinds of ferocious and look at L. This is pure 100% L. I'm not even sure her heart is beating fast here. She's just gonna take care of business is all.

H is getting the "uh-oh" expression here.

Maybe that wasn't such a good idea...
L steadies herself and takes aim..

Oh crap


Third time is the charm.

Feets don't fail me now!
Ok ok break it up you guys!

That lasted all of about maybe 2 or 3 seconds. It appeared to be all kinds of dramatic but that was all more theatrical than anything else. H is a huge drama queen and L didn't intend to hurt her. No nobody got hurt here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Let the training begin

January 2004
Go back to who picked whom, part 2.

L was two and a half when I brought her home. She was halter broke and that was about it. I had spent the afternoon with her at Ferme Litjens and she wouldn't let me close enough to touch her and she had no idea what an apple or a carrot was, so treats weren't going to help build our friendship. I figured we'd just sort that all out later.

After giving her a few days to settle in and get acquainted (it didn't take her long to learn about carrots!), we did some leading and decided to see if she'd cross tie.

Nope. That wasn't a good idea. Oh she cross tied just fine but as I was going to learn - trust was going to be a huge issue. At the slightest provocation she just broke the cross ties. Nothing to it. Next day I decided I'd just tie her lead rope off to a post and groom her.  Nope. Broke the snap right off the lead rope.

Truth is L was quite the handful and I was going to learn a lot. It's the main reason I decided to blog. To share training stories. I have tons of training stories. Being with L is the most comfortable, secure and satisfying place in my world. People see us now and they have no idea how much work it took to get here.

You know how you might drop a brush while you're grooming your horse? Well. I'd drop a brush and she break the cross ties and go out the other end of the barn backwards. I was going to spend a lot of money on cross ties.

This was winter 2003/2004 and just about every single night for *months* I threw brushes around the barn. I dropped halters. I made obstacle courses with feed bags and bedding bags. I dropped jackets and blankets. I kicked milk crates over. No you can't desensitize your horse to everything. But hopefully somewhere in this organized chaos she'd get the message.

L is very smart and attentive. Part of the challenge is the simple fact she does not miss a thing. That's part of the alpha thing. And she is extreme alpha. Hey that's a good name for a blog! There was a time she'd get all woofy over just a bucket in the wrong place. It's very funny now. But it wasn't very funny then.

There was a time when I was so scared of L I could barely put on her bridle because of the way my hands would shake. I'd break out in a sweat just thinking about saddling up. She was a scary horse when she was younger. She was bold and dominant and she can still throw quite unforgettable tantrums. For a long time I thought I'd just never get it.

Edit 8 January 2011: Tying troubles

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wheat Thins

Really. This time it's homemade Wheat Thins!

  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • A pinch of salt. A teaspoon maybe.
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons of butter. I used 4 tablespoons of canola oil. I freely mix butter and canola oil anywhere from all butter to no butter depending on how I'm feeling about saturated fat. Of course it affects the flavor but not a lot.
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon of turbinado sugar
  • 1/4 cup water. As much more as you think you need. The air was really dry, I probably used 1/3 of a cup or so.
Heat your oven at 400. Mix all the dry ingredients and add the butter or oil, honey and vanilla. Then work the water in with a fork slowly until it looks, well, "doughy". This is exactly like the rye crackers.

Then divide the dough into 4 balls. Put a ball between some wax or parchment paper and roll it out to about 1/8 inch think. Put them on a baking sheet and bake them for about 5 minutes.

I'm amazed at how easy it is to make crackers and everybody seems to love them.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm celebrating

With lamb chops!

Fairmount Fruit Farm has pasture raised lamb free from any added hormones. This is just delicious lamb! These are loin chops. I fixed creamy polenta and steamed green beans to go with them.

I got some shanks too for lamb stew.

Now, I realize this is every day stuff for some people but this is a big treat for me. It went really well with my lamb chops.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Oh I hate this

I really do.
10 December 2010 7:19 am

It's a little early in the season for the pond to be frozen this solid. I just hate the cold!

11 December 2010 8:15 am

Here's the same shot a little less than 2 months ago. Not so bad:

17 October 2010 8:56 am

This might help. It's a favorite!

Lentil soup

This is so easy!
  • mirepoix, about 1/3 cup each celery, carrot and onion, finely chopped, I like to make sure some celery leaf gets chopped in there
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Pinch of salt
  • Generous pinch of Italian Seasoning
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 14 1/2 oz. can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lentils
Sweat the mirepoix with the garlic, Italian Seasoning and red pepper flakes in the olive oil for about 10 minutes with the pinch of salt.

Add the chicken broth and the bay leaf. When the chicken broth comes to a boil add the tomatoes. When it comes to a boil again let the tomatoes go at a ripping boil for a few minutes.

Rinse and add the lentils, reduce it to a simmer and cover for 35 minutes.

Pick out the bay leaf and tweak the salt before serving.

Just the thing when the season starts getting ugly cold.

Friday, December 10, 2010


The thought just never occurred to me to make crackers before!

Homemade rye crackers

  • 1 cup dark rye flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds. You can use caraway seeds if you want.
  • A liberal pinch of salt. A teaspoon maybe.
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup of canola oil. I'm trying to use peanut oil more often but I used canola oil.
  • 1 (generous) teaspoon honey. Maybe I'll try some maple syrup next time.
  • 1 teaspoon of turbinado sugar, to boost the sweetness a little.
  • 1/4 cup water. As much more as you think you need. The air was really dry, I probably used 1/3 of a cup or so.
Heat your oven at 375. Mix all the dry ingredients and add the oil and honey. Then work the water in with a fork slowly until it looks, well, "doughy". Cover it for 10 minutes. Then divide the dough into 4 balls. Put a ball between some wax or parchment paper and roll it out to about 1/8 inch think. I don't bake. So I don't have a rolling pin. I used a wine bottle. Wine bottles make good rolling pins. I have plenty of wine bottles. I cut my crackers out with a pizza wheel and I dotted them with a fork. I put them on a baking sheet and I baked them for about 10 minutes.

They're really very good!

The reason I just happened to have rye flour around the house is because this time of year I just love homemade Boston Brown Bread!

I know I know the brown bread recipe uses whole rye flour. Not dark rye flour. I bought the wrong stuff last time. And it is a suitable substitute. Sift together, 3 times:
  • 1 cup stone ground corn meal
  • 1 cup whole rye flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon double acting baking powder
Some whole wheat will be left in the sifter, just mix it back in. Beat together:
  • 3/4 cup dark molasses
  • 2 cups buttermilk. I use the powdered buttermilk.
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mix. Add in a cup of currants or raisins.

Brown bread is steamed. Spray the inside of a coffee can with cooking spray, wipe it and fill it about 2/3 full with the brown bread batter. You'll probably have enough for 2. I get a stock pot going with a couple of inches of water and I use a ring or a tuna can with bottom cut out on the bottom. That's for the coffee can to sit on. You want the water to just reach the bottom of the can.

Put some aluminum foil over the top of the coffee can and secure with it an elastic band, put it in the stock pot, cover it tightly and steam it for an hour and a half.

Replenish the water as it boils away. I keep a kettle going for that.

I really don't know where I got that recipe I've had it since I was a teenager. It's really good! Don't forget the currants. I didn't have any - but they do make a difference.

It's very easy to make and this bread freezes beautifully.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hold it, hold it

I have a little extra time on my hands..

Does anyone think this is a good thing: Americans work longer hours than workers in most other developed countries.

Anyone? Anyone at all?

This isn't the way we thought it was going to be. As bad as the 60s were, and they were, even with Vietnam, and civil rights unrest, and the assassinations, there was a sense of hope for the future. We gathered around our black and white TVs and watched the NASA launches with a real sense of wonder. And we thought for sure peaceful use of "atomic energy" would make electricity free by now.

Our heroes were Engineers and of course cars would fly.

In the 70s we thought the bathroom would be the biggest room in the house by now. Because advances in technology would make us so efficient we'd have oodles of free time to say, sit around in our whirlpool bathtubs.

No, we really did think those things.

Admittedly that's rather naive. But still, I think if pretty much everyone agrees we work too hard then why do we do it? Somebody must think it's a good thing. And they must be important.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A very special bottle of Guinness

4 December 2010

Really. This is the best beer I've ever had.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Well. Almost 7 months.

No it's not what you think!

I haven't smoked a cigarette since April 30th.

And yesterday, November 28, was the first day I haven't wanted to smoke a butt.

It was really hard. I'd asked around. How long would it be before I'd go more than 20 minutes without wanting to smoke a butt? It's an awful habit. I never did get a good answer. It was

I guess it's different for everyone.

For me, it was just under 7 months before an entire day would pass and I wouldn't think about smoking a butt.

And it's not like I couldn't if I wanted to. I haven't dumped my stash yet. I have two packs in the car. If I smash the car up I'm gonna smoke a butt. I have a pack right on the table here. It even had some dust on it!

I was the last person in the world I thought would quit. I was the last person my friends would thought would quit. Really. I *like* to smoke. And the more the world at large made it harder to smoke the more determined I was to smoke. Cigarettes.

I'm not a crusader about this. But really. I'm convinced. If I can do it, anyone can do it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Now this is what I'm talkin' about

She really needed to do this.

Edit: Ok ok, that's not the most dramatic picture. But it was about the most becoming. This one here has less technical merit but it captures the mood a little better:

Once she got this out of her system she never felt better! She was willing and attentive, light, supple and all kinds of flexible. I remember when I started riding seriously I'd get a trip on my Quarter Horse B every now and then that was extra special. He had lift in his stride, a swing in his barrel, he was light in my hands and I could feel his hips push off with every stride.

I get a ride like that with L all the time.

We went out to lap the hay fields and came face to face with a *huge* doe in a little hollow. We were within just a few strides of her. My camera was in my shirt pocket and by the time I fished it out she flipped her tail and took off into the woods. Bummer! Would have been a beautiful picture.

There are a lot of reasons I do this. Well yes, it is just plain fun. But more than that, it brings me closer to the earth. I live in a world very far removed from natural things. Hanging out with horses helps bring me some balance and perspective.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The other Autumn

Ride now?

L usually enjoys our rides. But I'll have to lunge her today. She was awfully frisky yesterday! She really wanted to cut loose and I had to hold her back. I like her to be careful when we're going bareback and while I would like to have had us charge around like a couple of nutbags - careful is a good habit for her to have!

I made it up to her. When we were done riding I led her off to hand graze the best grass I could find. She really enjoyed that!

It's actually just as well. I saw two chuck holes out there right where we like to charge. I'll have to mark them. I don't think I would have seen them at warp speed. Shouldn't the chucks be asleep for the winter by now?!

When we think of Autumn, of course, here in New England anyway, we think of the brilliant colors we're famous for. And apples! It's harvest season and we go get squash and pumpkins and make pies and drink cider. I really hate the wintertime but I love comfort food!

But as the season wears on it gets more like this:

We ride out here and this time of year, especially when it's overcast, the wooded paths look like something out of a creepy fairy tale. I could have sworn I left a trail of bread crumbs out here.

There are miles of trails in the woods but getting out there is a challenge. It really does look like this:

We have to bushwhack our way through a couple of acres of brush to get out there. The footing is quite good but winding our way around can be a little dicey.

And then here, look at the contrast. This is basically the same picture as this one, from a slightly different angle.

I didn't plan that. What I mean is I didn't go out of my way - it just struck me as a way to see the change within the season. The same place a few weeks apart.

No surprise here. Yes Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!

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