Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mustard?

I love mustard. I sometimes stand in the refrigerator door eating mustard by the spoonful. Grey Poupon Country Dijon is a favorite. It's from Kraft Foods? Who knew! While it's a favorite I do find it a little salty for my liking. So I often mix it with other mustards which gives it greater depth of flavor as well.

So it's no surprise I'd eventually get around to... making mustard!

It's easy!

So for my very first homemade mustard I used the Basic Country Mustard recipe from this page and minutes later I had this:



I used cold white wine and for the mustard seeds I used 1/3 black and 2/3 yellow. My mustard is ferociously hot and I think very very good. Kind of a grainy Dijon with a generous spot of Chinese restaurant mustard.

Funny I didn't like mustard much until I starting using it in glazes. Honey mustard on ham? Obvious! Then there's honey mustard chicken with sesame seeds. Chicken in creamy mustard sauce with tarragon. Those are all wonderful flavors together.

And maple mustard dill glazed salmon. Try that sometime.

But the one recipe that really hooked me is this Mayo Clinic potato salad recipe.

I even use that dressing on roast chicken instead of gravy.

There are countless prepared mustard recipes out there not to mention what I might make up along the way. I'll probably never buy prepared mustard again!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cozy mouse house

I was out trimming some thorn bushes on our little obstacle course and I come across...this:

A fleece lined bird's nest!

For years now the fleece gets nibbled from our saddle pads. We try to keep them in bags or boxes but it's hard when the pads are all sweaty and you need to leave them out for a day or two. We'd blamed the mice. And then I come across this bird's nest in the brush. Lined with fleece!

What, the birds have been picking our fleece?! They come in through the windows at dawn? Stranger things happen! From where I stood it could have been milkweed. I couldn't tell.

So I picked a (generous..) pinch out and...sure enough, it's nice cushy (*real* sheepskin) fleece!


I went back to get a better picture of this nest and...

A mouse!

Apparently this ambitious little mouse had moved in to the abandoned bird's nest. And fluffed it all up with fleece!

This nest is a good 70 or 80 yards from the barn. This mouse really worked its butt off fluffing up that nest. I felt pretty bad having messed up his (or her) little nest. What's done is done, as they say. So I carefully put the fleece back near the nest. I scared the mouse and he took off.

The next day I saw the fleece was all gathered up and tucked back into the nest. I didn't disturb this little mouse too much after all.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A happy accident

I love it when this stuff happens.

Stuffed Quahogs

I love stuffed quahogs (pronounced "cohogs"). I've messed with stuffed quahog recipes for years and I make a pretty good stuffed quahog. It's basically chopped clams mixed with some breading, packed into big clam shells and baked. Oh, I add some olive oil and clam juice and Old Bay and usually serve with a pinch of paprika.

I had planned to stuff some quahogs the other night but my timing was off and decided I'd do them another time. I had smeared some skewered chicken with gremolata and olive oil to have over some pasta for dinner. It's kind of like a parsley/garlic/lemon zest pesto. It's great on chicken. I had a ton of this mixture left over and I just hate throwing stuff away.

So I decided to go ahead and do the stuffed quahogs and, as my stuffing, I'd just mix up chopped clams and bread crumbs with the left over gremolata mixture. I added some clam juice until the stuffing had a "sandy" texture. I packed it loosely into some clam shells and baked them for about 15 minutes in a 350° oven. Just to heat them through and brown the bread crumbs a little bit.

Turns out they were hands down the very best stuffed quahogs I've ever had anywhere.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Crudo?

Crudo at home!

Salmon crudo

I typically don't fix crudo at home. Things like sashimi, ceviche, carpaccio and so on I think are best left to professionals.

Then a few weeks ago I was having something Italian for dinner. I don't remember exactly what but I *really* wanted to start with crudo. Then I had an idea! I stopped at a sushi place on my way home from the barn and I got some tuna sashimi to go. Fresh fish of the highest quality with no other preparation at all. Of course. I can fix crudo with that!


  • Get some sashimi to go. Halibut and scallop crudo are my favorites but you don't see either one as sashimi in the sushi restaurants around here. Tuna and salmon are much more common. Both make very good crudo.
  • Lay the fish pieces out on a chilled plate
  • Squeeze on some lemon juice
  • Dribble on some nice olive oil
  • Finish with salt and pepper. Lightly scatter your favorite herbs over the plate. I like chopped green onions.
You want to serve your crudo within 10 minutes or so I think otherwise the lemon juice might "overcook" the crudo.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Deconstruction Zone

Sometimes I really just don't know what L is thinking.

Here's her nice shiny new stall wall. You see those 3 new boards there? The 2 inch thick ones? They're 8 inches wide. She chewed through those 3 boards and tore them down. In one *night*.


Our barn manager was plenty mad! First thing Friday morning, there's L and her little sister P, cheek to cheek over what was left of the wall. With this "what" look on their faces. Very funny. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera (a rare occasion!) at the time.

You know, it might be a seasonal thing. She chewed a hole in her wall just about a year ago.

Repairs were made by the time I got my camera but here, here's a close up view of her handiwork on the top of the bottom board. In case anyone wants to know - TMJ doesn't keep a horse from doing things like this!


And here. Also note the results of the careful footwork there to the lower center right.


Yup. Couple kicks ought to get through that easy enough. By the way. Mares tend to be "busy". Just something to think about when you're picking out a horse. Oh. And do try to keep them from being bored!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fool me once

shame on...shame on you..fool me..You can't get fooled again. Or something like that.

I'm probably over-reacting I'm sure.

I always keep a little thing of Andes chips in the refrigerator. A generous pinch usually satisfies a pressing need for chocolate. Which can happen almost anytime. So I see these a couple weeks ago while I'm shopping.


Who doesn't love Reese's Peanut Butter cups? The "perfect combination of peanut butter and chocolate". I figure that's brilliant. Little tiny peanut butter cups! I think it over and I ...buy a bag.

Imagine my shock when I opened the package and found...peanut butter chips?!

Yes. Peanut butter chips!

Excuse me? If I was paying attention I would have noticed that...

Really. Reese's is peanut butter and chocolate. Would I have expected an orange bag with the signature yellow "Reese's" logo to have been a bag of say, chocolate chips? No, of course not. I wasn't expecting a bag of peanut butter chips either.

Here. To the gaze of a busy shopper this even implies there's some chocolate around here somewhere!


So Hershey's. Shame on you. I'm not gonna buy your bag of peanut butter chips again. And if those peanut butter cups weren't so good I wouldn't buy them anymore either!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Anniversaries

We brought L home 9 years ago yesterday.

20 November 2003. Haven't even parked the trailer yet.

I have two anniversaries with L. She came home the day before Thanksgiving in 2003. That was very exciting! Of course bringing a new horse into the barn is always exciting and we brought two horses home from Canada that day. L and her little herdmate M.

And of course there's the day we picked each other out.

M and L. 26 October 2003

Early on L revealed her huge talent for rolling...


I otherwise had no idea what the future would hold for us. If I recall correctly it was 9 years ago tomorrow she broke her first cross ties! So I tied her off using lead rope. It was a short while later she broke her first snap.

There were *huge* challenges every single day. We were at the beginning. Both of us. L was halter broke and she'd lead but she didn't even know what an apple was when she got here. I'd brought up one baby previously. Between that and her dominant nature she was a *ton* of work. Even with the help of a skilled trainer I sometimes thought I'd *never* get it. I remember her one day pushing through my left leg doing circles under saddle. I remember it like it was yesterday. She'd taken me sideways what had to be about 50 yards at a canter with my trainer yelling "don't let her do that!" every step of the way. That was typical at the time. I was thinking "let her <beeping> do this? I am *not* 'letting' her do this!".

She still messes with me but she's a good horse. It's harmless and she knows where the line is. Mostly. The work was worth every minute and everyone should enjoy their horse like I enjoy my L.



On the occasion of our Thanksgiving, my most favorite holiday, I have to say how hugely disappointed I am with this:

RIP Zip Lock plate

Remember Zip Lock plates? I had no idea the Zip Lock plate was discontinued! I think Zip Lock plates are awesome! I've had my Zip Lock plates for what must be close to 25 years and a couple of them are a little...um..worn? So I went looking for new Zip Lock plates and I guess they haven't made them in years. Such a bummer. They're so perfect for leftovers.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Say it ain't so!

Of course I'm talking about the passing of Hostess Brands.

The Twinkie will survive I'm sure.

Twinkies

The formula for Twinkies is likely Hostess' single most valuable asset and I have no doubt some bakery somewhere will be cranking them out by the truckload. I for one just can't imagine a world without Twinkies. And I'm sure some small local bakeries will be turning out their own interpretations in a day or two. It's not like Hostess will sue them or anything.

And you can just make your own too.

I'd like to say Twinkies are my favorite. They're not.

My single most favorite Hostess product is... the blueberry fruit pie!

The Hostess blueberry fruit pie!

The cherry pie was a close second. I just loved those pies! I thought the apple pie was crap. The French apple pie was even worse. I always wondered why they even made those. I can't imagine anyone ever bought a second one. Never liked those Sno-Balls either. But the blueberry and cherry pies? Mmmmm. When I was younger, working outdoors, I'd have a couple of those every day. And stopping for a Hostess pie was always a highlight of any road trip. I'd love to know how many of those I ate. It's in the high hundreds I'm sure!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Comfort Food Favorite

Of course! It's...

Macaroni and Cheese

Far as I'm concerned macaroni and cheese belongs in the Hall of Fame. This recipe is an all time favorite. This isn't a baked macaroni and cheese although it easily could be. Fact is I love Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and therefore favor something in a saucepan on the stovetop.

My good friend C gave me this recipe years ago and I've only fiddled with it a little bit. It starts with...

White Sauce

Cooking tip

I almost never use milk in anything. So I really *hate* buying a quart, or a half gallon of milk, only to use a third of a cup and throw the rest away. A couple of years ago America's Test Kitchen came to the rescue! According to America's Test Kitchen, nonfat powdered milk is a perfectly good thing to cook with. Not to bake with, mind you, but to cook with. I tried it and...who knew?! That rich, thick, luscious white sauce there? I used powdered milk! I always use nonfat dry milk for white sauce now. I use a heaping tablespoon of nonfat dry milk in each quarter cup of water.

Cook with nonfat dry milk. Really.

This recipe has everything going for it. It's easy. It's all about the ingredients. The result is absolutely delicious.

For two servings:
  • Prepare 2 cups of macaroni
  • Make a white sauce:
    • 1 Tablespoon of butter
    • 1 Tablespoon of flour
    • Melt the butter. Add the flour (I sift it) and make a smooth roux, cook it down for a couple of minutes. Add a half cup of milk (two heaping tablespoons of powdered milk in a half cup of water). Cook it while stirring until it's smooth and creamy. Normally I'd add a pinch of salt too but here the cheese has enough salt.
  • Add to the white sauce:
    • 4 ounces of sliced up white American Cheese
    • 4 ounces grated white sharp cheddar
    • Two teaspoons - up to a tablespoon or so of smooth Dijon mustard
  • When the macaroni is done mix it with the cheese sauce
Don't let it get really hot after you add the cheese.

I like to scatter some parsley over it on the plate. Have a Cabernet Sauvignon with it.

There are endless variations. You can use orange American Cheese and Colby. You can use Monterey Jack. You can add some chopped jalapeƱo. The American Cheese helps make it smooth and creamy and be careful not to use a really old dry cheddar.

By the way, this is basically the same recipe I use for Fettucine Alfredo only I use Romano and Parmesan cheese. With fettucine of course. I always thought of Fettucine Alfredo as sort of a Roman macaroni and cheese anyway.

For something really out there try a little bit of Gorgonzola in your Alfredo sauce. If you like blue cheese it's just delicious!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Really feels like Fall

Yesterday was the first day this season it really felt like Fall.

3 Nov 2012 - looks ...and feels ..like Fall!

The light was harsh, the shadows were sharp, the sky was filled with those steel grey clouds and you just couldn't shake off the cold. Oh...it's been cold but that's been mostly overnight. The days have been pleasant for the most part.

Got a itch!

We're more or less confined to the property for the time being. The woods next door have been POSTED. Crap. I noticed a few weeks ago the neighbor's been out putting up new Keep Out signs all along the tree line. He's put up hundreds of them. Clear into the next town. I don't know if he means that for us too. Next time I see him I'll have to ask.

I set up obstacles around the property last Spring. Nothing crazy. Just something to help keep us tuned up. It's enough to have L do something she doesn't want to do to make my point. She mastered the course in no time. So meanwhile, to put the challenge back in it, I started taking L through the obstacles backwards. She hasn't been at all thrilled about that! As the saying goes, it's all training, all the time, whether you realize it or not!

With the foliage disappearing I'll have to expand the course. We should get a little ring time in sometime soon too.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Look what I found!

Chestnuts!


I thought I was seeing things. I haven't seen a chestnut tree since I was a kid!

Yes I'm going to eat them. No, I'm not telling anyone where I found them!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

This year's colors

The Autumn colors this year have been quite brilliant!

20 October

Last year the colors were very dull. All of the leaves just sort of turned brown and fell off the trees. Apparently dry and cold makes more vibrant colors. Last year it was warm and wet. Except for that big snow storm.

7 October

And well, this Fall has been cold. I've almost turned on my heat a couple of times!

The timing is average. Here in greater Boston the color will peak sometime around October 20 or so and we'll have color for a week or two to either side of that.

20 October

Meanwhile...L is getting ready for Winter..

With her nice new coat!

And I'm getting ready for the hurricane...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Confronting Anxiety

Fear and anxiety. Sometime or other it's part of every rider's experience.

Aw c'mon. This doesn't look so scary.

I've seen people beaten by their frightening experiences with horses. I find that sad but I try not to criticize and judge. Hanging out with horses can be a dangerous pastime. I've been stepped on. Run over. Bitten. Kicked. I've fallen off my horse more times than I can count. There's all that. And then there's the fear of "screwing it up". It's not for everybody.

I was using that pile of pallets there as an improvised mounting block. In the rain. Safety First, as we say around the barn. At least I had the good sense to kick aside the boards with the nails in them. No sooner had I swung my leg up and hopped, L...stepped aside. Leaving me in mid air with nothing between me and the ground but that pile of pallets. Into which I landed in a heap. I was *really* pissed. Making matters worse the autofocus on my Nikon D40 failed. I'm sure those would have been just about the best pictures ever.

I settled it at the time of course. I was on board and felt sure she wouldn't do that again. We went off and had a pleasant ride.

Well. No. I didn't settle it.

I found I felt some anxiety over the prospect of using that pile of pallets as my mounting block. It really did hurt like hell. I'm too old to be landing in a heap in a pile of pallets. Actually, I was dreading the thought of mounting from that pile of pallets.

On the one hand, I could just say using a wobbly pile of pallets as a mounting block is just plain stupid and dangerous and not do it again. But as a matter of principle, I should be able to set L up just about anywhere and expect her to quietly park it. On the trail I use worse things than piles of pallets for mounting blocks.

Remember too, I fall asleep on this horse. I won't have anxiety and fear be part of our experience. Everything is right with my world when I'm on my horse and I try my best to make it a good experience for her too.

We did some ground work exercises for 10 minutes or so just to get her to focus and to be sure she knew what I expected. Then I set her up at the pallets. I stepped on to the pallets and, at the last minute, decided landing with my seat was probably not a good idea. Hopping and landing with my hips along her back would be more stable if things didn't go as planned. Good Idea. Because no sooner had I hopped, she stepped aside. I was shocked!

I backed her up. I spun her around. We turned back and spun some more. She was all kinds of "Sir Yes Sir!" when I brought her back to the pallets. Where she did it. Again. But...well...not quite. The gesture didn't have that... "dominant I'm messing with you" quality.

She wasn't really messing with me. This whole unpleasant business had left her anxious and fearful as well. I felt pretty awful about not seeing that. And I wasn't going to fix this until I got her to stand still.

I turned the whole thing in to a ground tying exercise. I ground tied her at the pallets and just poked around. I walked some circles around her. I walked half the length of the barn. I went in the barn. Came back out. Hopped up and down beside her.

I stepped on the pallets. I stepped off the pallets. I did that again. And again. Until she barely noticed. I climbed on one end and hopped off the other and then back again. I stopped at her hips and hopped up and down. I stopped at her shoulder and hopped up and down. I rocked the pile back and forth. I leaned on her. I leaned on her barrel, I leaned on her back. I "slipped" along side her.

Then I hopped up on her back. And. She didn't move. She barely noticed. I hopped off. I hopped on. I hopped off. I hopped on, scooted around, planted my butt and gathered her reins. Mission Accomplished. Sometimes I "get it".

Sometimes little things can be huge.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Soup season!

We had our first freeze of the season here this morning. Comfort food season is back. Comfort food has to include soup!

This was my favorite soup from last Winter and might even be the best thing I made all year.

My take on this French Lentil Soup. Although I didn't use French lentils I think the tarragon makes it "French". The beautiful color comes from the paprika. I added slices of browned polish sausage. I was positively delighted with this soup!

French lentil soup

I hate the cold. But last night's freeze will free us from the bugs for a while and we'll still have a few nice days left. Of course soup and fresh bread make the cold a little more bearable! Maybe this year I'll try using French lentils.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Winter 2011/2012

I've been somewhat remiss. I still haven't picked my "Picture of Winter" for 2011/2012. The single most distinctive quality of the season was..."mild" and I remember it as rather mundane.

So I was very surprised to find that I had 532 pictures I felt were worth keeping! And that the season actually was more interesting than I remember and, as usual, picking a "Picture of the <Season>" was challenging.

Winter 2011/2012. The orchard at Nashoba Valley Winery 13 January 2012.

I think that picture would make many observers think "Winter".

I have runner ups and honorable mentions but frankly, that's cheating. Part of the game is to pick just one. But I just have to include this one. I can tell it's Winter. I can tell it's mild. I just love this picture. Are they coming or going?

7 January 2012. 60° F.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

I keep trying

And I keep failing...

Some people make this look so easy. I know she's thinking "..not this again <sigh>".

Mounting from the ground bareback has been one of my goals for years. I'm a reasonably well regarded horseman. I should be able to do this! Maybe if I stand her in a little ditch.

Nope

She's really been very good about all of this. Of course I'm not getting any younger and it becomes less and less likely I'll do this as time passes.

Whatever the case for the time being I'll just have to use rocks. Logs. Milk crates. And...well..mounting blocks!


It's not like it's a big problem. It's more the abstract business of coming to terms with the realization there are some things I just can't do.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Perfect Day...

For polo!
Polo in the Country

Sunday the 16th would be a contender for most beautiful day ever. If there was such a record. It was sunny. Dry. Seventy degrees. Calm. A positively stellar day.

There was enough action in the 6 chukka match between Norfolk and Dedham where 22 goals were made. I'm not sure who won. Well I am. It just doesn't matter. It's all in fun.


These ponies really know their job. That little grey pony takes this more seriously than the riders!


It's not just the polo match. Around here the polo match is the highlight of the season.

Somebody has connections...an FA-18 flyover?

Yes. An FA-18 flyover!

With a 30 minute private air show. Well. Ok. The whole town got to enjoy the air show.


It was all very exciting! I heard so long as they were up there they did a flyover at the New England Patriots game (home season opener).

Dave Thind did a dressage demonstration at half time with the world record holding stallion, White Star. Dave is right down the street at Cutler Farm. Nice place.

Dave Thind warming up with White Star

People show off their cars...

'57 t bird

Enjoy good food...

Good food

And everyone loves the hounds.

Release the hounds!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Problem Solved

I had a problem several weeks ago. When I stopped to buy...beer. I have some favorites but I wanted to try something new. As I looked at dozens, if not hundreds of beers I realized that, over the years, I've at least tried pretty much everything I had a passing acquaintance with.

I had no idea how to choose something (completely) new. By type? Well sure but then what. Go in alphabetical order? Prettiest label? Nearest brewery?

I grabbed a 6 pack from Offshore Ale. Beer from Martha's Vineyard is local and maybe somewhat creative and crafty and I like ales. But then I had to wonder what about Martha's Vineyard would make ...it...good? I thought maybe it was "gimmicky". So I put it back. I was having a problem!

I left there with Long Trail Pale Ale and a vague idea about needing a plan.

A week or so later...I had..a plan unfolding. I Googled "beers to try".

And I made a list!

From the search results I have a list of about 40 beers the "experts" think are pretty good. Some of them might even be hard to find. That will keep me busy for a while. Add this list of seasonal beer and I think it's fair to say...problem solved.

Starting here

I vaguely recall something about Anchor Steam Brewing having been influential in the craft beer movement decades ago and being overall fairly well regarded. So I decided I'd try their beer.

I think it's kind of average but I liked it. I tend to like ales so I found this was malty and sweet but it was refreshing enough. I haven't poured it into a glass yet so I don't know what it looks like. This was different and while I wouldn't say I'm an expert I found it satisfying enough.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Almost Maine Lobster Roll

Almost Maine Lobster Roll (the side loading whole wheat bun is not how it's done)

Authentic Maine Lobster Rolls are served up on New England style split top hot dog buns. Lightly buttered and toasted on a grill. These buns have flat sides. We have plenty of New England style buns here but whole wheat New England style buns are unknown. I suppose I could make my own. Nah.

The Maine Lobster Roll starts here:

An angry Maine lobster

You want a lively lobster.

I like lobster steamed. Put 1 inch of water in a big stock pot. Splash in a capful of white vinegar. Cover it. When the water is going at a ripping boil lift the cover, chuck the lobster in fast, head first, and slam the cover back on. I know he's really just a big bug but this is the most merciful way to do him in.

The water will come back to a boil quickly.

Steam your lobster 8 minutes for the first pound and 3 minutes for each additional pound. Start timing when the water comes back to a boil but even with a big lobster it will be back to a boil in 30 or 40 seconds on a really hot burner.

This guy went for 11 minutes.

$3.99 a pound?!

When the lobster finishes steaming fish it out of the pot with some tongs, transfer it to a bowl and run cold water over it for several minutes to stop further cooking.


When the lobster cools down refrigerate it.

When ready to make a Lobster Roll, crack open the tail, knuckles and claws, pick the meat out, rinse it and blot it dry with some paper towel. I pick the legs off and suck the meat out.

Chop the tail and claw meat into half inch pieces. Mix in a tablespoon of mayonnaise for each pound of (whole uncooked) lobster. Just enough to make the lobster stick together. If you think you need more that's just enough.

A key point here - an authentic Maine Lobster Roll has nothing else in the filling. Adding celery or onions <gasp!> makes "lobster salad". You can put that in a bun and it might be quite good, but it's lobster salad in a bun. Not a Lobster Roll.

Line your bun with a lettuce leaf and fill it with your lobster filling. You can pinch some paprika over the top if you want.

Authentic or almost authentic it's a perfectly delicious dose of lobster.

In my opinion 3 things go with a Maine Lobster Roll. Iced tea. Lemonade. Beer.


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