Wednesday, May 29, 2013

That's a Big Mac?

Well no. Not exactly.

Homemade Big Mac

The Big Mac is one of my most favorite things in the world. I *love* Big Macs. I have a Big Mac twice a year. Memorial Day and Labor Day. I read nutrition facts. And there are two things I will not knowingly eat (cue the "Psycho" theme). Trans fat and HFCS.

There are however some things for which I don't read the nutrition facts. Treats. Self indulgence foods. So. I accidentally read the nutrition facts for a Big Mac. OH NO! Trans fat. And a lot of it! Call me naïve. Here I thought McDonald's got rid of trans fat in their food. Turns out that was just french fries. I'm sure there are a lot of people think they completely rid their foods of trans fat. They didn't.

What to do?!

I decided that..well..I'm a smart guy...I'll make my own!

Turns out the sauce was easy! There are a lot of recipes on the web for Big Mac sauce. I used this recipe from Serious Eats. I didn't have any Marmite. I added a splash of white vinegar and sweet paprika and it fooled me.

I made a couple of other departures. I wasn't out to make a better Big Mac. The Big Mac is perfection as is. But I wanted to use a whole wheat bun. Couldn't find a whole wheat sesame seed bun to save my life. And I used white American cheese. Just because I like it. And I used green leaf lettuce. I wasn't going to buy a whole head of iceberg lettuce just to make a Big Mac. Oh. And I used real chopped onion instead of dehydrated onion. Oh and I melted the cheese on my beef patties. Which were quarter pounders. Cooked loosely like Julia Child favors. Other than that it's a faithful replica. Ok ok. I'll just call it Big Mac "inspired".

The order in which it's put together is important. I Toasted the buns. Added sauce. Finely chopped onion. Lettuce. Then the beef patty. Then dill pickle slices. I don't even like dill pickle slices. But it's just not a Big Mac without dill pickle slices. And you do have to trim the middle bun so it's exposed bread on both sides. Just using a bottom bun in the middle won't do. Repeat the buildup of the middle bun just like the bottom bun, put a top on it and...voila! A Big Mac.

I should have scrunched my Big Mac down a little bit for its portrait. That top bun is a little bit...oh.."lofty", I think. But it's not a bad first try. It will just get better from here!

Oh. And Big Macs don't come with beer. At least not around here.

I'm the guy in the supermarket squinting at the labels all the time. Trans fat is just plain toxic. I don't know why anyone would put trans fat in their product today. Which brings up another hot button. Trans fat is *partially* hydrogenated oil. *Not* hydrogenated oil. *Fully* hydrogenated oil is *not* trans fat. Lately I've seen some products promoting the fact they have "no hydrogenated oil!" and I think they're hoping people confuse the two.
HFCS is a little muddy. Ok, more than a little. My thoughts? I don't eat HFCS simply because your liver converts HFCS directly into triglycerides (fat) and I don't think our bodies were made to process large amounts of sugar this way.
It's not just soda at issue. Almost *everything* has HFCS in it. One week I found my favorite pickles had HFCS in them where they'd previously used sugar. In 4 different supermarkets combined I found just one brand of bread and butter pickles without HFCS. Your bread probably has HFCS in it today.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Like as in, for good?!

I had occasion to take a short cut across a neighboring town this week. Driving by one of the bigger farm stands in the area I looked over the fields and saw they were...overgrown and ...unprepared?!

I thought I was seeing things.

Then this.

Closed? In May?!

And this...

Oh say it ain't so!

Jane and Paul's farm is a local institution of sorts. I always thought they were a little expensive but you could always count on finding high quality produce and prepared products. Pickles and pies and stuff like that.

They always had the very *best* in pick your own strawberries. Jane and Paul's was a destination for many in greater Boston. People would drive here from miles and miles away and the place was mobbed during strawberry season.

Pick your own strawberries

We've been coming here picking strawberries for longer than I can remember. And as soon as strawberry season is over it's ... blueberry season!

Pick your own blueberries

Then of course it's corn season. Last year the very first of the real local (rather than say..from 80 miles away) corn came from Jane and Paul's farm. It wasn't the best but it was very very good and it was dependable.

Before you knew it came harvest season.

October 2012

You could eat these like squash

It's shocking because Jane and Paul's was one of the more prominent and successful basic farm stand operations. Some places around here have resorted to starting petting zoos and running kiddie trains through their orchards to stay alive.

More than anything else though I just *hate* seeing elements of country life disappear.

Jane and Paul's Farm, June 2011

The property is priced such that no farmer would ever make a living from it. I'm sure within a year there will be 50 houses there. This is prime luxury McMansion country out here.

I'm very lucky. I still have a farm stand within walking distance of my home. A family operation that's renewed their commitment to their business just this season as a matter of fact. They have all new signs and they've opened earlier than ever before selling flowers and seedlings. Oh and this year they're going to have fresh duck eggs for sale!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

All training All the time

It often appears I'm enjoying a simple pony ride around the property with my L. But the fact is we're *always* training. I started doing this many years ago with my thoroughbred. We'd be out in the fields and I'd make imaginary obstacle courses around distinctive rocks and brush. We'd run those courses and I practiced making the decisions. I decided where he'd put his feet, when and how he'd bend, when he'd turn and when he'd halt.

I've taken it just a little further with L by making obstacle courses around the property. Here I call this one our Hill Climb trail. The reason is obvious:

And this is our Bridge Trail. Bridge Trail because there's a "bridge" in there. A pallet with plywood nailed on top.

This is a favorite. It's a continuing challenge for both of us! I call it the Bank Trail. It's hard to see but there's a very short steep bank in the brush. It's tight quarters and it's a little tricky with that tree in the way. We go up the bank but I can't let her hop up because she has to twist and make a tight turn at the top. And I have to duck under the low branches.

Coming out from here can be a challenge too!

We work our way through the brush. Make no mistake - this can be dicey. There's thorns all over the place out here!

Even along some old paddocks abandoned ages ago. The biggest challenge here is to have her focus and ignore all that yummy looking grass!

The idea is to find something to challenge us. L needs some mental challenge to stay engaged. She needs some physical challenge to use muscles she might not otherwise use. I need to stay in charge. To decide where we go and when we go there. For me to have her putting her feet where she'd rather not is all it takes for us to stay tuned up.

She's become so good at going through these obstacle courses last year I started putting her through them backwards! Try doing figure 8s around a pair of pine trees out in the brush backwards! It takes a lot of patience. It's such a crazy thing to do from her point of view it wasn't at all clear to her what I was asking. Now all I have to do is point her butt where I want her to go and she goes through these things backwards as freely and easily as she goes through them forwards. Have I mentioned lately Canadian Horses are known for being smart? Finding things to challenge her is a challenge!

Today I'll go put some scary things out there. I have a whole shed full of stuff. Pool noodles. Flags. Wind socks. Plastic ducks. Those spinny things on sticks. I have dozens of those. We pole bend through them on windy days.

We're always training. It doesn't always look that way.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Groundwork. Again?!

After the ordeal that was the latter part of the winter we've been blessed with weeks of sparkling Spring weather!

That's our barn there in the middle. 4 May 2013. Abundant Green!

An unexpected "issue" arose this week. I was bringing L into the barn Wednesday night. And there was a SCARY THING in the barn. A dog bed <sigh>. Right there. On the floor. Where IT DOESN'T BELONG. Sometimes. I swear. So L decided it was ok to run me over to escape this threat. She didn't. But she tried.

She does this now and then because I get sloppy. She's a very good horse and I tend to be..well..undisciplined. Sometimes I don't notice things I should when I handle L. My trainer calls this "letting her get away with stuff". What happens is L loses confidence. In me. She starts to think she has to watch out for herself. She's also a very smart horse and she has to think I'm smarter than she is. It took me a *long* time to figure this out. That's always a challenge. Getting her to think I'm smarter than she is. Or at least wonder about it.

So, for example, as we ride, I have to tell her "no, not now" when she *thinks* of snatching up a mouthful of grass. If she actually snatches up that mouthful of grass? Or even makes a move for it? Too late. And trust me on this, she'll cover a quarter mile of pasture at a dead run snatching up a mouthful of grass with every stride. If she thinks she can.

So the question is not "why did she do that?" but rather, what made her *think* she could do that.

And of course, what to do about it. That's easy. Be the "leader", insist on good manners and be consistent. Always. The hard part is getting her attention. Which is where the groundwork comes in! Or, perhaps better put, showmanship. One needs to *lead* their horse on the ground. Be in control of every move. There's no downside to having solid groundwork and we return to it time and time again. As a matter of fact anytime you handle a horse you're doing groundwork whether you know it or not.

So yesterday we did showmanship. To remind both her and me that "whoa means whoa". We moved every which way and I was sure to have her respect my space. While halted she let her face drift towards a nearby branch. And she snapped at it. I got her across the shoulder with a crop before she'd even wrapped her lips around a leaf. And she leaped backwards 3 feet and looked at me like she was thinking "what's the *matter* with you!" and that was our magic moment. She knew I was paying attention and we were done. This time anyway. It really isn't fair for me to have to do this every year. I got her attention and what I have to do now is just keep her attention.

A horse will never ever *ever*, even "accidentally", bump into a lead horse. Horses *always* know exactly where the lead horse is and will *never* get in its space. A horse willing to get in your space is a "drop everything right now and fix it" thing. And master your showmanship skills. Practice over and over.

I like this. A lot. Might even be a new favorite.

Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale
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