Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Years Traditions

I do not believe in New Year’s resolutions. It would just be another thing I would break. However, January 1 offers an opportunity to forget the past and make a clean start.  Many of us follow old traditions instead of leaving everything up to fate. Many of these traditions involve a meal to increase your good fortune? There are a variety of foods that are believed to be lucky and to improve the odds that next year will be a great one. Traditions vary from culture to culture, but there are striking similarities in consumed in different pockets of the world. The six major categories of auspicious foods are grapes, greens, fish, pork, legumes, and cakes.
In my family we follow as part of our New Years tradition the eating green grapes and legumes
The Tradition of Eating Grapes
New Year's revelers in Spain consume twelve grapes at midnight—one grape for each stroke of the clock. This dates back to 1909, when grape growers in the Alicante region of Spain initiated the practice to take care of a grape surplus. The idea stuck, spreading to Portugal as well as former Spanish and Portuguese colonies such as Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru. Each grape represents a different month, so if for instance the third grape is a bit sour; March might be a rocky month. For most, the goal is to swallow all the grapes before the last stroke of  the clock.
We do not rush to eat the grapes…performing the Heimlich maneuver is not the way I want to start my new year!
Legumes including beans, peas, and lentils are also symbolic of money. Their small, seed like appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. In Italy, it's customary to eat cotechino con lenticchie or sausages and green lentils, just after midnight—a particularly propitious meal because pork has its own lucky associations. Germans also partner legumes and pork, usually lentil or split pea soup with sausage. In Brazil, the first meal of the New Year is usually lentil soup or lentils and rice, and in Japan, the osechi-ryori, a group of symbolic dishes eaten during the first three days of the New Year, includes sweet black beans called kuro-mame.
In the Southern United States, it's traditional to eat black-eyed peas or cowpeas in a dish called hoppin' john. There are even those who believe in eating one pea for every day in the new year. This tradition traces back to the legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, ran out of food while under attack. The residents fortunately discovered black-eyed peas and the legume were thereafter considered lucky.
My Lentil Soup
  • 3 tablespoons extra–virgin olive oil  
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery stalks
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
  • 1 1/4 cups lentils, rinsed, drained
  • 1 14 1/2–ounce can diced tomatoes in juice


Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium–high heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Add 4 cups broth, lentils, and tomatoes with juice and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium–low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.
Transfer 2 cups soup (mostly solids) to blender and puree until smooth. Return puree to soup in pan; thin soup with more broth by 1/4 cupfuls, if too thick. Season with salt, pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and enjoy.

What Not to Eat
In addition to the aforementioned lucky foods, there are also a few to avoid. Lobster, for instance, is a bad idea because they move backwards and could therefore lead to setbacks. Chicken is also discouraged because the bird scratches backwards, which could cause regret or dwelling on the past. Another theory warns against eating any winged fowl because good luck could fly away.
Now that you know what to eat, there's one more superstition—that is, guideline—to keep in mind. In Germany, it's customary to leave a little bit of each food on your plate past midnight to guarantee a stocked pantry in the New Year.
May you all have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.
Cheers to you all!
~Old Dog~

Monday, December 27, 2010

After The Storm

~Old dog~

The storm has past, the sky is beginning to clear and I have shoveled all the snow around the house and barn.The wind is still blowing ferociously making the temperature feel like minus 2 degrees. It was definitely a three dog night last night.
Speaking of the dogs, they have been outside twice and are now snuggled on the couch in my den. Bella and Blue are snoring and Molly is barking in her sleep. She's probably dreaming of the fun she had running around in the snow this morning.
 Since everything was set around the farm, I decided to go into town. I like to survey the damage old man winter bestowed upon us and see how my neighbors have survived the blizzard.

 The walk around town was amazing, the storm dumped fifteen inches of snow on us. I used my cell phone to snap some pictures.

 The old Congregational church is near the center of town. The church is only used for special occassions, mostly  weddings or funerals. This is where my son will be getting married this coming February. I'll admit  that the snow covered ground makes for a peaceful setting, but I hope the weather is better on the day of the wedding.

~The Bean~
 I thought that I would warm my bones so I stopped by the village bean to have a cup of coffee. The "Bean" as it is called, is the only coffee shop in town and the unofficial meeting place for all the locals to catch up on the town's gossip. Most of the patrons were snowplow drivers and the buzz around the room was the storm.The accidents the saw, how many hours they logged in,and how many more they would log in before they could go home. Most of these guys have been on the road for 24 hours. They only stopped to get a cup of coffee and some lunch before they went back out to "clean up the edges" as they put it.

  As the plowcrews left the Bean I couldn't help to think how important they are to us. Without them, we could be stuck inside for a long time. I better stop and pick up some more wine and cheese before I head home. I could be another long cold night.
~Old dog~

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Waiting out the Blizzard

Old man winter is having one of his tantrums in the form of a good old fashion blizzard. Weatherman says we can expect between twelve to twenty inches of snow. This is enough to send the locals into a major panic. The mass hoards will go running to the local markets for milk, bread, juice and eggs. The shelves will be cleaned out with the slightest chance that the snow will accumulate more than six inches. This ritual has become synonymous with
 Rhode Islanders. A habit brought about by the blizzard of "78". As for myself, as long as I have enough wine, cheese and some fruit...lets light a fire and have a party.

Today the dogs were restless, in and out all day long. Molly, my two year old lab, loves to play in the snow. She runs through the snow, eats snow, and pushes her snout into holes in the snow to inhale fresh air. However, Bella and Blue are a different story. They are thirteen inch beagles that were born and raised in Georgia. They came to live with me a little over a year ago. Bella, four years old, will try to tough out the cold hoping to reinforce her role as top dog. Blue, five years old, is comfortable with his spot in the pecking order. He's content to run out do what needs to be done and then run right back in so he can curl up in his favorite spot on the couch.
Old man winter is really howling outside. The only thing one can do in a storm like this, is wait it out. I'll begin to dig out tomorrow when it stops. Until then, I think its time to pull the cork on a bottle of wine and sit by the fire.
~Old dog~

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's going to be a beautiful day

When snow covers the fields,  I love to try and identify the tracks of critters that walk through the farm.  Sometimes, if I'm really quiet, with a little skill and a whole lot of luck, I can follow the tracks right to the foot or "hoof"  that made them. My heart is still beating fast from my meeting with this magnificent creature. I'm surprised I was able to snap the picture.

Many, in these parts, are saying that the deer population has grown so much that it is becoming a problem. There has been an increase in auto accidents because of deer crossing the major highways in the area. The state is considering extending the hunting season or increasing a hunter's "bag limit".

As an ecologist I know that without natural predators, a population can grow beyond the carrying capacity of an ecosystem. Many of these beautiful creatures would die of starvation and that would be cruel.

This big guy was walking solo, but I usually see small herds of four to five in the pastures around the area.  When you see how beautiful these creatures are, I am sure, that this is a sign that all is right with the world. I rather do my hunting with a Nikon.
~ Old dog~

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Great Night for a Luna Eclipse!

Is it only a coincident that an eclipse and the winter solstice took place  concurrently. Such timing last occurred in 1638. I'm glad I stayed awake to watch. Aastronomers say that the red tinge is from atmospheric dust.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sad Day!

It's funny how we get caught up in the moment and really let life pass us by without truly noting the important things around us. I just came from the wake of my friends younger brother, George Aldrich. A tragic accident ended his short time with us. He had a great passion for life, a love for the outdoors and a passion for the sport of snowboarding. I wish his family my sincere condolence. I hope that you will receive the peace in knowing that the love you shared with George is carried over to the next life. God's speed George. May you always find deep powder, feel the  warmth of the sun on your face, and the love of family and friends. rest in peace.
~Old dog~

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Getting Ready for Battle!!!

 I am always ready to wage war against my old nemesis, old man winter. I don't plow snow anymore, but my friend David does and he was getting his equipment ready for the upcoming storm that the local weathermen have been  predicting for our area.  One of his plow trucks had been damaged and was in need of a quick barnyard repair. We couldn't get the tailgate off because the back of the dump body was bent in an accident. We used the backhoe to pull the side of the body out and then David used the grinding wheel to cut away a small piece of metal that was blocking the clamps that held the tailgate closed. Now the fun began. I hung from the operating level that opened the tailgate while David, and Eddy, banged with mallets, pried with levers, and applied generous amounts of W-40 to the mechanism under the truck. Slow but ever so sure the clamps opened and the tailgate was freed. Now we could remove the tailgate from the truck. Sliding the sanding unit into the back of the truck was an easy task now, David  hooked the chains on the sander  and lifted the sanding unit while I backed the truck under the loader. Ed connected the electronics hook-up to the sander. All we need now is to pick up a load of sand. We were about to head out on our mission, when my wife Susan called us to come in from the barn to come in for lunch. She made cheddar-ale soup.   This is really good when old man winter wants to do battle.   Helps warm the bones after you've been outdoors in the cold ,damp weather.

                        Cheddar-Ale Soup


  • 4 thick-cut bacon slices, cut into 3-inch strips
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pale ale
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Toasted croutons for garnish
  • Olio novello for drizzling


In a 4 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Discard all but 2 Tbs. of the fat in the pot. Reduce the heat to medium and melt the butter. Add the onion, carrots and celery, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ale and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the Worcestershire, milk and broth, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and puree the soup with an immersion blender until smooth.

Set the pot over medium-low heat and add the cheese by the handful, stirring constantly; do not allow the soup to boil. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls. Garnish with croutons and the bacon and drizzle with white truffle oil. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Good Eats

Toad in the Hole
I love dishes that are cooked all in one pan. This is a traditional English Christmas breakfast, but to me its good any morning that you have a group of friends around the breakfast table its called... toad in the hole.
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 whole eggs plus one egg white
  • 2tsp. whole-grain mustard
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 3Tbs.plus2tsp.vegetable oil
  • 1 lbs mild pork breakfast sausage links
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded cut into1/2" strips
  • 4oz. spinach
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup Gruyere cheese
  • 2 Tbs. fresh chives 
In a bowl, using an immersion blender, blend milk, eggs, egg white, and mustard for 1 minute. Add flour and 1 tsp. salt; and blend 20-30-seconds. refrigerate batter for 2 hours.
Preheat over  to 425degrees Fahrenheit. In a 10" fry pan over medium heat, warm 1 tsp. of oil. Brown sausages 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.Wipe out pan . Warm 1 tsp. oil in pan. Add spinach, salt and pepper. Cook 1-2 minutes and transfer to a plate.
Pour 2Tbs. oil into a 12" fry pan; place in over for 10-15 minutes. stir cheese into batter. remove pan from oven. Add sausages, bell peppers,and spinach to pan; pour in batter. bake 25-30 minutes; do not open oven door early. Garnish with chives.
serves 4-6.

I usually like to have a crockpot of mulled wine or hot butter rum on hand to serve on Christmas morning or any morning when you have good food and good friends around the table. Eat, Drink and definitely Be Merry!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


We had an intruder on the farm last night. He hasn't quite shown himself, but he left evidence that he snuck in last night while I was sleeping. There was ice on the pond and the thermometer out on the barn read 12 degrees this morning. He's old man winter and his arrival can be felt here at the farm. I don't like him, after all I didn't invite him. He just barged in and decided he would stay a while. He made himself right at home too. I think he turned the thermostat down because it was cold in the house when I got up this morning.  He does this about this same time every year, and he never really says when he's leaving.

Old man winter and I have been bitter adversaries for years. He can't be trusted. Sometimes when he's cranky he'll wander around the farm and you can hear him howling while he storms around breaking branches off the trees. There is usually a lot of work cleaning up after one of his tantrums. Once he clams down I can actually tolerate him. At night when I sit by the wood stove enjoying a cup of hot coco, I'll look out the window and notice that he covered the farm in a blanket of white. His work can really be quite beautiful.
I guess I  just like to hang on to summer as long as I can. 

Mark twain said. "If you don't like the weather in New England just wait a few minutes."