Starting 2012 Off Right

Happy New Year!  I'm so glad to advance all the calendars, aren't you?

Mimosas at Midnight -
Welcome 2012!


We stayed up to welcome in the new month with Mimosas (champagne and orange juice, served in our "Cheers to the New Year" glasses - photo, left)...although I will admit to taking a little nap in the early evening.  After a midnight kiss and a toast to a better year ahead, we went out on the deck to check out the beautiful moon on the crisp, clear night.  The neighborhood behind ours seemed to be Fireworks Central, with plenty of noise to frighten away any lingering evil spirits (well, that's the superstition, don't you know?).  Surprisingly enough, Duche$$ didn't go through her usual fear-act about the fireworks; we decided that it was because she's so deaf now that she can't hear them.  And that's OK...



Speaking of superstitions...

Gibbs:  Don't tell me you're superstitious, Leon?
Director Vance:  Well, I'm a little 'stitious.
 --From dialogue on NCIS


Anyway...about those New Year's Day superstitions...

I've always heard that you have to eat black-eyed peas, cooked with a ham-hock, on New Year's Day for good luck (peas) and good fortune (pork)...and we will hold to that tradition, serving Braised Brown Sugar Pork Chops* (recipe, below) slow-cooked with apples and carrots, and topping our peas with some of the green-tomato relish I made last Fall.  To ensure wealth, you're supposed to eat greens (always turnip greens and collards in the Lunn house).  Over the years, we've added a couple of good luck foods to the menu:  rice and grapes.  And, because Mr. T won't touch greens with a ten-foot pole, I prepare cole slaw (because cabbage is the "green" of choice for many cultures)...he will eat that.  We also make sure to serve pork for all meals (bacon or ham for breakfast; pork chops or roast/BBQ for lunch or dinner), and never, ever chicken or turkey.  [Poultry scratches around for everything; pigs move forward and make progress...or, so it is said.]  I'm not really superstitious.  I'm just saying...:)

To show you that I can laugh in the face of superstition, I made sure to leave our Christmas tree up past New Year's this year.  Momma always said it was bad luck to have the tree up on New Year's Day...but, I think she made that up just to get a dry tree outta the house (she was justifiably terrified of house fires).  Since we have an artificial tree this year, I don't have that worry...and, I am just not ready to say goodbye to all the pretty lights and decorations yet.  I think I'll hold off until Twelfth Night (Epiphany)...it's still part of the Christmas Season, and I certainly don't want to miss the visit of the Three Wise Men!

New Year's Day 2012
Harvest
Following the directive that "what you do on New Year's, you will do all year long," I have spent a wonderful, stress-free day.  Mr. T and I took advantage of the beautiful Spring-like weather this morning and worked in the garden a little bit.  He trimmed up the asparagus plants, snipping the frost-nipped fronds to the ground. I picked turnip greens and collards (which you might expect to still be producing) for our "good luck" meal tonight (see photo, right), along with leaf-lettuces, spinach, and even a tiny sweet bell pepper (which amazed even me!).  I noticed that we had cabbage leaves on plants I put out last Spring, and the garlic which did not get harvested in July seems to be taking on a new life.  Remarkable!  We'll have to see how that plays out.
Newest bird feeder...
Tree Face!

Then, he helped me plant a row of Wando sweet peas ("English" peas) along the back of the pea-fence...which still is supporting a good stand of pea plants from a late-season planting I did along the front side.  These plants are even flowering at the moment!  Of course, since we have bitter weather on the way tonight, we "wrapped" the pea-fence front-&-back with row covers (anchored to the top with clothes pins, to the bottom with rocks and stakes)...and tried to give the greens a little more protection (they already have row covers in place).

Mr. T then spent some time filling the bird feeders with the goodies we got yesterday on the Tractor Supply run.  He also got the three newest feeders up and in play:  a window-mounted feeder, a new squirrel corn-cob feeder, and a Tree Face (photo, left).  We had one similar to this at the house in MO, and I was thrilled to locate one while shopping at Mast General Store in Boone.

I did NOT do laundry, pay bills, or do any housework.  Each of those activities carry negative cautions in the superstition department...and none of them is particularly fun for me, so I don't want to be tasked with too much of any of them this coming year.  I did read some of my newest book (I finished Sue Grafton's V is for Vengeance and Three Day Town by Margaret Maron; I'm now reading Laurie R. King's O Jerusalem, which I downloaded from the High Point Library's Digital site to my iPad...a first for me!).  I played Words With Friends...with friends.  I fixed a nice Brunch this morning, and then cooked the "good luck" meal.  I downloaded pictures from my camera, iPod, and iPad...and did a little organizing of the picture files on my computer.  And, now...I've written a post on my blog, always a treat for me, even though it appears that Google has done some strange things with Blogger while I was away (and posting on my iPad).  Mr. T just suggested a walk around the block since the rain we had this evening was brief and light.  Yes, dear...just as soon as I finish this row on my new knitting project...:)

All-in-all, a good way to start off the year...

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*Braised Brown Sugar Pork Chops

Ingredients:
  • 2 pork chops, boned and butterflied
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt (I use Paula Deen's House Seasoning)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced into rings
  • 1 large apple, halved, seeded, and sliced (I used Fuji)
  • 10-12 baby carrots (more or less)
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine (or use water or chicken broth)
Preparation:

1. Rinse chops and pat dry. 2. Combine flour, seasoned salt, and pepper in a plate. Coat chops with the flour mixture.
3. In a large skillet (which has a tight-fitting lid) over medium heat, melt the butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Brown the onions then remove to a plate. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and brown the seasoned and floured pork chops, turning to brown both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Add the onions back to the skillet. Add the apple slices and the baby carrots to the skillet.
4. Combine the juice, vinegar, and brown sugar; pour over the chops. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.  Or, transfer the covered skillet to a 325 degree preheated oven for 1 hour.
5. Remove pork chops, apples, carrots, and onion rings to a plate or serving dish and keep warm.
6. Bring sauce mixture to a boil and boil for 3 to 4 minutes, until reduced and thickened. Pour over the pork chops. Add wine (or use water or chicken broth) to the skillet and bring to a boil, stirring to get the browned bits. Pour the wine mixture over the chops.
Serves 2.

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