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Shared Risk

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In Community Supported Agriculture, known otherwise as CSAs, there was always this message given, that by buying into a CSA as a shareholder you were sharing the risk with the farmer who grew the crops. In good years, you got more. In lean years, you may suffer a bit, but you were always a part of the “family” that made it possible for the farmer to prosper.

Decades ago, the model was fairly simple. One farmer. Enough shareholders to buy most if not all of the produce and fruit that was planted and harvested from that farm. As CSAs grew, some of the farmers partnered with others who raised animals, adding dairy or meat into the packages.

These days, more and more regional and seasonal partnerships are available. Mitigating that risk. Making it easier to get the value, and reducing the risks on the suppliers and the customers.

This winter has been brutal around here. I am amazed that we are getting as much fresh produce from both of our sources. One, the winter CSA, has written in their newsletter that we may be seeing more regional produce as they have to reach farther from the cooperative to meet the needs of the very large community that Lancaster Farm Fresh serves.

Last week, we got this in our Omnivore share.

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Our meat item was boneless skinless chicken breasts. Cheese was a lovely smoked gouda. Pantry item, a jar of applesauce. We had six vegetables in the box. Lots of carrots. Sweet potatoes. Spinach, turnips, russet potatoes and cremini mushrooms.

I made mushroom soup. I made honey glazed roasted root vegetables. I made chicken salad. All in all, we dined well during our bout of bad weather, without having to stand in long lines at the grocery stores.

Friends and Farms, a “mutant” from the traditional CSA, partners with regional food suppliers to give us baskets year round. Lots of seasonal foods, but also, some Quick frozen vegetables that a farm in New York prepares and provides during the dead of winter.

Last week, our small share included these items.

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Pickles. Frozen green beans. Eggs. Bread. Cider was my substitute because we don’t get milk. I realized I had those “essential” pre-storm items here. You know. Bread and milk, if I had wanted the milk.

Sweet potatoes here, too. A different variety than those from Lancaster. I really enjoy the sweet potatoes because they are so easy to use in many ways. In soups. Stews. Chili. Like you can make using the jalapenos we got.

We had cabbage and pork butt. Perfect partners. Red onions. Hydroponic lettuce from Baywater Greens in Salisbury MD. Getting fresh greens in the winter is such a surprise, and really appreciated. Bacon this week. Chicken thighs, too. And, apples.

I did not need to buy much of anything at the store. I picked up a few yogurts from the refrigerated case at the warehouse. I get my butter there, too. You could have picked up beans or rice while there. The pantry shelves help us round out our baskets and make meal planning easier.

There are still traditional one farm CSAs out there, but the newer models really start to look like a full farmer’s market has shown up and given you your groceries.

Tomorrow is my next pick up. We did pretty well getting through our two baskets. We have also been lucky with the weather. It may be raining like crazy tomorrow. Between our ice events, and now predicting snow again Thursday, I am happy to use what we will get this week. Again, without having to brave the crowds in the stores.

Just hope we don’t get too much snow.

Baby It’s Cold

Outside definitely. Inside, sometimes as well. Heat pumps can’t handle extended temps near zero degrees. We hit zero again on Tuesday morning. The heat pumps couldn’t hack that, so we had the resistive heat running continuously trying to keep it warm around here.

I decided, OK, I need to find something to do to keep us warmer, so I decided to bake and cook. All day. It kept the kitchen warm and made it easier for us to have quick meals the rest of this week.

At one point, I had both ovens going, and the large burner on the stove. Oh, and the dishwasher and the clothes dryer out in the mud room. All together, productive, while making it more comfortable in the house.

I hate heat pumps. Our house, like thousands like it in this area, was built during the moratorium on building using natural gas. Oil burners were also not used, as the price made them prohibitive. Heat pumps cannot take prolonged temperatures below twenty degrees, and we are suffering through the coldest February I can ever remember.

Two more days of this month. Today, even more snow came down. At least we got above freezing yesterday.

As for the cooking, what did I make?

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Apple cake. Adapted from the Not Without Salt recipe. I substituted my crock pot spiced apples for the two cups of apples.

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I like this recipe so much that I made a recipe card in Pages on my iPad. Since I like the extra spice, I used a pint jar from the freezer since I didn’t have any baking apples around. I also did decrease the sugar from the published recipe, to 1/2 a cup.

I had one oven making this cake, while the other made three things. At the same time. Beets. Chicken. Roasted root vegetables.

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I was cleaning out the produce drawer before the CSA came on Wednesday. There are parsnips, celeriac, sunchokes, carrots, sweet potato, turnips, white radish, scallions, yellow onion and a jalapeno in there.

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Heavily spiced.

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No measuring. More of what I like. Less of the stronger stuff. Olive oil. Mustard. White balsamic. All mixed up in a bowl and dumped on the foil. Roasted at 350 degrees for an hour.

Add to all of this, I was making chicken stock with the bones and skin from the whole chicken. I got a quart of stock, that simmered most of the afternoon.

After all was said and done, we had chicken and root vegetables for dinner Tuesday. The leftovers.

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Enough for a few days as a side dish.

Chicken leftovers for me yesterday while my better half went to an amateur radio club dinner. The last piece of chicken breast. Lunch today. The beets will be tomorrow’s salad. The apple cake. Dessert when we are in the mood for dessert. The chicken stock is in the freezer.

Not a bad way to spend a frigid Tuesday.

Menu Planning

Sunchokes. For the third time this winter.

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It seems this seasonal vegetable is best after a hard frost. Heaven knows we have had enough of those around here. The sunchokes are a Northeastern US native plant. They are the tubers from a type of sunflower. A perennial and if not carefully corralled they can become invasive.

They are a great probiotic for most people. They contain inulin, are good at promoting the healthy “gut bacteria” we need, and keep your blood sugar under control. If you aren’t one of those people sensitive to them, and then they cause discomfort. We do OK with them, but this is the third week out of five that they are showing up in our food baskets.

This week, they were in my CSA basket.

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Our winter vegetable share. Week Five. Cabbage, sunchokes, portabellas, onions and garnet sweet potatoes. You will notice two cabbages, as I traded the black radishes. I am currently radished out, and we are in one of those food ruts, where we enjoy steamed cabbage as a side dish. Well, and making lots of cole slaw since we are drowning in carrots this winter. All this cold weather is good for certain vegetables. We seem to be getting quite a few of the hardy varieties that do well when the weather gets cold enough.

The omnivore share gave us these for a pantry item, a cheese and meat.

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Daisy flour. Linden Dale raw goat milk cheese. Ground beef. I love, love, love Linden Dale cheeses. We used to buy them all the time up at the Lancaster Market. I am so glad they became a supplier to the cooperative, and that we get these lovely goat cheeses brought to us. Daisy flour is also a treat. I first bought their flour at the Catonsville Atwaters Bakery, and they really are different than what you may be used to baking with.

Friends and Farms this week.

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This is the small basket, suitable for two people who eat at home four or five nights a week. The carrots, and those two turnips came to Friends and Farms via the same truck that delivers our Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA. More and more, they are using the cooperative to supply fresh organic seasonal vegetables. Cremini mushrooms (there will be mushroom soup this weekend). Hydroponic lettuce. Eggs. Apples. Kale, another hardy vegetable that gets sweeter after a hard frost. I love to sauté kale with garlic and bacon to serve as a side dish.

There is also a quart of Atwaters chicken stock this week. A new supplier. From one of our favorite lunch places in Catonsville. We got short ribs this week. And ground beef for me, as the substitute for dairy. Oh, and shrimp. Which only survived two hours in the house, as it was dinner tonight.

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Shrimp over polenta. The last of the polenta from a very long time ago. Found it in the back of the little fridge, where I store flours and nuts, to keep them fresh. One cup left. Enough for two meals. Did you know polenta easily melts again when reheated. Tonight, I added some corn from an earlier basket. I store it in a container in the freezer, and pour out what I need.

What else will I do with this week’s stuff? Crock pot short ribs. Crab stuffed portabellas. Egg salad. Mushroom soup. Cole slaw. Spicy sunchoke dip. I will let you know if this dip is worth making. I wanted to try something new with the sunchokes.

Fresh vegetables all winter. Comfort foods. Who cares if we get negative temperatures the next few nights. We can be warm and have satisfying meals here at home.

One Wild Weekend

Never a dull moment around here. Even when we do stay home.

Valentine’s Day is a day I cook a special dinner paired with an old wine. We don’t fight the crowds in restaurants. And, since the weather was awful, we had our romantic feast without the worry of trying to drive home in the snow and ice.

All that running around Wednesday for the CSA and Friends and Farms, and Thursday for the lamb and shrimp in Mt. Airy meant I could cook at leisure, and savor our dinner.

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Who knew things would get real exciting a few hours later. Looking out the window of the dining room from the kitchen I see a line of flashing red lights at the end of our driveway. What is going on? I call down to my husband who is on the radio looking for a rare contact, and head out into the wind.

What do I find? A car in the driveway. That, I see, is OK, as they are assisting a friend in emptying their car before a tow truck arrives. The paramedics are putting people in the ambulance, from the other car, the one we couldn’t see, as it was dangling over the embankment held up by trees and our mailboxes. Well, what used to be our mailboxes. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt but my other neighbors spent this morning trying to find mail all over the fields across from us. We, being home all day, had retrieved our mail before our mailbox went bye bye.

Sheared off at the base. In freezing weather. Now, we are searching for someone who can put a new one into the frozen hillside. Until then, mail will be forwarded to our PO box, which my husband uses for radio contact cards.

Adding to all the other excitement, we were awakened at 3 am by what sounded like banshees howling. 60+ knot wind gusts. For a very very long time. Sleep? Who could sleep through this? At least the hexbeam held up on the tower. Another milestone for the tower. Surviving winds of that speed.

This morning. I was lucky. The bird feeders survived. But, the bird bath was empty. All the water blew out. I had to go out, fill it up and spread seed for the very cold birds out there. This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count, and today, I counted a gazillion juncos out there. Really. I couldn’t count them all. The ground was covered in them.

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Along with the cardinals, sparrows, blue jays, starlings, woodpeckers, robins, finches and crows, I think I got a good count as everyone hit the seed and the water.

I am so tired of winter. Spring needs to get here soon.

Making the Rounds Mt. Airy

Today we ventured out to Mt. Airy. For a few errands and a chance to try a new place for lunch. I love Main Street Mt. Airy. All the old buildings. Like the Country Store, and Concettas, where we had lunch.

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Concettas Main Street Bistro is just on the south side of Main Street, down the hill from the big parking lot. If you want cannoli shells or filling, tiramisu ladyfingers, pizzelles, Sun of Italy products or Italian made pastas, they have them. Lots of other good things too. This is a neighborhood place. People are super friendly. We went in and ordered an Italian spicy cold cut sub for him, a Concettas club made with turkey for me, a couple of San Pellegrino blood orange sodas, and sat there enjoying the day.

Followed by a trip up the street to Wagners to get some good lamb chops for Valentines Day.

Which are now happily being marinated in red wine, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

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While there we also saw a special on wild Texas Shrimp so there will be surf and turf Saturday night.

Heading back across the road, we stopped at Tractor Supply to see when they will be getting the spring vegetables in, particularly those onion sets that did so well for me last year in the garden. It is Dollar Days there, and we stocked up on suet to keep the birds happy.

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Suets are 6 for $5. You can’t find a better price for suet around here.

They also have baby ducks in the pens. The chicks don’t arrive until the end of the month. But “M R Ducks” (showing my Baltimore upbringing here). No pics allowed of the ducks or chicks.

All in all a pleasant couple of hours in one of the special old main streets in the area. Full of mom and pop stores, quaint restaurants and an outstanding butcher.

Making the Rounds

It was one of those picture perfect sunny “warmer” winter days here today. A day when you get out and do all those errands before the weekend comes. This weekend is chock full of things to do, so early preparations get me ready for Valentine’s Day. Oh yeah, and the Great Backyard Bird Count. And, the New Year program at the Conservancy.

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The feeders are all stocked and ready. I did get to Kendalls for nuggets to fill up the woodpecker feeders.

I picked up my Friends and Farms, and my Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA baskets. With a quick stop at Harris Teeter in Kings Contrivance to fill in those items for my weekly menu planning, I am all set to spend Valentine’s Day here at home. Celebrating with a dinner worth hundreds at a restaurant, and that I only spent a small amount of money to purchase.

As for those baskets.

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Friends and Farms gave us quite a bit of inspiration for cooking.

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I particularly liked those chicken breasts in the shape of a heart. How romantic.

We also got pineapple oranges from Florida. Similar to Valencia, they will become a salad or two, with those beets and a red onion from a while back.

As for those sunchokes, they herald a new partnership for F&F with one of the farmers I frequented often at the Dupont Circle market, Next Step Produce.

I am thinking a really different interpretation of colcannon, using sunchokes, kale, and parsnips, along with a few potatoes. Why not? Who needs to be stuck in traditional recipes when we have so much fresh organic produce to inspire us?

The pork roast and the apple cider. Will be dinner Friday night. Along with cole slaw. See below for my CSA basket that makes this dish possible.

Here is the Lancaster Farm Fresh Omnivore basket today.

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Green cabbage. Perfect for slaw. That fresh kale. Mushrooms for a salad with the arugula from F&F. Mega beets. I love dry roasting beets and using them in salads. That humongous celeriac is making me crave roasted root vegetables. Again, I find it motivating me to break out the cookbooks and try something new.

Who needs to fight the crowds at restaurants on Valentine’s Day. Certainly not us. We will be dining in style with minimum fuss, thanks to our local purveyors of fine foods.

Comfort Foods

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What is your favorite comfort food? You know. The one you just want that brings back memories, or makes you happy, full and content for the rest of the day.

Me? I have a few. But my ultimate favorite is lasagna.

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Yep. A wedge of lasagna with some crusty bread, a side salad and a good Chianti. Makes everything right in the world.

Today I did my not so frequent marathon to make lasagna. Using what I had here. Improvising. It still tasted awesome, even if I didn’t have ricotta in it.

A mix of freezer foods and CSA items. Plus, my favorite Pappardelle’s
bought at Secolari this week.

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Pork and ground beef. Big boy tomatoes from the freezer. A can of tomato paste to thicken. Italian herbs. Salt. Pepper. Garlic powder.

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Makes a basic sauce.

Then, we move into the nontraditional. Garlic scape pesto. Chevre. Milk. Eggs. Pecorino Romano.

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Somewhere in the same world as béchamel, but not really. And, a block of fresh mozzarella, that I picked up at Friends and Farms Wednesday when I got my basket. The mozzarella was sliced and layered, I like those melty slabs of mozzarella in the middle of the layers.

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Before it went into the oven for 90 minutes.

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After it was done. Crispy and brown on top. Oozing mozzarella when you cut it.

And the best part.

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All those leftovers. One in the fridge. Three in the freezer. Before I freeze them, I cover them tightly with plastic wrap to keep them from getting freezer burned. Pop them out. Into a baking dish. Way better than that Stouffer’s stuff.

The most expensive part of this meal? Those noodles. But, oh what noodles! If you have never tried Pappardelle’s noodles, you have to get to Secolari and buy some. The lasagna noodles are seasonally carried. They don’t have them in the summer. These noodles are so soft they almost melt in your mouth. Seriously. I used a little over half a pound in today’s large lasagna.

Make some memories. Lasagna is a great place to start.

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