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Category Archives: Food

Spirits

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The alcoholic kind of spirits. Like this.

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On my mind because of our cabin fever escape up to Bistro Blanc last week, after being snowed in. Their cocktail list is amazing. It all started last summer with that ginger peach mule, but Tuesday night we wanted something that reminded us of summer.

The Denise. Not sure of the origin of the name. But, loved the cocktail. Made us forget there was two feet of snow out there.

We decided to check out the origin of the cucumber vodka. Found a site that identified an organic one. Immediately thought of RED as the place to go to find organic spirits.

Up the way from Roots, Bark, Nest and Great Sage. Our little local corner of mindful buying. The people behind RED were smart. Put an organic, biodynamic, sustainable product business next to all those Conscious Corner businesses.

Interestingly, we had never stopped there. We mostly buy wine, from the local sources, or from our tastings over at Iron Bridge. I’m not a huge beer drinker, but RED has growler choices I find intriguing. From Local brewers like Manor Hill, Jailbreak and Flying Dog.

I went there on a mission to find cucumber vodka.

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They had it, and the elderflower liqueur as well. I just needed to add those mixers to it. Now we have some amazing cocktails for those date nights I just blogged about.

If you live around here in Howard County, check out RED. You won’t be disappointed if you are looking for unique spirits, wine and beer.

Date Nights

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With a local and small business influence. Do you do date nights? You know. Dinner and a movie. Or binge watching your favorite TV series. For us, we go out infrequently in the winter. Don’t want to deal with slick roads and deer.

We also find it interesting to put together a special meal. Maybe tapas. Maybe home cooked, but always using some of our favorite local foods.

Besides, we can put together one awesome meal at a fraction of the cost of eating out.

Take this week. Snowed in, for the most part. Many things to do around here. Not particularly the best time to head off across town.

We like to pick a special local wine. Like this one.

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You can build a meal around a very nice local white or red. Your preference. For us, we have four “go-to” wineries. Linden. Big Cork. Black Ankle. Old Westminster. We’ve always found their wines to be excellent. Yes, they are a bit pricey. All of them, but putting it in context, a bargain compared to buying wine in restaurants.

Consider this. A glass of house white may cost $7-$9 for a five ounce pour. Two glasses each over the course of dinner. $30-$40 before tax and tip. I can buy lovely wines like that Linden Hardscrabble for less than $30 after discount. At $30, a restaurant bottle of wine may be in the $10-12 retail range.

I start with a chosen wine. Build a meal around it. Our latest date night used 100% purchased foods. No cooking. No fussing. Just a couple of quick preparations. And I used small local sources for most of the food. I felt like I had created one of those small plate dinners like we enjoy at Pure Wine.

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This was it. Mushroom pate and spring rolls from Roots. I have tried to make my own pate and it’s OK, but not as good as Roots makes. The salmon. From Friends and Farms. Offered on a fresh catch special recently. That lovely watermelon radish. From our Lancaster Farm Fresh winter CSA. The bread, from Harris Teeter (only because we were told our CSA bread shares were victims of the blizzard). The bread was a Limited Edition Russian Black bread, made by their bakery.

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Sipping that big buttery Chardonnay while enjoying small tastes of fresh foods. Not a bad start to date night.

Total cost. Less than $60. Much less than going out.

Challenge yourself some Friday night. Pick a favorite local wine. Head over to Roots or Davids and see what looks good. Or, just pick up a rotisserie chicken. A few local cheeses. Maybe some chocolate for dessert. We love to have a red wine with dinner and finish off with a locally made chocolate like the ones from Salazon, made just north of us in Carroll County.

And rent a really good movie.

The Waiting Game

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And now we wait. All of the snow prep is done with the exception of a couple of last minute items. Over the years I have learned a few more tricks to keep us from having problems when it comes to water and with the perishable foods.

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Keeping a few of the milk bottles around, just for times like this. We have a small refrigerator in our laundry room. For snow events, I completely reconfigure that fridge to be nothing but liquids and the lunch and dinner options, which could be moved to a cooler if the fridge were to get too warm.

I keep one small cooler with an ice bag in it. It becomes the place to put whatever I need to take out of the small fridge. Our large refrigerator/freezer NEVER gets opened while the power is off. The freezer has been reconfigured to have all the meat on the bottom with other odds and ends on top, and covered with ice packs and plastic bottles that were filled with water and frozen yesterday.

After our longest outage ever, the 22 hour one after the derecho years ago, the fridge made it up to 44 degrees and the freezer to 16 degrees. In the summer heat. Yesterday I turned the temps down to minus six in the freezer and 36 in the fridge.

I also splurged on a treat, in case we have to eat by candlelight.

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When I picked up my Friends and Farms basket yesterday, I pre-ordered a couple of packs of smoked salmon. They will go into that small fridge, to be used as a “fancy” meal base. I have that large lovely loaf of sourdough from the CSA, along with the cheeses. I also will be making a full four cup pot of jasmine rice. I am perfectly content to make salads using rice, and salads using beans or chickpeas. Between the smoked salmon and the two cans of sardines in the pantry, we could have some awesome candlelight dinners. Unfortunately, the cold could become an issue at some point, and our wood stove is in our basement.

I have cranked the heat up in our house today. Up to 74 degrees. If we lose power, we never open the west facing doors, using the smallest east facing opening, our mud room back door, to minimize heat loss in the rest of the house. Replacing our doors and windows over the past few years has helped us.

Finally, I learned two new tricks when it comes to having water, the non potable kind. I fill up the top loading washing machine and stop the cycle when it’s full. No clothes in it, just water. In a pinch, it could be used for flushing the toilets. Add that to our “recycling” of sump pump water. The other simple thing I do is fill the larger side of my sink, to put dishes in it. Keeps down the need to use paper plates, and when I get power back, we just pull out the dishes and fill the dishwasher.

Last minute tips. We have at least three pair of gloves for each of us. Usually, when we come in from snow removal and we have power, we throw gloves and hats in the dryer. Can’t do that with no power, so we have those spares while waiting for the others to dry out.

And, I filled all the birdfeeders and watered all my indoor plants.

I think I’m ready. Just hoping we don’t meet this when we open our mudroom door.

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The Snow Run

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Ok, admit it. Aren’t you also one of those people who runs out before a storm to make sure you have enough of those “essentials”?

For days like this.

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Of course, that was 2010. This storm, now that we have taken to naming them, might be just as bad as those 2010 storms were.

This morning I did run up to Harris Teeter to stock up on staples, in case we have a power outage. All those root veggies from my CSA need to be cooked, besides the carrots and the watermelon radishes.

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I looked at yesterday’s first delivery from my CSA and thought, hmmm. I can eat those watermelon radishes raw. And slice up those carrots, even though they really are cooking carrots. I decided I really needed to get the beans and onions that my Tuscan tuna recipe specifies.

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I have good Italian olive oil packed tuna. I needed white beans and white onions. Mix it all together, with a few more glugs of olive oil, salt and pepper it, and boom, one really satisfying meal. Particularly since we have bread and cheese from the CSA.

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A big loaf of sourdough and three cheeses from my cheese share. I could live on that bread and cheese, and that tuna, and of course, what goes best with bread and cheese? Wine!

Besides all this thinking about food, we are doing all those other snow prep things. Positioning the snow thrower. Filling water containers in case of power outages. Finding batteries and flashlights.

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Remembering that I need a little shovel to free the grill in case that’s where we will cook.

Last but not least, tomorrow I will fill up the cars with gasoline, and also make sure the phone is fully charged. Turn up the heat to get it warm inside, and turn down the temperatures for the refrigerator and freezer. Just to be prepared, because that’s usually when nothing happens. It’s when we aren’t ready that we usually get slammed.

And I still don’t get why people buy toilet paper? I get the bread and milk, sort of. But, TP? Really.

Hunkering down and hoping for a foot or less. Still, we are ready for that possibility of two feet of snow.

60/40

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So I have a question. What percentage of your dinners are take out, restaurant or delivery? Are you like we were, back in the days when our commute dominated our lives in Howard County? Did you eat out more than half the time, every week? How about changing your percentages, to four days home. A 60/40 mix.

Believe it or not, you can change to eating fresher, more “expensive” food at home. It just takes a little effort to change dining out from majority to minority. Something so simple as one more night in, instead of outsourced.

I really love the protein and dairy bag from Friends and Farms. You can easily do four nights in, and still have three nights “out” with this affordable protein option. My $43 a week basket feeds the two of us, and¬†provides us with the protein on our plates for at least four meals, sometimes five or six.

Take this week.

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There are chicken legs, chorizo, breakfast links and rainbow trout in our basket. Along with the weekly eggs and, in our case we have turnips since we don’t do the milk thing.

I can make two meals from the chorizo. Two from the chicken. We use the breakfast links in weird ways, like in tomato sauce or in soups. Not a big fan of pork for breakfast but these tasty links can be cut up and used in so many savory dishes. Eggs. For Meatless Mondays, they make great omelets or frittatas.

But getting back to the original thought. You can make a very simple meal from the trout. One that would cost major bucks at a restaurant. Less than 30 minutes. How?

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Plop those trout in a baking dish. Cover them in lemon infused olive oil, white wine and lemon pepper seasoning. Bake them at about 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

I made two simple side dishes. Boiled baby potatoes. Microwave steamed Brussels sprouts.

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Looks great, doesn’t it? I put the potatoes on while prepping the trout. I steamed the sprouts two minutes before the fish was done. Open a bottle of white wine and you have an excellent meal. With a little effort, and a little help from Friends and Farms.

Home Delivery

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As we muddle along in one of the first single digit wind chill days this winter, I am reminded at just how much I liked the home delivery options for food that are available here. We had our initiation into home delivery with Zahradka Farm. Back in 2011-2012 when I discovered them. At the time, they were somewhat unique in our area. For many reasons.

Like pick a size. Six, ten or fourteen item produce and fruit. Meat option. Egg option. Some pantry items you could order. I’ll never forget that first delivery a week before Christmas. With half a fresh turkey as the meat item.

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Plus, the romanescu cauliflower, which became a special treat in our Christmas dinner.

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Covered in grated cheese and pepper and spices. That was the beginning of what became a highlight in the dead of winter. Really fresh and varied vegetables through those dark days.

My last post was written about a new option around here. The Hungry Harvest, fruit and/or vegetable deliveries. They are what I believe to be the fourth option that allows you to stay home nice and warm, and receive fresh food delivered right to your door in Howard County.

Pair Hungry Harvest with FarmtoFork, a recently launched venture by Carroll Farm to Table and other local farms. You could order your vegetables and fruit from Hungry Harvest and your meat, eggs and dairy from FarmtoFork. We are lucky. Carroll is not that far from our house, and we have gotten their whole chickens to roast. They have a farm stand open all year. Times of operation are on their web site.

Last but certainly not least, the long standing home delivery service from South Mountain Creamery. They started with dairy products, and slowly expanded to include everything from meat to hummus to vegetable and fruit bags. We used to buy their products at the Glenwood farmer’s market. They stopped attending many of the local markets when they instituted year round deliveries to this area. You can choose weekly, biweekly or monthly recurring deliveries, or just order what you want when you want. Check out where they deliver.

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I still head up to the Creamery to pick up items for parties, like the cheese choices. Besides, nothing tastes better than their fresh milk, unless maybe it’s their ice cream.

Now that I think about it, a recurring delivery from these local companies would be a perfect gift to give elderly family members. You could easily put together something that covers the coldest dreariest months. Not a bad thought to keep in mind for next year.

For us, if our favorite Amish CSA ever stops supplying us locally year round, we would be very interested in using any one of the four.

Ugly Food

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I’m going to step up to the plate, so to speak, and talk about the latest venture in our area. One that rescues “ugly food” and delivers it to those who want to support the reduction in food waste. A very noble cause. One near and dear to those of us who grow and eat ugly food on a regular basis.

my garden haul one day in 2014

my garden haul one day in 2014

Any gardener will tell you. It doesn’t matter what it looks like. It still is good food.

Hungry Harvest, based out of the incubator for entrepreneurial efforts here in Howard County has gotten major press due to their appearance on national TV. Shark Tank. Where they received a substantial investment to assist them in growing their company.

I first heard about them from The Unmanly Chef, a fellow local blogger. I saw his pictures and thought, not bad. Doesn’t look all that ugly to me. The cost is a little high, but they deliver, and they donate to local food banks and food desert areas with every purchase you make.

I commend them for their commitment to providing good food to local charities and food banks. They aren’t the first around here to do that, but I love their level of commitment. We all need to stop judging food by appearance. Ugly food tastes just as good and sometimes better than that blemish free perfect produce sold in stores.

Hungry Harvest delivers produce bags. Organic produce bags. Fruit bags. To your door. Their prices for their regular bags seems reasonable. If you prefer organic, you can do better in price from our local CSAs. As for fruit, since I haven’t seen a sample, and I know what I pay for a fruit share from my CSA, I think they are a bit high here, as well. For example.

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This share costs me $8.50. For the $25 or $35 a share from Hungry Harvest, I don’t think I would be getting 3-4 times the amount of fruit.

I know that delivery drives that price up a bit. I am OK with that. I hope as they mature, that they will use more local farms and less volume produce companies from Jessup. I hope they can work with local farms and orchards to get that less than picture perfect stuff that doesn’t get picked. Like at Larriland.

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Lovely to eat. Not all that photogenic. Ugly tomatoes really are some of the best out there.

I also hope this helps us in our food bank gardening. In the past, we have been asked not to provide split or blemished vegetables. We have given tomatoes to the chickens at the Conservancy, the ones that had split after the rains. Our food bank turned them down. Maybe this partnership will eliminate the bias against blemished fruit and vegetables. I certainly hope so.

I wish Hungry Harvest the best of luck in growing their business. It’s a great concept, and easy for consumers to use. The weekly pricing, unlike the hefty upfront price tag of a CSA, is a great selling point. The more choices we have, the better the products.

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