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Category Archives: Food

Home Grown and Home Made

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With the upcoming Putting Food Away program on the 23rd at the Conservancy Mt Pleasant site, where I am showcasing some of my recipes, my techniques, my lessons learned, and even giving a few things away (I promise, no zucchini), I have been a cooking, cleaning, freezing, drying and pickling fool.

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Did you know you could pickle chard stems? They are pretty interesting. Would make great swizzle sticks for Bloody Marys. I also just pickled zucchini chips. Who needs to spend the $8 or $9 a pound for that Mediterranean bar at the store when you can put out a good antipasto platter right from your fridge.

My other big accomplishment today, besides the zucchini fritters to freeze, was using my first eggplants I ever grew, and two of my red peppers and some of my garlic to make my own flatbread spread.

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They may not be the cutest eggplants out there, but I grew them. I took the eggplants and the peppers and roasted them. Mixed them with some vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and three cloves of roasted garlic. To be served on flatbread for dinner tomorrow. No pictures, as they kind of remind you of baby food, but really taste wonderful.

I also roasted three large CSA eggplants today. Scraped them out. Added two cans of chickpeas. Four cloves of garlic. Lemon juice. Olive oil. Garam masala. Salt. Pepper. Amazing hummus. And, yes, you can freeze hummus. Not that this batch will last that long. It will be going to a picnic with us this weekend.

Come check out these and other recipes at my program. And, next week, there will be recipes and pictures up on my Food Preservation page. Can’t put everything there in advance, or no one will come see my program.

The Value of a Garden

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Sometimes when it is hot and humid, and it seems the weeds are winning, I question my sanity in expanding my garden. But then, I get to enjoy the fruits of my labor and it makes it all worthwhile.

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Like when the heirloom tomato plants start producing. And when I get my first white eggplants.

This week I met a major milestone. Four ounces shy of 100 pounds of tomatoes harvested.

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Yellow plums are one of the latest mass producers. But, I have harvested 36 pounds of heirloom tomatoes. All told, if I were buying tomatoes at markets and organic food stores, I would have spent way more than the investment in this garden plot.

Yes, my labor counts for something. But I rationalize it as a substitute for paying for a gym membership. Weeding, watering, weeding, harvesting, weeding (did I mention weeding?), all contribute to feeling like I just came home from a workout. Particularly after crawling around on the ground wrestling with crab grass.

Today I put up another four pints of sauce for the freezer. Tomorrow roasting the 90 yellow plums still on the counter.

Add to that, the work I am doing to get ready for my Conservancy event next Saturday. Things like making herb butters. And, preserving mint.

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Ice cube trays. One of my favorite techniques to put away the right sized portions to use in future recipes.

The garden was definitely worth the time and effort. Now, I would just like it to slow down a bit.

On A Perfect Day

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What is it with the weather around here? Every day just warm enough, with no humidity. It makes it hard to get anything accomplished. But, it does make it easier to work in the kitchen.

Usually in the summer, my food processing days are spent fighting the heat and humidity. Not today.

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I even made soup. Potato leek soup in the crockpot. This picture is before the blending. I used about a dozen small leeks from my garden. A half dozen potatoes. Three small shallots. A pint of homemade chicken stock. Salt and white pepper. After about six hours in the pot, I pureed it all in the blender. It’s in a jar in the refrigerator, cooling down. I may freeze it, or I may have it for dinner next week.

I also made tomato sauce again. Since the onslaught of tomatoes never ends.

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I used the roma tomatoes from the CSA. Take my advice. DON’T do it this way. I sweated the tomatoes in the same pan as I made the sauce. Splitting them open and letting them get warm enough for me to slip off the skins. This is a chunky vegetable rich sauce. I like these for short pastas. I had green pepper, shallots, leeks, garlic, carrots, zucchini and eggplant in this sauce. Yes, an eggplant, from here.

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I roasted everything on this pan this morning. Then smashed up the eggplant and added it to my sauce. As a thickener. You know, you can use all sorts of things in sauces. No one will be the wiser. I ended up with two full pint jars for the freezer, and about 12 ounces in the fridge to be used for a pasta for dinner tomorrow night.

The tomatoes and peppers on that tray? Went into a pint jar and are in the freezer as well. They will make one awesome sauce sometime in the dead of winter.

Last but not least.

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It’s sauerkraut time. I pulled out the crock and am making kraut. Cabbage and salt. That’s all it takes. And a cool dark corner.

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Since I can’t find my cork top for the small crock, I ended up covering this with a clean dish towel. I put the saucer on top the cabbage. Weight it down with a jar. I moved it off to the far side of the kitchen where it stays out of the sunlight. I will have sauerkraut next week. But, let it ferment longer for better flavor.

I certainly did quite a bit today. How was your Friday?

In The Box

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The view from above.

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This is what you see when you open a half share Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA box in the middle of August.

The new one in the box is the bunch of Malabar spinach. I do grow this in my garden, but mine is nowhere near as large as these are. There are nine ears of corn in there. Because I swapped three zucchini for the corn. There is a bag of green beans. A bag of rainbow carrots. An eggplant. And, hidden below those two heirloom tomatoes.

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A bag of roma tomatoes, suitable for making sauce. As for the fruit share.

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It must be a banner year for peaches, as we have another six in the fruit box. Last and certainly the largest. The watermelon, a red seedless variety.

No pictures of the frozen chicken in my chicken share. There were two large boneless skinless chicken breasts. And, two whole legs of chicken.

Moving over to the Friends and Farms bags. Just a small amount, except for that cantaloupe.

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An individual share. Two tomatoes. Two peaches (I have no idea where they are, they aren’t in the picture). One zucchini, I am happy to report. Two ears of corn. Three humongous leeks. Hydroponic lettuce. And that okra. I need to go look for something new to do with okra.

Protein.

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Fresh kielbasa. Bacon. Eggs. A new supplier of chicken. Breasts this week. They were already the main item at dinner tonight. Baked in olive oil with a coating of mixed herbs.

Plans for tomorrow. Make tomato sauce. Find a recipe for a curry using the Malabar spinach. Make peach jam. It’s summer craziness when everything starts ripening at once.

That New Page in My Book

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My Preservation Page.

The work in progress as I get ready for my August 23rd event at the Howard County Conservancy.

It makes me pay attention to how haphazard my blog posts are. How I can’t just focus on one item or one recipe. Trying to show people what I have done to preserve foods. While feeling like I am herding cats.

Yes, I mostly freeze foods. But, I also dry them. And roast them. And slow cook them. And occasionally when I am feeling feisty, I actually can things. Like that awesome jelly.

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Pineapple habanero, as a matter of fact. This year, the habaneros aren’t producing so there will be some jalapeno pineapple jelly made later this week.

In the mean time, I am doing nothing but processing tomatoes and peppers. Since I really am drowning in them.

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Yes, I believe most horizontal surfaces in this kitchen are covered in some sort of tomato. Tomorrow, there will be oven roasted yellow plums. And sauce from Early Girl and Big Boy. And, tabouleh from the thousands (has to be that many) of the Supersweet 100s and the Sun Gold tomatoes in the big bowl on the counter.

The processing frenzy continues. I will be happy in February. Now, I am just frazzled.

My Out of Control Garden

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To go along with the out of control kitchen. I should have known. Doubling the size of my garden, and doubling the amount of sunlight daily would result in a quadrupling of the amount of tomatoes we harvest.

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The ten pounds of tomatoes harvested yesterday. To join that ten pounds from Friday. All told, more than 76 pounds of tomatoes so far this year.

The zucchinis are still producing. So are the cucumbers.

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And I really should have entered that big one in the fair. At 1 3/4 pounds I think it would have gotten second place. The winner, I believe, was 1.9 pounds.

We have tomatoes for at least two meals a day. The oven roasting, oven drying, tomato sauce, salad making, gifts, etc. are hardly making a dent in it. I had more plants last year with less than half this harvest.

Note to self. Do NOT plant this many tomatoes next year.

I have been busy. Pickling. Canning. Cooking. I even slow cooked a dozen onions to make caramelized onions to freeze.

Since I am doing the event at the Howard County Conservancy next week, I am creating a page to use as my “handout”, for participants to use for referral after coming to the event.

The page, which you can see above the posts, will include recipes and technique posts. The focus of my blog posts for the next ten days will be the advice I am providing relative to the “Putting Food Away” event.

After all, when your garden goes nuts, you need to find something to do with all this food.

Anniversary Weekend

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Yes, 34 years have passed since that Saturday, in stifling heat and humidity, not conducive to wearing wedding finery, when we got married. No, I am not posting pictures of the wedding.

I will post at least about the celebration dinner we had this evening.

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I slow cooked two tuna filets covered in my latest home made tomato sauce. It happily sat in the oven while I made all sorts of other goodies. Like this one.

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My first ajvar (Serbian roasted red pepper, eggplant and garlic spread) of the season. This was served with crostini as an appetizer. There are also two jars of it. One will be going to an amateur radio club picnic later this month. The other one. On a day trip picnic to some new winery we haven’t visited yet.

For the wine.

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We pulled out a Turley 2004 Petite Syrah from the stash in the basement. Absolutely lovely with the tuna.

For dessert.

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Berry peachy frozen yogurt. The pops aren’t ready yet, but we did have two little containers that were a perfect size for dessert while finishing the wine. This mixture was made with the final package of last year’s frozen peaches, blended with three or four cubes of blackberry simple syrup. A cup of vanilla yogurt. Using up what was left in the freezer from Larriland picking in 2013.

Not a bad way to celebrate over a third of a century together. A leisurely meal on the patio. Savored after another big Orioles win. Now, while I type, I am slow roasting peppers to freeze. Up tomorrow night. Slow cooked caramelized onions.

Harvest, the fair, and our anniversary. All in the same week. I need a vacation.

Food Processing Friday …

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… and Saturday and Sunday.

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As shown we are drowning in tomatoes. And, other things. Which are “pickle-able”.

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I pickled shallots, cucumbers and peppers today. Did Peter Pecker pick those peppers? No, and neither did I. They were in the CSA share this week.

I made a simple pickling spice mix. Added it to a mix of four to one, vinegar to water. Got it boiling. Blanched the veggies first. Sterilized the lids and seals. Came up with a few jars of “refrigerator’ pickles. These are easy to do. No canning techniques necessary. Just consume them in a week or two.

As for tomatoes. I did two pints of sauce today.

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This is a chunky tomato sauce. A number of blanched tomatoes stood by while I sweated onions, carrots, minced garlic, basil, thyme and oregano. Oh yeah. Salt and pepper.

I ended up with two pints ready to go into the freezer, to make those cold winter nights remind me of summer.

More tomorrow, when I blanch and fill green peppers with a sausage mixture. A feast that makes Stouffer’s look pathetic.

The freezer is filling up. That’s for sure.

My Out of Control Kitchen

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It happens every August. The tomatoes get way ahead of me. I can’t keep up with the processing. I have to dedicate an entire weekend to plowing through the produce and filling the freezer.

Add to it the CSA glut.

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For $19 a week you too can be overrun with fresh beautiful vegetables. OK, so there are also some fruit shares here. They are a slight additional cost.

Lancaster Farm Fresh delivered some pretty heavy boxes this week. We got:

FIVE zucchini (seriously? in a half share?)
A bag full of baby sweet peppers
A bag full of hot Hungarian wax peppers (not pictured, more below)
A bag full of baby eggplants
Two heirloom tomatoes
Three slicing tomatoes
Four golden beets with greens
Two heads of garlic

The sugar baby watermelon was part of our fruit share. Along with more of these.

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Eight more incredibly juicy luscious sweet peaches.

I swapped those peppers. For a reason to be revealed later.

I did get this.

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Three ears of sweet corn from the swap box. You can never have too much sweet corn.

My chicken share this week was a 3.5 pound heritage bird.

As for Friends and Farms, I am glad we moved to an individual share for the summer. That way we aren’t completely overwhelmed with produce.

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This was bread and cheese week for the individual share. I picked pumpkin pecan bread from the Breadery. Ewe cream cheese from Shepherds Manor.

Spring Mix. Donut peaches. Nectarines. Sweet potatoes. Heirloom cherry tomatoes. A yellow onion. Green beans. An eggplant.

As for the protein, not pictured, we got catfish, and sirloin steak.

Definitely enough to keep us from the grocery stores for a while.

I just need to get out there and start freezing food.

Putting Food Away

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As in “What Do I Do With All These Tomatoes?”

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My preserving food program is under construction. Due to be presented at the Howard County Conservancy Mt Pleasant, on August 23rd. Details here.

I have been dealing with excess CSA veggies and fruit for a number of years. Plus, I do a number of pick your own excursions, looking for those staples, like tomatoes, berries, apples. I do many techniques, other than canning, that are simple to use to prolong the local goodness well into the winter.

I have been creating a new page for my site. It will be the go-to page for recipes and tips and places to find affordable fruits, veggies and herbs to put away for the winter.

All this is taking time. Time I have being retired. But, simple techniques like ice cube trays used to make individual fruit or pesto portions, or maybe my blanch and freeze technique for tomatoes and peaches, will inspire people to keep a few special favorites on hand. To make peach pops in the winter. Or add strawberry ice cubes to a glass of wine to make sangria. Or defrost a pesto cube to make summer tasting pasta.

Keep checking here to see when my new page goes live. And, come see what fun we can have with the fruits of our labor (for all us gardeners out there). August 23rd, 10AM at the Conservancy Mt Pleasant. Free program.

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