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Category Archives: Food

‘Tis The Season

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It must be spring. The Woodstock Snowball Stand is open.

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They opened yesterday. Today, I almost stopped just to see if they had hot cider as the weather isn’t cooperating for a need to have an icy cup of goodness. I saw later on the Facebook feed that they were offering 40% off since it was snowing at the snowball stand. OK, so there were flurries.

They always seem to open when we are doing spring grounds clean up. Today, our two day massive clean up and mulch fest happens in our yard. Today clean up. Tomorrow mulch. If only the guys weren’t out there in three or four layers dealing with the wind and the cold.

Today I finally got motivated, after our community garden kick off meeting, to do some indoor seed starting. With the cold this winter, the garage wasn’t warm enough to sustain growth so I am starting now.

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Recycling egg cartons to start leeks, romas and Thelma Sanders squash. Putting some cilantro in the pots to transfer to the deck planters in a few weeks. If we can ever have a week that stays warm enough. I will cross my fingers and get the arugula under row cover out at my community plot right after Easter weekend.

Arugula is one of my absolute favorite greens. Spicy, peppery, full of flavor. Last week, three of my local sources provided me with a vision of warmer times to come.

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The baby arugula came in my weekly Lancaster Farm Fresh basket this week. It took the place of basil in my close-to-Caprese salad. The Hummingbird Farms hydroponic tomatoes were in my Friends and Farms basket. The mozzarella. Picked up at my last visit to Breezy Willow farm store on a Saturday morning when they are open.

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These tomatoes actually have taste. Not like my summer tomatoes, but much better than those weird cardboard tasting things in the stores. I used a drizzle of Secolari Olive Oil and some Wegmans balsamic. Salt and pepper to finish.

Makes me want to go out and plant something.

America’s Main Street

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Second in my series of posts on where to take visitors to Howard County. This post focuses on one of the two historic roads that travel through the county. US 1, the original “Main Street” from colonial times onward in the development of the United States.

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Inspired by the book I found at my mom’s a while back. I decided to head out yesterday and document some of my favorite places, present and past, along the stretch of US 1 from Savage to Elkridge. Including Jessup, the third location located in our county. As usual, I will include some of my favorites to get breakfast, lunch or dinner, to keep my recommendations in line with my locavore tendencies.

US 1 isn’t the prettiest road in America, but for those of us born and raised here before the advent of super highways, it was certainly familiar to us for trips and for services. I lived within a few miles of Washington Blvd, in Baltimore. From a business standpoint, there were many places we frequented using that road. I even worked for a while after college in a bookkeeping and tax accounting business in Elkridge. Proximity to Baltimore and Washington. Elkridge was a convenient midpoint.

But, I am going to start with Savage. You could easily spend many hours with friends in Savage. One of the mill towns. It is home to a very significant historic landmark, the Bollman Truss Bridge.

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The bridge is adjacent to Savage Mill. Restored and now a destination. Home to a few spots I enjoy, like the Bonaparte Breads and Renata’s Tasty Bites. Renata is only there a few days a week. Her savory pastries are awesome. I discovered both these vendors at farmer’s markets. Bonaparte at the Dupont Circle market, and Renata at the Owen Brown library market.

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The Mill also has many shops to browse. Check out the Family Game store. For those inclined to work off those pastries, outside you can partake in Terrapin Adventures.

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On the river side of the mill, there are walking trails. You can walk across the Bollman Truss bridge.

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North of the Mill, Savage Park has wooded trails and is also connected to the Patuxent Branch Trail, which can be hiked all the way to Lake Elkhorn in Columbia. This is a very popular site in the summer, and parking can be a bit tricky. For us, we like to go there in the off season.

Getting back on US 1 and heading north, you pass through Jessup. Lots of wholesale food companies here. Including a newly reopened seafood market, which used to be Franks Seafood. Now, according to our friend HOWCHOW, it has become Wild Seafood, but still retains many of the former employees. Getting fresh crabs here, to serve to out of town guests, is another great thing to do.

Breakfast or lunch at the only Food Network covered “Diner, DriveIn or Dive”? Can be had at R&R Taqueria. If you have any relatives that are fans of the show, you can take them for some of the best grilled lamb tacos we have ever tasted. Or, maybe breakfast like their huevos rancheros or chilaquiles con huevo. Numerous times we stop and grab tacos to go. One of us staying with the car in the adjacent lot while hoping a legal spot by the Shell station opens up. We have been warned not to leave a car in the crowded strip mall lot. It may be towed.

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R&R is technically in Elkridge, as Rte 175 is the dividing line for Jessup/Elkridge. Yes, hard to get in to the deli sometimes. This is our second gas station favorite in the county. The other one is Town Grill in Lisbon, that I mentioned in my previous post. Don’t count out these small family owned sites. Way better than a Taco Bell taco.

Further up just before crossing the Patapsco River into Baltimore County, turn right onto Levering Avenue to head back to the Elkridge Furnace Inn. Civil War History Marker just before the parking lot.

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The Inn itself is now a fine dining establishment, where we tend to celebrate major milestones. They also have afternoons teas periodically, and are open for lunch. A good place to celebrate a special event with out of town relatives. OR, for history buffs they often have suppers with a speaker, like the upcoming 150th anniversary Lincoln dinner.

And, speaking of the Thomas Viaduct. The B&O railroad, so important in the development of this area, is highlighted again in the Patapsco State Park area reached from just across the county line by way of South St. $2 a car to enter. The Viaduct looms ahead of you as you enter, the oldest multi-arched stone railroad bridge in the world.

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There are miles of trails in the park. My favorite is the loop to the Swinging Bridge and back. Half in Baltimore County and half in Howard County. This park, when I was growing up, was the location for school picnics, for reunions, for birthday parties and much more. River Road unfortunately was never fully restored after Hurricane Agnes, but it is still a walking trail for those who love the river as much as we do.

If you’re lucky you even get to see the commuter trains on the viaduct, proof that when it’s built right, it can last for centuries.

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US 1 may be a hodgepodge of many “flavors”. It still inspires us to get out on those lesser traveled roads. I haven’t even touched on Ellicott City, or the other national road in the county — US 40. More to come this weekend.

Happy traveling!

Spring Cleaning

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Inside and outside. Finally we feel we have turned the corner and spring really is coming. We paid a bit of attention to sprucing up the outdoors today. Pruning and raking.

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We have these lovely kousa dogwoods that bloom every spring. Today I spent the time to clean out those vertical shoots. It’s a bit late to prune but they haven’t started to bud yet, and it is still cold enough to take off those small shoots that shouldn’t remain.

I also did a quick inspection of the rhododendron.

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I love these rhododendron and they did quite a bit of drooping this winter. I am crossing my fingers to see if they recover once the weather warms up.

As for my final inventory today. I wondered whether this will be another winter where the herbs get devastated. It looks like most of the rosemary didn’t make it. The sage up at the community garden may still be alive but that has me worried also. The thyme is still alive. As is some of the lavender. This was a brutal winter.

Coming up this weekend. The massive clean up and the new mulch laying in. We have a two day clean up scheduled with a local landscaping company. There will be large amounts of mulch put down. Pond clean up. Some final pruning.

All in all, this property takes a bit of time to maintain. The living things that surround us here are important and make this yard a real oasis all summer. I don’t mind getting out there and cleaning it up. Makes us ready for those lovely spring cook outs. And scenes like this.

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Illusion of Springtime

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Compliments of our weekly food baskets. Which are changing slowly into springtime items. Like arugula.

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A pound of baby arugula. Also known as rocket. Peppery. Fresh. Just the perfect green to evoke memories of last spring. Too bad it’s going to snow tonight. We still think we are getting closer to springtime around here.

Then there’s microgreens.

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I swear microgreens are one of those prized items created by farmers. You know, “hey, let’s thin the seedlings and sell those thinnings for major amounts of money to unsuspecting consumers.” I have a garden. I know all about thinning the greens. Still, I do love the intensity of them.

How about lamb?

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An Easter tradition in my house. Lamb always reminds me of springtime.

This week, here was the total Friends and Farms basket.

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I had the salmon marinating even before I took the pictures. It ended up like this.

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With the green beans from my Lancaster Farm Fresh basket. Corn from the freezer, and a cut up carrot.

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My favorite thing this week. That lovely ham steak. I am thinking of saving it for Easter. I may be waiting for snow tonight, but there are definitely signs that spring is coming.

Catching Up

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One of the things I put together ever since I started my blog was my weekly catalogue of What is in the CSA basket. Somehow I have been shirking my “duty” the past two weeks. Maybe it’s that time of year when we get so tired of winter, and those boring stretches of root vegetables, stews, soups and crock pot meals.

We yearn for the weather to stay nice enough to grill, for a change. For many winters we did manage to grill a few times, but the brutal cold, and the snow covering our grill for weeks, made that impossible. Until, hopefully, this week, when we want to do something, ANYTHING, out there. I have a couple of petit filets I would love to make one evening, or my favorite, kofta.

Yesterday we cleaned the grill, since the snow has finally melted all around it. Thankfully, no little critters took up residence in it this winter. Last winter a chipmunk decided the side burner was a perfect spot to store everything they could carry up there.

As for what has been coming from the CSA for two weeks, here it is.

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The highlights from Lancaster Farm Fresh were the pantry item, maple sugar and the new goat cheese. We also got some kielbasa sausages in our omnivore add on. The vegetables. Standard except for the green beans. They were a treat. I swapped radishes to get double the carrots. There has been cole slaw made more than once the past two weeks. I made root vegetables again, to take to a Slow Food dinner this week. They must have gone over well, as there was almost nothing left. I still have a bag with the collards in it. They have to get cooked soon.

A few days ago, the latest basket.

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I am calling this the year of the celery root. Never had it before a CSA share delivered it. Now, we get it two or three times a month, it seems. Yes, there are two of them. I swapped the rutabagas for the second one. I like the celery root in that roasted honey glazed medley. This week we got honey. We got chicken. We got a new cheese. Pecora. Smoky and tangy. Good with a glass of red wine.

As for the rest. Beets in a salad. Chard as a side dish last night. The shiitake mushrooms, with the other ones from Friends and Farms a week ago, became a very lovely mushroom soup for dinner.

Speaking of Friends and Farms, they were invited to present to the Slow Food Dinner group. They brought their latest basket and they talked about how they operate, and what made them the company they are today.

The basket from the 4th of March looked like this.

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The best part of this basket. The rainbow trout.

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Simply cooked. We enjoyed that dinner, for sure. The Individual Quick Frozen corn is also very good. Makes us yearn for summer.

The rib eyes would have been great to grill, but not to be, due to the weather.

As for Wednesday, the basket that I picked up hours before the slow food dinner.

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Yes, there’s chard in there. Yes, there’s a chicken. And kielbasa. And sauerkraut. And carrots. Notice those similarities.

YES, I am officially tired of winter vegetables. I want to plant that garden, and go to farmer’s markets for fresh greens.

We still are eating well, even if it is getting a bit boring these days.

Going Whole Hog

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Sort of. Not completely. We haven’t gone for buying whole or half portions of beef or pork. We did once do half a lamb. It was more than we expected.

But, I have seen where we are now using more and more of the pork products available at our local farms. And, we are stretching our food dollars by making meals that use 3-4 ounces of meat per serving. Getting better quality meats from the farmers and butchers in the area. Yes, and paying more than that $1.99 a pound stuff out there.

I find it interesting to see McDonald’s and COSTCO both touting their changes. Where once I thought our local farmers and small organic markets were going to suffer, now I notice quite a large turning away from factory farmed, overly processed meats.

Quite an increase in CSA and Friends and Farms members. An increase in farmer’s markets. An interest in my web pages with links to local sources. All of this is a good thing. Besides lowering our exposure to antibiotic and hormone laden meats, we are decreasing our carbon footprint when we buy locally. We are keeping our local farmers and small butchers in business.

Remember when you could go into any grocery store and have a butcher wait on you, to get you the cuts of meat you wanted, in the quantities you wanted? So many of the stores today have removed that position.

I am grateful we have good butchers in the area. Boarmans. Treuths. Wagners.

We also have good farms selling meat. Copper Penny. Maple Lawn. TLV Tree Farm. Breezy Willow. Carroll Farm. England Acres. Clark’s Elioak. Wagon Wheel.

I did this post over a year ago. Since then, I have expanded the database to add more farms. But, I still love picking up very fresh items from these farms.

I have also learned to use those lesser used items. Ham Hocks. Bacon ends. Lamb shanks. Turkey drumsticks. Pork lard. Heck, I even ventured into the world of making my own scrapple.

I could do better the next time I do scrapple. I need to increase the pork part of it, and decrease the cornmeal.

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It was a wee bit pale. Not as dark and crispy as the scrapple of my youth.

As for those other goodies. I have made countless soups using the ham hocks, smoked mostly. That pork lard from Carroll Farm. It’s been used instead of butter in cooking. Most of it was put in small containers and frozen for later use. I will be trying a Pennsylvania Dutch biscuit recipe this week with it.

Bacon ends. The most economical way to have bacon around for flavoring.

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I have found bacon ends many places. Ask at any of the local farms if they have them. A good bargain. Freeze them. Take out as much as you might need to make excellent greens, soups, frittatas, spinach salads. Lots of possibilities.

Moving 100% away from grocery stores. Using less per meal. Using locally produced items. It can be done, and it really isn’t difficult at all in Howard County.

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But, I admit, I’m not quite ready to do Pig’s Feet – Toe On, or Pig’s Tail. Wayne Nell. You do have some interesting items there.

The “New” Farm in Town

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Or, at least the newest farmstand. Opened in October. Providing beef, pork and poultry. In small and large quantities.

Carroll Farm to Table. Off Frederick Rd. past Kiwanis-Wallas park. Owned by descendants of Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

We first heard about them being there in our fall Friends and Farms newsletter. You could purchase whole or half Berkshire heritage pork. Also in the works was a potential for chicken to come to us sometime in 2015.

We finally got to the farmstand when they were open a few Saturdays ago. At least my husband got there. The stand is open Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays. He asked for a price sheet, and as he was really interested in some of the cuts of Angus beef, they talked a bit and gave him a free sample of their pork lard.

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Which found its way into tonight’s dinner.

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A wee bit of lard mixed with the cider and chicken stock to flavor the cabbage and kale and apples under the kielbasa links.

I am fascinated with trying some traditional recipes from a Christmas present from my mom.

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She gave me a couple of Pennsylvania Dutch cookbooks that she’s had for decades. I am interested in trying the pastry recipes that call for lard.

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Now that we all know lard is better for us than vegetable oils, it should be fun to test the taste difference.

I am also interested in trying the brisket, and the filets, from their stand. It is hard to find brisket from the local farms. Not that many of them around, when you are only processing a small number of cattle at a time. I always had to cross my fingers and hope to find one from the local farmers.

Happy to see a “new” farm in our vicinity. Particularly one that specializes in meats that we usually have to go much farther to find.

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