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Under the Weather

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Literally and figuratively. It is dreary and rainy, and since Tuesday I have been battling one heck of a head cold. Thankfully, even though nothing tastes very good, having that stocked freezer has made it bearable. And, kept my husband fed.

I didn’t blog about my CSA and Friends&Farms pickup very much. I really did minimal work to put it all away, and went back to my soups and my tea with honey. Local honey, even. See, you can be a locavore while sick.

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Today I feel somewhat back to normal, but the weather outside is so crummy, I just still want to hibernate and make something warm and comforting.

Best advice to those who want to minimize work while feeling awful. Freeze some soups. Those turkey drumsticks from the local farm, Maple Lawn, made the basis for one dinner and two lunches this week.

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I was originally going to pull out the cauliflower leek soup I made a while back, but, for the first time in four years, I had a Mason jar crack in the freezer. Luckily, it kept intact and was easy to dispose. I am really careful about not overfilling but this one just “popped”.

While in my clean up mode to check the baskets that hold my soups, I inadvertently left one out. A chunky tomato sauce. Found it a few hours later. It was happily defrosting, so it became chili last night.

It was that pint of sauce, a couple of peppers and onions, the last of a hanger steak made early in the week before I got this cold. I had planned to do fajitas again, but this was easy. Chopped the steak into cubes. Added it to the pot, with a can of Harris Teeters organic chili beans. Spices. I make ahead a chili fixing mix of dried spices. It simmered in a pot while I watched the news and we had another freezer-provided simple meal.

But back to the food we got Thursday that I now have to use. Having little appetite doesn’t help in the food department. Here’s how I am coping with it.

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Friends and Farms individual basket is definitely manageable. The onion went into the chili. The apples were baked (super simple, halve, core, season with butter, maple syrup and nutmeg, bake). The Asian pears are ripe enough for my husband to snack on. The rosemary, will become seasoning for some lamb tomorrow night. The green beans were steamed and eaten with dinner, the night we had some smoked kielbasa, steamed cabbage, beans, and the apples were dessert. The greens, of course, the lunch salads around here which make greens disappear quickly.

I didn’t photograph the chicken breasts or the pork chop or the half pound of smoked bacon and eggs. All put away too fast.

I now need to deal with the CSA surplus, because here is where I got more than we can use. Feeling rotten and eating just a cup of soup doesn’t put a dent in that haul.

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It may have been many baby veggies, but it was still quite a large quantity.

I am thinking of making hummus with some of those baby veggies as flavor. Eggplant and peppers. Besides that, cut, blanch and freeze the mixed sweet peppers. Roast those beets for salads. Shave fennel into salads.

I may have to cry “uncle” and give away a few items. I rarely get to that point, as we can make use of most of what we get. Being retired and having lunches and dinners home the majority of the week, that’s how we do it.

I do know that when the fall CSA ends just before Christmas, I will be very glad to have that stash in the freezer, to tide us over until the next season begins.

Baby Veggies

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It seems to be the week of the baby vegetable around here.

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They are cute, aren’t they? And often they cost a premium price. Interesting, though, now that I have a large garden, I figured it out. Baby veggies sometimes are those “rejects” which come about when you are thinning the plants. Like my arugula. The chard. The kale. All produced “baby” veggies when I was harvesting every other one, in order to give the others room to grow.

Now, baby eggplants? I’m wondering about those. Also, those lovely colorful peppers. When my garden didn’t get the sun it needed, I had lots of veggies that looked like them.

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How about baby fennel and baby red bok choy? Two other items this week in my CSA basket. Let’s move on to fruit.

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Kiwi berries. Look just like baby kiwis.

This week’s basket was fun to discover. I just need to think about what to do with all those peppers and eggplants. More tomorrow, after I ponder a strategy.

I do love that basket full of color and sunshine. Too bad they can’t be preserved to look that great forever. They would make a really nice centerpiece.

Behind the Scene

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This week I think I am spending almost as many days at the Howard County Conservancy as I did on my job before I retired. Sunday. Tuesday. Thursday. Saturday.

The Fall Festival was an immense success. As usual. Lots of my Facebook friends went. Loved the hayrides. Pony rides. And all the other things offered. I was there early to set up.

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Putting up the apple peeling, and apple cider tasting table. Thanks to MOM’s for their contribution, and to Harbin Farms for their collection (labeled) of all the varieties available here in the MidAtlantic.

Then, helping with the tent (which we took down because it turned the welcome area into a wind tunnel)

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then checking out the “bee people”.

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The honey is awesome, by the way.

After about an hour helping set up, I went off to tend to my garden. Today, I returned to spend time harvesting food bank vegetables.

Thursday I am there for the new kindergarten program, for Northfield Elementary School.

Saturday, I can’t wait to hear about bats. A free program presented at 10 am.

Such an asset to the area. The Conservancy really does have universal appeal.

A Tub Full of Basil

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Plus, lots of other goodness from my gardens.

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This is just the basil from my garden here at home. There is at least that much more out at the Conservancy in my community garden. That basil, I may be giving away to anyone who wants it. This basil, along with some of my arugula

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will become pest cubes for the winter. The arugula and leaf lettuces are coming along nicely. I thin them out every few days. It may be fall but the plants keep on producing.

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This is my “sunshine” tray. It sits by my French doors. I am still getting tomatoes and peppers to ripen. Today I also did a steam cook of peppers and onions, which went into the freezer to save for the dead of winter.

It is close to garlic planting time. And, for those of you lucky enough to have walnut trees

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this seems to be a bumper crop year.

They Lied …

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… in a good way.

Both food sources have delivered far more than advertised. Friends and Farms individual share is more than adequate for the two of us. Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative’s half share, advertised as 4-7 items, is almost always more than that. Examples from this week’s shares.

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An individual basket costs $44 a week. This week there was swordfish and brisket, for the proteins. And, are there enough carrots in the mix? Tomatoes. Cheese. Bread. Potatoes. A couple of ears of corn (outstanding by the way). A small head of cabbage. Bosc pears.

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An almost one pound brisket that will most definitely feed my husband and me. Enough swordfish to make some very nice tacos.

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And, those lovely Italian plums. A snack we can’t stop eating. Free stone. Soft. Flavorful.

As for our other basket. We have rarely gotten 7 or less items. This week, it was ten vegetable items.

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For $19 a week, this is the bargain of the year for us. Ignore the apples. They were in the fruit share. Other than that. Green leaf and red leaf lettuce. Radishes. Golden beets. Green cabbage. Broccoli. Cauliflower. TWO butternut squash. Potatoes. And, a fennel that I picked up from the swap box. I did ditch my purple mizuna. I have more than enough greens around here, and have a couple of oranges, so I can make my fennel/orange/red onion salad.

The fruit share this week.

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Five pounds of Golden Delicious apples. And, a half pint of those addictive kiwi berries.

My chicken this week was a four pound whole heritage bird. Perfect for roasting.

With my butcher shop visit yesterday, and this haul, we are set for a week of meals. Broccoli and cauliflower joined some of that lamb from Mt. Airy tonight. A couple of oven roasted potatoes.

Thanks to these suppliers we are getting the most bang for the buck when it comes to good food.

Butcher Shops

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The place to find the best tastiest cuts of meat, to round out the other items in my freezer, and to make winter cooking so much easier.

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Like today. A perfect crock pot meal. From beef short ribs, purchased at Wayne Nell and Sons. We took a field trip this morning. To visit a new to us Amish market, for comparison. To hit an orchard or two. And, to check out the main supplier of meats to our Friends and Farms basket.

I was on a mission. For ham hocks. Lamb. And, kielbasa. I found two of the three at Wayne Nell. And, on the way home, at Mt. Airy Meat Locker. I found the lamb I wanted to use for a number of winter specialties.

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The Amish Market was our destination for lunch. After we checked out an orchard and the butcher. We found the market to be good, but not as large as the Shrewsbury market.

When I came home, I took the lamb and made six vacuum packs for the freezer. As for the short ribs that ended up in the crock pot, they just looked so good I had to buy them.

This was a simple crock pot meal. Put in the pot at 1 PM on high. Dinner at 6:30. One can black beans. One onion. A large bunch of spinach. Browned ribs and some dry rub. A little salt and garlic powder.

Go watch the Orioles beat Detroit. Sit down to a lovely meal. Served with a very impressive Delaplane Cellars meritage style wine.

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An interesting wine which includes tannat. Not a common grape grown in the area. Soft, elegant. A great complement to the beef and beans.

Between our chicken share from the CSA, the protein in the Friends and Farms baskets, and a few well spaced trips to family owned butcher shops, I can keep the freezer stocked without having to buy factory farmed meats.

My Favorite Pizza

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Inspired by a visit to Napa and Sonoma. Made even better using the arugula from my garden.

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My prosciutto, goat cheese, fig, scallion and arugula pizza.

Made last night after a very lovely blogger happy hour at Seasons 52, on the new “Main St-like” outdoor area at the Columbia Mall.

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Outdoor dining there has absolutely fun views. No storm water management ponds or cars parked three feet from your table.

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Their flatbreads reminded me that I had the ingredients to make an awesome rectangular pizza. I had an “under the weather” husband at home. Dinner out wasn’t an option. I enjoyed the company of my fellow bloggers. And, will return to have some of their seasonal foods.

I came home, and very easily stretched out some fresh pizza dough from Harris Teeter. Added figs, goat cheese, scallions, prosciutto, olive oil, salt and pepper. Baked at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. After removing from the oven, I dropped some of my newly grown arugula on top.

Simple, quick, tasty dinner.

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